Authors@Google: Tim Brown

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 09.11.2009

>> My name is Ilana Weiss, and I work on the Leadership Development Team as part of Google
University. And today, it is my pleasure to welcome Tim
Brown to the "Authors at Google" series. Tim Brown is the CEO and president of IDEO,
a global design consultancy focused on creating impact through design.
IDEO has won more industrial design excellence awards than any other firm, and has been ranked
in the top 25 most innovative companies in the world by BusinessWeek.
Tim is an industrial designer by training. And his own work has earned him numerous design
awards, and has been exhibited at MOMA in New York City, Axis Gallery in Tokyo, and
the Design Museum in London. He has participated in the World Economic
Forum and the TED Conference. Tim has led strategic client relationships
with organizations such as Pepsi, Mayo Clinic, Proctor & Gamble, and Steelcase.
Many of us are here today because IDEO is a company that we really admire.
Innovation is a core value that drives what we do here at Google, and who better to understand
and also reflect that value than Tim? We're also lucky here today, because we're
among the first to hear about his new book, hot off the presses last week, "Change by
Design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation."
Please join me in welcoming Tim Brown.
>> [applause]
Tim Brown: Okay. Well, thank you.
It's great to be here. It is great to be here.
So, I'm going the talk for maybe 25 minutes or so on what happens when we move from design
to design thinking. I'm going to start off with a little bit of
autobiography. And this rather lousy image is actually the
first thing that I ever was hired to design professionally.
I wasn't even out of design school yet, actually. And it's a woodworking machine, or at least,
it's a piece of woodworking machine. And I was hired to make it a little bit easier
to use, a little bit more attractive, so that this company could sell more spindle molders
and wood saws and other machinery that many of you may have used; I don't know.
And, you know, I think I did a pretty good job.
In fact, if you happen to be on your vacation in England, and happen to visit a woodworking
shop, somewhere in the north of England, as you may do -- I don't know.
I do often -- you'll actually find these machines still being used today.
Unfortunately, you won't find the company that makes them, because that went out of
business, actually, quite soon after I'd done my project.
The next project that I did is a fax machine. And, again, I was hired to put an attractive
shell around some -- what was then -- relatively new technology.
And again, to make it a little bit more attractive and easy to use.
This is actually one of those things that ended up in the design museums.
But again, 18 months later, the product was obsolete.
And, of course, now the whole technology is obsolete.
My teenage daughters don't even know what faxing is.
Many of you may not either. So, you know, it occurred to me that what
passed the design maybe wasn't all that important. You know, making things a bit easier to use,
making them a bit more attractive, making them a bit more marketable.
By focusing on "a design," I was being kind of incremental and not having very much impact.
But I think this kind of small view of design is a relatively recent phenomena, and actually,
kind of emerged in the latter half of the 20th century as design became a tool of consumerism.
So, when we talk about design today and, particularly, when we read about it in the popular press,
we're often talking about products like these. Amusing? Yeah.
Desirable? Probably. Important? Not very.
But this wasn't always the way. And I'd like to suggest that if we take a
different view of design, and instead of focusing on the products, focus on design thinking
as a process, then design perhaps ends up having a bigger impact.
So, again, this is a bit of a Brit-themed talk today.
And I apologize, but that's where I come from, as you may recognize from the accent.
I don't know. Does anybody recognize this guy?
Not including the people who already watched my TED poll.
Okay, so this is, you know, perhaps the 19th century equivalent of Larry Page and Sergey
Brin. This is where people wore more interesting
clothing, I think, maybe.
But this is Kingdom Brunel, and he was a truly great engineer, and I think, design thinker
from the 19th century in Britain. And he built many firsts, including the Clifton
Suspension Bridge, one of the first suspension bridges in Bristol.
And the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe, one of the then longest, underwater tunnels in
the world. His most famous creation in the south of England
-- I grew up very close to it -- and it's called the Great Western Railway.
