Ideo LogoDuring my MBA at ESADE I investigated Ideo for a case study on innovation. Ideo’s first important claim to fame probably was the invention of the mouse for Apple in 1983. The company has developed the concept of Design Thinking, which they define as follows: “Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Ideo’s particular work method is primarily delineated by the following characteristics:

  1. The Design Thinking process is defined by three concepts, which should be considered overlapping fields rather than subsequent steps: inspiration, ideation and implementation. Inspiration being the problem or opportunity, which motivates the search for a solution. Ideation signifying the development and, of course, testing of the ideas. Implementation describing the path from the project phase to its use in the everyday life of the general public.
  2. Ideo never considers it enough to merely listen to the needs of the clients. For them it is always imperative that the design team themselves experience the motivations and emotions involved in a certain product. In fact, Ideo values this more than any market research study.
  3. Brainstorming: in my opinion, the basic concept of a brainstorming is all to frequently forgotten. The goal is to gather in the course of a 60-90 minute meeting as many ideas as possible – and naturally even the wildest, most absurd ones are also welcome. A good tip is to write down every idea visibly on a black board, post-its etc.
  4. Additionally, Ideo works with flat hierarchies in teams of 10-20 people – a work method, which corresponds very much to my personal predisposition, even though it may not be apt for all companies.
  5. Multi-disciplinary teams: as someone, who has a very diversified knowledge and experience base, I am particularly fascinated by how Ideo puts together its teams. At Ideo it is absolutely normal for a psychologist to be joined by a MBA graduate, a marine biologist, an engineer etc. to form part of the same product development team. The philosophy behind it being that everyone adds their own personal viewpoint and expertise, which might just be that certain something that allows a product to evolve in a radical way and satisfy the market demands of the future.

I can only recommend to have a look at Ideo. There is bound to be something for you and your company to aid you in improving your innovation process.

This post is also available in: German