The folks at IDEO have made a reputation of being an award-winning global design firm that coined the “human-centered” approach to design thinking.
Description of framework
The folks at IDEO have made a reputation of being an award-winning global design firm that coined the “human-centered” approach to design thinking. They use this strategy effectively to help a diverse portfolio of organizations to both innovate and grow. IDEO’s president and CEO Tim Brown describes design thinking itself as:
“… 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.”
So, what does this look like?
For one thing, it isn’t necessarily linear. In fact, IDEO recognizes that each project and client they work with invariably has its own context and character. At the same time, they do identify three primary phases that each design thinking project experiences. Conveniently, each phase begins with the letter “I”:
These three phases create space for the designer to do three primary things:
- Inspiration: Build and nourish deep empathy for individuals and communities they are designing for.
- Ideation: Inform the design of new solutions around improved understood of the problems they face.
- Implementation: Creating space to test ideas and prototypes of these solutions before implementing them.
IDEO goes on to explain that the way organizations can transform the way they develop products, services, processes and strategy by thinking creatively like a designer. They propose that it is possible for professionals to use the creative tools of designers and approaches they use to solve a vast array of challenges even if they have never had formal training as a designer. This is because they describe design thinking itself as a deeply human process that draws on tacit knowledge we all intuitively have which can be overshadowed by more conventional problem-solving practices.
The IDEO website describes design thinking as a method that “relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols.”
They caution that over-reliance on methods that are strictly analytical or rational can be just as risky as running an organization on feeling or intuitions alone. As IDEO walks with clients into new visions of what their operations could look like in the future, they use a holistic mix of both analytical tools and generative techniques. They do this using design thinking as an integrated “third way” that isn’t pigeonholed into just one way of thinking.
This results in activities that integrate business model prototyping, data visualization, innovation strategy, organizational design, qualitative and quantitative research, and IP liberation. Each of these methods is done with conscious consideration of both the capabilities of the clients and the needs of their customers. Before a final solution is designed, there are multiple iterations that are relying on feedback loops and assessments that inform each rapid modification. The goal is to deliver appropriate, actionable and tangible strategies that result in new and innovative options for growth each of which are grounded in business viability and market demands.
According to their website, IDEO’s approaches have helped them achieve some of the following milestones as an organization:
- Ranked as one of the most innovative companies in the world by business leaders in a global survey by Boston Consulting Group
- Ranked #10 on Fast Company’s list of the Top 25 Most Innovative Companies
- Winner of 38 Red Dot awards, 28 iF Hannover awards, and more IDEA awards than any other design firm
- Ranked #16 on Fortune’s list of 100 most-favored employers by MBA students
- Awarded the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Award for Product Design
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