And, in fact, one of my favorite things to do as a kid was to ride my bicycle along the
edge of the railway line waiting for the big express trains to roll past, much to the consternation
of my mother. You can see it represented here in JMW Turner's
painting, "Rain, Steam and Speed." What was remarkable about Brunel when he built
this railway was that he wasn't just thinking about, "How do I engineer a railway?"
He said that what he wanted to achieve for his passengers was the experience of floating
across the countryside. It's a really great way of thinking about
building a railway. And, in order to do that, he had to create
the flattest gradients that had ever yet been built.
And that meant long viaducts over river valleys. This one is actually over the river Thames,
at Maidenhead, and long tunnels like the one at Box in Wiltshire, but he didn't stop there.
He didn't just stop with trying to make the best railway journey he could.
He imagined an integrated transportation system, where it was possible to get on a train in
London and get off a ship in New York. One journey from London to New York.
This is the S.S. Great Western that he built to take care of the second half of that journey,
one of the first transatlantic steamships. So now, although this was a century before
the emergence of design as a profession, I really think that Brunel was using design
thinking to come up with great innovations and world-changing designs.
And I'm going to talk a little bit about what that is.
Design thinking starts with what Roger Martin, the University of Toronto Business School
dean, calls "integrated thinking," this ability to hold opposing constraints in one's head
and, from that, get to new solutions. In design, this means balancing desirability
-- what people need and want -- with technical feasibility and economic viability.
And with breakthrough designs, like the Great Western Railway, we often stretch that balance
to the very limit and sometimes break it. And I'm sure many of the things that you do
do the same thing. So, somehow we went from this to this.
We went from systems' thinkers who were reinventing the world around us to a priesthood of folks
in black turtlenecks and designer glasses working on small things.
As design emerged as a profession, it focused on a steadily smaller canvas, until it came
to stand for fashion, aesthetics, and style. And, you know, I have to admit -- I'm a fully
paid member of that priesthood, and somewhere my jacket has my own pair of designer glasses
in it. So, I'm throwing stones at myself, as well
as my colleagues, in the design industry. But, I think design is getting big again.
And I think that's happening through the application of design thinking to new kinds of problems:
things like climate change, healthcare, clean water, security, social welfare.
And, as we see this reemergence of design thinking as something that can have perhaps
greater impact, then we can observe some basic ideas that design thinking kind of operates
through, and we can perhaps learn from it. So, what I'd like to do is talk about a few
of those for the next few minutes, and talk about some of the kinds of projects and problems
that they're being applied to. So, now, design thinking starts with the idea
of being human-centered. It may integrate the constraints of technology
and economics, but it begins with what people need or might need: what makes life easier,
more enjoyable, what makes technology useful and usable.
But this is more than simply good ergonomics, putting the buttons in the right place, whether
they're software buttons or hardware buttons. It's often about understanding culture and
context before we even know where to start to have our ideas.
So, when a team was working in India on a new vision-screening program, they wanted
to understand what motivated and excited these kids, to understand how they might play a
role in screening their parents. Conversion Sound is a small start-up -- actually
based here in the Bay Area -- that's developed an ultra-low-cost, very high quality, digital
hearing aid for developing markets. Now, here in the West, these hearing aids
are fitted by highly-trained technicians. In places like India, those technicians simply
don't exist. And so, it took a team working with community
health workers and patients to understand how a PDA application might replace technicians
in the diagnosis and fitting service. But, again, the team -- instead of starting
with technology -- the team started with people and culture.
And this idea of closely observing people can lead to recognizing behaviors that can
ultimately lead to breakthrough innovations. So -- when a team was interested in studying
families in the U.S. to see how they managed their money, they saw two interesting behaviors.
This is one of them. They saw people who were rounding up their
utility bills when they paid them. And when they asked, "Well, why did you do
that?" The response was, "Well, I don't like to get
behind. I don't like to feel that I owe the utility
company money." And another behavior that they saw -- which
is one that I think many of us exhibit -- was that when people went and paid for a
cash transaction, they would take the coins that they got in exchange in change, and take
them home, stick them in a jar or somewhere, and then every so often, take those to the
bank, or give them to the kids to take to the bank and pay into their savings accounts.
