He may not be as well known as IDEO CEO Tim Brown, but If any one person truly represents what IDEO is about that might be David Kelley, one of the principal leaders of the world famous design firm. You might know Kelley from The Deep Dive or his TED talk. He is an enthusiastic believer in the power of design thinking to transform people, products and organizations. Fast Company profiled Kelley in a January, 2009 issue. If you haven’t seen The Deep Dive video you can get a sense of what some of the themes are in this interview. It is mostly about Kelley’s recent battle with cancer, but I found the article enjoyable because it gave me some new insights into the IDEO organization and its origins. I learned that it was Kelley, in a meeting with Tim Brown, who suggested that IDEO should stop calling what IDEO does design and instead start calling it design thinking. That meant shifting their paradigm from “designing a new chair or car” to being “expert at a methodology”.
Kelley points out that what makes IDEO different from traditional management consulting firms is their design thinking process – understanding, observation, brainstorming, prototyping. He recalls the story of a client who just wanted IDEO to skip right to the brainstorming. But Kelley maintains that the big ideas – where the real value of what IDEO does – is in the first two parts of the process. If you want to work with IDEO you need to go through the entire process with them. As Kelley tells his design students:
You’re sitting here today because we moved from thinking of ourselves as designers to thinking of ourselves as design thinkers. What we, as design thinkers, have, is this creative confidence that, when given a difficult problem, we have a methodology that enables us to come up with a solution that nobody has before
The article contains examples that demonstrate how IDEO has moved from a firm that uses design thinking to improve products and services, to one that is truly having an influence on the future of business. This article profiles major companies such as Procter & Gamble and Kaiser Permanente that have hired IDEO to help them transform into design thinking organizations. IDEO’s methods are also being taught at major design and MBA programs around the world, such as the Stanford Design School and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. In this way IDEO is expanding its sphere of influence far beyond their Palo Alto headquarters. Will IDEO’s sphere of influence expand all the way to libraries? I would certainly hope so. But Kelley points out that “design thinging represents a serious challenge to the status quo at traditional companies”. The decision thinking process, I believe, can make libraries better – but first we need to be open to its possibilities.