Innovation Through Design Thinking

03/16/2006 12:00 PM WongTimothy Brown, CEO, IDEODescription: Not so long ago, Tim Brown recounts, designers belonged to a "priesthood." Given an assignment, a designer would disappear into a back room, "bring the result out under a black sheet and present it to the client." Brown and his colleagues at IDEO, the company that brought us the first Apple Macintosh mouse, couldn't have traveled farther from this notion.

At IDEO, a "design thinker" must not only be intensely collaborative, but "empathic, as well as have a craft to making things real in the world." Since design flavors virtually all of our experiences, from products to services to spaces, a design thinker must explore a "landscape of innovation" that has to do with people, their needs, technology and business. Brown dips into three central "buckets" in the process of creating a new design: inspiration, ideation and implementation.

Design thinkers must set out like anthropologists or psychologists, investigating how people experience the world emotionally and cognitively. While designing a new hospital, IDEO staff stretched out on a gurney to see what the emergency room experience felt like. "You see 20 minutes of ceiling tiles," says Brown, and realize the "most important thing is telling people what's going on." In a completely different venue, IDEO visited a NASCAR pit crew to come up with a more effective design for operating theaters.

After inspiration comes "building to think:" often a hundred prototypes created quickly, both to test the design and to create stakeholders in the process. Says Brown, "So many good ideas fail to make it out to market because they couldn't navigate through the system." IDEO counts on storytelling to develop and express its ideas, and to buy key players into the concept. Finally, IDEO relies on constantly refreshing its sources of inspiration by bringing in bold thinkers to campus, and increasingly, focusing on socially oriented design problems.
About the Speaker(s): Tim Brown has led strategic client relationships with such companies as DaimlerChrysler, Microsoft, Motorola, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, and Steelcase. He serves on the Board of Trustees for both the California College of the Arts and ZeroOne: the Art and Technology Network. Most recently, he joined the Advisory Council of Acumen Fund, a not-for-profit global venture fund focused on improving the lives of the poor.

Brown has received numerous design awards, and his designs have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Axis Gallery in Tokyo, and the Design Museum in London.

Brown joined IDEO in 1987 after earning his M.A. in design from the Royal College of Art in London. He managed IDEO's San Francisco office from 1990 to 1995, and headed IDEO Europe from 1995 to 2000. Host(s): Sloan School of Management, MIT Sloan School of ManagementTape #: T21055


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