Again, when we asked them about this, this is this idea of saving invisibly, saving without
thinking about it. So, that led to the idea of a new savings
account for Bank of America called "Keep the Change."
I don't know if any of you use it. And what happens here is that when you go
and pay for a transaction with your debit card, the payment gets rounded up to the nearest
dollar, and the change gets put into your savings account.
So, it takes this kind of behavior of automatic savings and staying ahead, and applies it
to a very simple piece of technology to create a new kind of service.
Again, it started with recognizing a behavior and led to an innovation.
So, if design thinking starts with the idea of being human-centered, then it moves quickly
to learning by making things. Instead of thinking of "what to build," we
"build in order to think." Because prototypes help us learn about our
ideas, and, the faster we put our prototypes out into the world, the faster we know about
the qualities and strengths and weaknesses of our ideas.
The faster that we can evolve them, the faster we can improve them.
Now, a lot has been said about the Aravind Eye Clinic in Madurai, India.
I'm sure many of you have heard of it. It manages to serve vast quantities of very
poor patients by taking the revenues from those patients that can afford to pay, and
using them to cross-subsidize those who cannot. They're an incredibly efficient organization,
but they're also very innovative. And the thing that I noticed when I visited
was this willingness to prototype new ideas very quickly.
So, this is the manufacturing facility for one of their biggest cost breakthroughs.
It's actually where they manufacture the intraocular lenses that they use to replace damaged lenses
-- our own lenses that are damaged by cataracts. And by doing this, they brought the cost down
from $200 a pair, when they're made by western producers, to just $4 a pair.
That's a huge, huge cost savings. And the way they did this was, I think, through
a prototyping approach. Instead of building some fancy, new factory,
they put the facility in the basement of one of their hospitals.
Instead of using the fancy, large-scale machines that western producers use, they use low-cost,
CAD/CAM technology to produce their lenses. And they're now the biggest manufacturer of
these lenses in the developing world, and actually, they just recently moved into a
custom factory. So, if human need is the place to start and
prototyping a vehicle for progress, then there are also questions to be asked about the destination.
Instead of seeing consumption as its primary goal, design thinking is beginning to explore
the idea and potential of participation. The shift from a passive relationship between
consumer and producer to the active engagement of everyone in experiences that are meaningful,
productive, and profitable. And clearly, a lot of this capacity to explore
more participative experiences has been driven by the web and many of the things that you
all work on. Another Brit, my apologies.
You're getting a great British history lesson today.
When Sir William Beveridge created the first of his famous reports in 1942, he proposed
what became Britain's welfare state, in which he hoped that every citizen would be an active
participant in their own social welfare. By the time he wrote his third report, he
confessed that he had failed, and instead created a society of welfare consumers.
Hillary Cottam, Charlie Ledbetter, and Hugo Manassei of Participle in England have taken
this idea of participation and, in their manifesto entitled "Beveridge 4.0," they've described
a model for reinventing the welfare state. One of their projects is this one.
It's called Southwark Circle, in which a small team of designers worked with local residents
in Southern, South London to develop a new membership organization that helps the elderly
with household tasks. Ideas were developed and refined with 150
elderly people and their families, before the service was launched earlier this year.
And the service itself is a combination of "Can a for-profit like activities and volunteer
activities," and it's really an idea about taking a lot of what currently is the responsibility
of the healthcare providers and social workers providers, and bring it back out into the
community where it can be done a lot less expensively and often to a higher quality.
And, you know, I think that this idea of designing participatory systems where value -- over
and above cash -- is both generated and measured, isn't only going to be a major theme for design
as we go forward, but perhaps a major theme for our economy as a whole.
And we can take this idea of participation to its logical conclusion and say that perhaps
the way that design can have its greatest impact is if we take it out of the hands of
designers and put it into the hands of everyone. So, a team of nurses and practitioners at
Kaiser Permanente, a local organization, tackled the problem of improving the patient experience.
