CEO of IDEO - Innovation Through Design Thinking / by Cory

ideo.gifLuke from Functioning Form recently posted notes from a discussion with Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO on the topic of innovation through design thinking: So what is Design Thinking?

  • It’s a human-centered approach to innovation.
  • Being human-centered is unique to design, Designers think about people first, then the business second. The opposite is true for most companies.
  • In the traditional Venn diagram of People (desirable), Business (viable) & Technical (feasible), design thinking solves the problem from the People perspective
  • Design thinking is supported by a rich set of tools, processes, roles, and environments. Designers work like craftsmen. They know when to use the right tool at the right time.
  • There are 3 important phases for design thinking: Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation


  • Everything hinges on inspiration. We need new insights to drive innovation.
  • The right way to get inspired is to get out into the real world: use the world as a source of inspiration not just validation.
  • Great designers are great observers of life. They get out there to look, listen, and try.
  • What’s the difference between design research and market research? Predictive market research is used by marketing to gauge the size of an opportunity. It is primarily a validation tool. Design research is an inspiration tool.
  • Designers gain empathy by looking at the world through other people's eyes in order to understand things at social, cultural, cognitive, emotional, and physical levels.
  • Designers often look at analogous situations for inspiration. For example, when doing research for surgery procedures an IDEO spent a day with a Nascar pit crew.
  • Insights come from extreme users and not from center of the bell curve. There’s little inspiration in average usage.
  • Kids are extreme users. They magnify issues that we have as adults.


  • Building to think is essence of the prototyping process.
  • Prototypes can be very rough but they should always enable engagement & discussion. Prototypes don't have to be physical but do need to be tangible.
  • Designers might go though hundreds of iterations of prototypes so they need to be quick and easy to build.
  • McDonald's prototypes service models and scenarios in a giant reconfigurable lab in Chicago.
  • Prototyping makes a difference. Mcdonald’s saw kiosk usage rise from 7% to 90% after IDEO ideation process.