Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lessons from IDEO: keeping eyes open for inspiration

The Fun Factor

David Kelley, the founder of IDEO, believed that if he hired people he liked and respected, everybody would have fun and more work done.

Observing people

All IDEO-designed products were inspired by watching real people. "We are not funs of focus groups. We don't much care for traditional market research either. We go to the source. Not the "experts" inside a company, but the actual people who use the product or something similar to what we're hoping to create. It's precisely this observation-fueled insight that makes innovation possible. Uncovering what comes naturally to people. And having the strengths to change the rules," writes Tom Kelley.1

The Perfect Brainstorm

Brainstorming is practically a religion at IDEO, one they practice nearly every day. "Though brainstorms themselves are often playful, brainstorming as a tool – as a skill – is taken quite seriously." In a company without many rules, IDEO people have a very firm idea about what constitutes a brainstorm and how it should be organized:

  1. Duration: Sixty minutes in an optimum length. The level of physical and mental energy required for a brainstorm is hard to sustain much longer than that.

  2. Don'ts: "Brainstorming sessions aren't presentations or opportunities for the boss to poll the troops for hot ideas. Nor should they feel like work. And brainstorming is most definitely not about spending thousands of dollars at some glamorous off-site location."

  3. Idea engine: "Brainstorming is the idea engine of IDEO's culture. It is an opportunity for teams to "blue sky" ideas early in a project or to solve a tricky problem that's cropped up later on. The more productive the group, the more it brainstorms regularly and effectively."