And one thing they focused on was the exchange of knowledge between nurses.
In particular, one particular project was how they changed shift.
And so, based on a process of observation, brainstorming new ideas, and rapid prototyping,
the team developed a completely new way of changing shift.
And instead of retreating to the nurse's station to share and tell each other about the various
states and needs of patients, they developed a method for changing shift on the ward in
front of patients using a simple software tool.
The innovation brought the time that nurses are away from patients down from 40 minutes
on average to just 12 minutes on average, increased patient confidence because now they
know what's going on, and increased nurse happiness.
And you multiply that savings by every nurse on every shift on every ward in the 35 hospitals
that Kaiser has in their system and that results in a lot more nursing time.
And I think this is just one example of thousands of opportunities there are in healthcare alone
to create innovations if we can get these kinds of processes into the hands of the people
that are actually providing the service. But, unfortunately, good ideas don't sell
themselves. Any fans of Madmen might recognize the image
in the background. The 20th century saw the rise of an industry
built to tell stories to encourage us to consume more -- the advertising industry.
And yet, when the goal is to create consumption but not participation, stories aren't sufficient;
we need movements. One example of that, I think, is this one.
It's not every day that you get the prime minister of a G-8 country to launch your campaign,
but that's exactly what a team of Japanese Creative Agency Hakuhodo did when they launched
this idea called Cool Biz. Have any of you heard of Cool Biz?
It's a great idea. So, this was the, then, prime minister Koizumi
of Japan. And the idea of Cool Biz was, in order to
try to bring down the carbon footprint of Japan, they wanted to be able to lower the
-- or raise, I guess -- the temperature settings on the air-conditioning systems in offices
during the summer. One of the biggest things that was preventing
this was the formal dress that Japanese businessmen wear.
You guys wouldn't have a problem with this. But, all Japanese businessmen would turn up
in a suit and tie all the way through the summer.
And so, the idea was that, "If we could persuade Japanese businessmen not to wear a tie, we
could raise the temperature on the thermometers and save gigatons of carbon, or whatever it
is." So, how do you persuade very conservative
Japanese businessmen to stop wearing a tie? Well, the way they did it was, they had a
bunch of Japanese fashion designers design a whole range of new clothing, and then they
had all of the CEOs and the prime minister -- all of the CEOs of the major corporations
in Japan -- do a fashion show with all of this new clothing.
So, that was one thing they did. The second thing they did as part of this
campaign, they got these cool, little badges, and any company that signed up for the Cool
Biz Campaign, if you were wearing one of these badges, you simply couldn't tell somebody
that they were wearing inappropriate dress at work.
So now, again, in California, we don't need badges for that, but in Japan, they needed
badges for it. But, this movement has ended up with thousands
of companies in Japan signing up for the Cool Biz Campaign, and you know a lot of carbon
is being saved as a result. They have a similar program in -- oh, one
of the other downsides, by the way, of having the temperature set so low in offices was,
you'd see most of the Japanese women, who were also formally dressed in skirts and jackets,
in the offices with blankets over their knees, because they were freezing cold.
So, it had another kind of comfort advantage benefit to women.
And there's a similar program that goes on in the winter called Warm Biz. Same thing.
"Wear a woolly sweater to work, and we can lower the setting on the thermostat."
So an example of, I think -- of going from the idea of just telling a story to creating
a movement -- in a similar vein, we've been working on a project for the International
Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy. And, you know, there's some kind of interesting
statistics. Six out of ten pregnancies to women in the
20 to 24 range are unplanned and unwanted. And the goal of the project was to reduce
this unplanned pregnancy amongst unmarried adults.
Now, the core of this is a website with lots of services on it.
This is just one, helping people select various forms of contraception.
Some don't come highly recommended, like champagne corks perhaps.
[laughter] I think there's a piece of string somewhere.
I'm not sure what you are supposed to use that for.
