Change by Design

Summary Written by Carly Basch
"Design thinking taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices"

- Change by Design, page 4

The Big Idea

Experiment and get your hands dirty

"The bewildering variety at work in a healthy ecosystem is nothing but an exercise in sustained experimentation – try something new, and see what sticks"- Change by Design, page 61

Innovation cannot begin without getting your hands dirty. Whether it’s company-wide, a department or your team that is looking to change and develop something new, an attitude to foster experimentation needs to happen. Despite not having defined steps that can be positioned within a company, Tim Brown does present guidelines to help encourage leaders to foster an environment to lead their teams towards the attitude of experimentation. These rules are:

  1. The best ideas are created when the entire organization has room to experiment
  2. The more exposed you are to technology, the more adaptable you are to respond and shift towards new opportunities
  3. Just because an idea is said, doesn’t mean it’s the right one
  4. An idea that generates buzz should take the lead
  5. “Gardening” skills by management should be utilized to grow ideas
  6. Purposes and outcomes should be properly articulated so that the involved organization has direction

These rules can be applied to simple team-based problems that managers are looking to resolve immediately. Within a safe environment, taking advantage of everyone’s perspective and experiences can result in a team coming together – addressing and potentially opening up new opportunities that weren’t feasible.

Insight #1

We’re all in this together

"Colonies of bees, ants, and humans must adapt and evolve if they are to be successful"- Change by Design, page 188

Consumerism has shifted past being “passive buyers” and whether it’s the organization that provides the product or the buyer who purchases it, it is a cycle that must be nurtured so that organizations can innovate and provide tools that not will only satisfy the needs of a consumer but help them reach more potential. With this type of colonialism, it’s important to see both sides of the coin: what is your team trying to accomplish and what do the people affected by your actions need?

Design thinking therefore is not a one-time solution; it’s more a shift in mindset so that when teams start to inspire, create and implement, it adds layers. As these layers get developed new problems, new opportunities and solutions can be added.

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Insight #2

Be optimistic

"Try to be alert to the nodes where it all comes together, because that is where new ideas originate"- Change by Design, page 65

Experimenting and shifting a team to embrace this new culture of “design thinking” can be daunting. Experimenting can have an effect that may take an unexpected turn; there’s always the potential that it might fail. However, Brown encourages failure to be a chance to layer on what worked, what didn’t and help steer the ideas towards something greater.

Teams have to be optimistic and not fearful of the potential content that will be generated. If optimism isn’t present, it doesn’t encourage people to be open minded and comfortable to explore new ideas. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that aren’t spoken out loud – how can there be a shift to present a solution, if the environment doesn’t encourage people to take risks, make mistakes and grow from them in a positive way?

Leaders therefore should enforce optimism, encouraging the thoughts to not stop and use a failed experiment as an accomplishment instead of viewing it as a negative. Not only does this increase the productivity of generating new ideas but it also brings teams closer together, allowing them to feel comfortable adapting and shifting together.

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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is CEO and president of IDEO. He frequently speaks about the value of design thinking and innovation to businesspeople and designers around the world. He participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks “Serious Play” and Change By Design appear on industrial designer by training, Tim has earned numerous design awards and has exhibited work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Axis Gallery in Tokyo, and the Design Museum in London. He takes special interest in the convergence of technology and the arts, as well as the ways in which design can be used to promote the well being of people living in emerging economies.Tim advises senior executives and boards of Fortune 100 companies and has led strategic client relationships with such organizations as the Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Steelcase. He is a board member of the Mayo Innovation Advisory Council and the Advisory Council of Acumen Fund, a not-for-profit global venture fund focused on improving the lives of the poor. Additionally, he writes extensively, with articles in theHarvard Business Review, The Economist, and other prominent publications. His book on how design thinking transforms organizations, Change By Design, was released by HarperBusiness in September 2009.Tim maintains a blog on the subject of design thinking.

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