But, anyway, sounds very painful. But the service is only going to work if we
kind of get people to engage with it. So a couple of parts of that, there was this
whole series of posters rather insulting to the parenting capabilities of young men.
And then, this one -- which is a little hard to tell from this image, but, it'll be a bit
more obvious for the next one when you see the prototype.
This is a sticker that goes on a mirror in the women's bathroom, women's restroom, and
that's the sticker. That's the sticker.
So when you walk into the bathroom, you can get this rather [laughter] uncomfortable view
about what it might be like should you decide, or not decide, to do something.
So again, you know, I mean it's the idea of using design to get people to engage with
things a little bit more than they might otherwise. So, these are just some of the approaches
that design thinking takes and some of the kinds of projects that it's being applied
to. But I like to go back to Brunel here, and
propose a possible connection as to why this is happening now, why it didn't happen 20
years ago, and why design thinking may be a useful tool.
And I think that connection is a pretty simple one; it's to do with change.
In times of great change, we demand new solutions, new alternatives, things that haven't existed
before. It's a very simple idea.
You know, Brunel worked during the height of the Industrial Revolution, when every piece
of our economy and society was getting reinvented. Now, you know, many of those industrial systems
from Brunel's time have run their course and, indeed, they're part of the problem today
in many cases. And again, we live in the midst of massive
change; it's just a different kind of change, driven by different kinds of technology.
And that change is forcing us to question many of the fundamental components of our
society, like healthcare, government, education, and security.
And, in periods of change, we need new ideas, because our existing solutions are simply
becoming obsolete because of that change. It's a very simple idea.
But, why design thinking? Because it changes the way that we tackle
problems. Instead of focusing on our -- sort of, defaulting
to -- our normal convergent approach where we make the best choice out of existing alternatives,
it encourages us to diverge, to explore new ideas, and create new alternatives that haven't
existed before. But, before we can do that, before we can
diverge, before we can explore new alternatives, there's an important first step.
And that first step is, "What's the question we're trying to answer?"
In the design industry, we might call that, "What's the design brief?"
Now, Brunel may have asked this question, "How to I take a train from London to New
York?" He'd have had a hard time building a bridge,
but he did come up with a solution. But, what are the kinds of questions that
we might be tackling today? And, we're very lucky we get asked -- just
as you are. We're very lucky we get asked lots of really
fascinating questions. We get to ask lots of fascinating questions
ourselves. These are just some of them we've been working
on recently. I won't be very long, so don't worry.
One of them, in particular, is a project that we've been doing with The Acumen Fund, which
is a social innovation fund in New York. I'm guessing some of you know who they are,
because I'm guessing that you have a relationship with Acumen as well, and on a project actually
funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And this is the question, "How might we improve
access to safe, drinking water for the world's poorest people, and at the same time stimulate
innovation amongst local water providers?" So, instead of taking the obvious approach
and having a bunch of American designers in Palo Alto come up with a bunch of new ideas
that may or may not have been appropriate, we tried to take a more open, collaborative,
and participative approach. So we teamed designers and investment experts
up with eleven water organizations across India, and then through a series of workshops,
they explored new ideas for product services and business models.
We then hosted a competition and awarded seed-funding to five of those organizations.
And then, they developed and tested and iterated on their ideas.
And idea-designers and Acumen folks went out and were out in India working with these organizations
for several weeks, designing new social marketing campaigns, community outreach strategies,
business models, new water vessels, the drinking water, and new service delivery ideas.
Now, these are just getting -- some of these are just getting rolled out right now.
It's kind of early to see too much of the impact, although in one case, there's one
of the organizations there's one that does large-scale, kind of village-scale, filtration
plants for villages in India, and they run on a subscription service.
And, by redesigning the kind of community outreach strategy they had -- essentially
to design an event to which they invited villagers -- they increased subscription by four times.
So we're hoping to see many more kind of areas, sort of, impact like that from these different
organizations as they roll out their ideas. And we're just repeating this whole exercise
in East Africa with a group of NGOs there. For me, this is an example of how far design
thinking can go from tackling the kinds of small problems I was working on in the beginning
of my career. By focusing on the needs of people, using
prototypes to move ideas along quickly, getting the process out of the hands of designers,
and getting the active participation of everyone in the community, can be applied to more important
perhaps, bigger questions. And just like Brunel, by focusing on systems,
design can have a far greater impact. So there are always areas that I'm particularly
interested in, in asking questions about, and thinking about from the perspective of
a designer. And I was just kind of going to throw out
some of them now. And they might be a useful for the start of
any Q and A we might have. So three that I been thinking about quite
a lot recently, and I think the world's thinking about a lot at the moment, at least the top
two anyway. This whole issue of reinventing health, not
just in America where we're hearing about it today, but I mean, to be honest, we don't
really have sustainable healthcare systems anywhere.
And so, it's a pretty big problem. Encouraging sustainable consumption I know
is something a lot of you guys care about a lot, but it's something that we're making
pretty slow progress on. And imagining a new role for media.
One of the reasons I put this one up is because your organization is one that has a huge role
to play. You are a media organization, and I think
you have a huge role to play in changing the role of media as we go forward.
So, on the topic of healthcare, this is one that I'm particularly interested in.
I believe we will only get to a sustainable healthcare system when we think of healthcare
as a life skill, not as sickness to be avoided. And a place to start, at least, is to figure
out, How can we start to educate kids to treat health as a life skill?
To think of health as a life skill just as we think of many other things as life skills
in order to be able to kind of manage and think about healthcare as they go through
their lives. And how can technology help?
How can it help get kids interested in health, and give them a means to monitor their progress?
I'm going to get you upset. I'm going to use one of your competitors.
So what would a health-oriented version of Facebook look like?
I'm sure there's something better than Facebook, but you know, how might it help build communities
of kids, or communities of adults, to help with their own health?
And how can we better illustrate the connection between nutrition, exercise, and health?
There's still a lot of work to do. On the topic of consumption -- I think this
is an interesting one and a difficult one -- which is, "How are we going to create
closed-loop products -- products that do not use up and waste resources at any point, from
manufacturing through use through disposal -- in terms of products and services --
such that we can create growth for business, because that turns out to be quite important
to all of us without extending the depletion of resources?"
I mean, for me, this is one of the most challenging questions that I get to ask as a designer.
I mean, as an industrial designer, one of my great contributions to society is to create
hundreds of thousands of tons of landfill. And I don't always feel that proud of that.
I mean, I feel proud of the products that I've designed.
They've been very useful to people. But, in the end, that stuff has ended up in
landfills. And we just simply can't continue to do that.
So, I think it's an important question. And again, we're making slow progress.
We need to apply much more thought to it. On the topic of media, what interests me is,
I think media has got itself into this place where it considers itself really to be either
entertainment or awareness-building. There's definitely an educational role, and
we understand that, but can media go beyond that when it comes to helping us deal with
some of these other pressing problems we have to deal with?
So many of these issues are going to require behavior change.
They require behavior change at a mass scale. We all have to change our behaviors around
health. We all have to change our behaviors around
consumption. And what's the role of media in helping us
change our behavior? Can media be partners to us in helping us
change? What new media products and services might
help with that? So, you know those are some of the questions
that I'm kind of interested in asking these days.
So I'd like to believe that design thinking, as one approach to innovation can actually
make a difference. It can help create new ideas, new innovations
that go beyond the latest products on the High street.
To do that, we have to go back to this idea of thinking about design in a more expansive
way, more like Brunel, less like a priesthood of professionals.
And the first step is to start asking the right questions.
That's all I have to say. Thank you very much.
>> [clapping]
>> So, for those of you who don't have to rush off to all the sorts of important things
you have to do, then I'd be happy to take a few questions, if you wish.
>> Thanks for coming. I have a big question.
And I think you've already hinted at the answer, but I'm interested to know what your direct
answer is to the question. And the question is, "How would you like to
save the world?"
>> I think it would be excessive, in the extreme, to think that anyone can do that.
But, I'd like to work on these kinds of questions. We're getting more of a chance to do that.
One of the things that makes me hopeful is that, when we first started getting interested
in working on sort of what I would broadly call "global questions" rather than simply
the, "How do we design the next soda bottle that a client might come and ask for, or a
piece of tech that a client might ask for." When we first started to do that, it was sort
of the only way to do that was to do it on the side somehow.
Was to do it either in our spare time or to find somebody that had a project and we do
it on the side. Then we found ourselves in the position of
being able to convince some, you know, well-funded foundations, that they could start to invest
in some of that stuff, and that's been great -- people like Gates, Rockefeller, and others.
What's beginning to happen now is that we're finding some of our large, corporate clients
beginning to come, and we're able to ask them some of these questions.
And they're beginning to engage in them. And I know there are some leading organizations
of the world -- of which this is one – that have been doing that for awhile, but,
there aren't many. And we're just beginning to see more, and
that gives me some hope. Because here's the problem I see which is,
If we add up all of the innovation capacity of the world's NGOs and foundations and people
who are excited about solving those problems, and compare it to all the world's capacity
for doing R and D and innovation in corporations, we'd be comparing this to this.
I mean, there are trillions of dollars spent around the world on R and D inside corporations
today. If we can apply some of that to some of these
problems, I think we'd make a lot more progress. So the only way we're going to do that is
if we get these kinds of companies to engage. So that's something I'm pretty excited about.
So maybe that's a way that we can make a difference.
>> Your remark about media and power to people to change behavior.
And it seems like media's being used to reinforce behavior or make people behave in ways that
are against their own self-interest. And I'm not -- politically it's a long story
-- but, for example, like sugary soft drinks. People are bombarded with advertisements.
>> I mean, I think it's philosophically and politically a really challenging problem,
right? Because you can go from encouraging behavior
change to propaganda very, very quickly. There have been some, actually, really-effective
uses of media to create social change, that happened in the mid-20th century in countries
like Germany, and the results weren't that great.
And so, there is this -- we're in this sort of very interesting spectrum between, yes,
advertising and other forms of media that reinforce "un-useful behaviors", shall we
say, and then propaganda at the other extreme. And we somehow got to find something else.
And I think that "something else" is actually not about dictating to people what to do.
It's about making choices and making the world transparent.
And I think that's why this organization plays such an important role is that, the more we
can make information transparent and the more we can help people interpret that information
such that they can make good choices, the more likely they are to make those good choices,
I think. But, I mean, it's a really tricky, difficult
problem. I don't know.
Do we want to legislate away from advertising? There's actually an interesting piece on NPR
this morning that's about just that. It's a tricky one.
>> We have people who spend their lives watching advertising in Fox News, and they believe
everything they see. How do you put some other message in there?
>> My own solution has been not to have a TV in my house, if that helps.
>> Thank you.
You mentioned a minute ago that it seemed very promising to get these corporations engaged,
and what I'm wondering about is, it sounds like you're on the cusp of, from when they
weren't very engaged to becoming more engaged. What have you found got them engaged?
Does it always include some way to profit from it?
And I'd be interested to hear about that.
>> I mean, I think that's the shift that's happening is that, you know, I first started
to see it. I get the chance to go to Davos every year,
and I first started to see it there a few years ago, where more and more CEOs were starting
to stand up and talk about this -- talk about how they saw that things like their permission
to do business in markets was going to be affected by solving some of these problems.
So that was the first sign. And of course, it's one thing for CEOs to
stand up and talk about it; it's another thing for corporations to do something about it.
And now, what I'm beginning to see is, more and more companies like UniLever, like Nike,
like Nokia, is another example of companies that are beginning to see how their businesses
are fundamentally going to get impacted by either not solving these problems or solving
them. And, you know, I mean, corporations are self-interested
organisms, right? So when they start to make that connection
-- even when there's no short-term profit -- and it's going to be tough.
And, you know, Wall Street makes it tougher, because there's sort of a short-term fixation
on profit -- makes it far harder to look out into the distance and see the time when those
profits aren't going to be available. But, I'm seeing more companies that have got
the strength of purpose and vision to see that they need to work on these problems somehow.
Now, I think one of the problems that might occur quite quickly is this sort of chaotic
scrum of these organizations trying to get involved with different NGOs, and the whole
thing could get to be a bit of a mess. And I think it's going to take some way of
organizing that. And one of the ways that I think we can start
to organize that is, begin to agree on some of the questions we're actually trying to
answer. So that, instead of everybody that wants to
tackle a problem goes to ask a different question, we can actually start to apply some energy
around some sort of questions that we might actually agree on.
Again, it's a scale issue for me. It doesn't matter how many of us are interested
in tackling these problems. If we're all asking different questions in
a very narrow way, it's very hard to tackle these big, systemic problems.
But, if we can start to agree on what some of these questions might be, then we might
be able to apply a lot more capacity to solving it.
>> Yeah. I think a couple of things that come to mind
for me are the importance of the forums in which people will share.
Like, you mentioned Davos, and probably certain influential publications and all this and
media. And then the other is, I wonder tools to help
them recognize it sooner within for the self-interested reasons potentially.
>> Yeah. Good point.
>> So, I'm curious: In your experience, what kinds of behaviors and practices you've observed
that get in the way of this kind of approach to problem identification and solving?
Any things that you've discovered help break down those kinds of blocks and help people
engage in this kind of work?
>> Well, you know, it's very easy to get into the routine of just waiting for somebody to
come and ask you a question. And, you know, that was the kind of mindset
I was in for much of my career. It was like, "Okay. What's the next cool client
going to walk through the door? And they're going to ask a question.
And I'm going to solve that question for them." And it was only as I, kind of -- not just
me, but many of my colleagues too -- started to wonder, "Well, you know, this isn't that
interesting." Either we're getting the same questions over
and over again -- and we've always had this problem with IDEO, and just I suspect you
do too -- but, you know, we've got Severe Attention Deficit Disorder.
And so we were so excited to do the first ever laptop, and we were so excited to do
the original mouse for the Lisa computer and then the Macintosh, but by the time somebody
came and asked to do the third or fourth one, we just didn't want to do it.
And we, you know -- so that's part of what sort of encouraged us to start asking new
kinds of questions. So, it's somehow moving from that reactive
-- just waiting for those questions to emerge -- to start to ask them for yourself.
For me, the best way to do that is to be as observant as I can, to watch the world, and
look at the world and try and, often through personal experiences.
So I mean, for me, it was going to India, and spending time in some of these hospitals
and villages, and actually seeing some of these problems firsthand, or spending time
in, you know, schools, or wherever it might be.
I mean, that firsthand experience has actually been an important thing for me, because, One,
it allows me to observe behaviors that kind of spark ideas off of my own head.
But, it just makes the importance of those questions somehow just more visceral.
So, thank you.
>> Hi. [laugh] You talked about taking some of this role
out of the hands of designers and bringing people in to engage in these sorts of activities.
And also, you talked about children and their, kind of, what they might be exposed to through
Facebook with more health, kind of. I was wondering if you had thoughts on education
and roles that companies like yours and ours and the role of teaching of divergent thinking
and convergent thinking and that kind of thing, both from your position in the industry and
having been a dad.
>> Yeah. Well, I'm pretty convinced that all kindergarteners
know how to do design thinking intuitively, and we beat it out of them, as they go through
school. Not intentionally, but because schooling focuses
so much on analytical thinking -- which is valuable.
I wouldn't claim that they're not valuable -- but we've forgotten other forms of thinking.
So, you know, we have had the opportunity to do some work in early years education and
primary education. I would love, obviously love, to see some
of these very simple ideas getting, you know, kind of integrated into education, because
I think kids would pick them up very easily. They're not difficult concepts.
I mean, the skills that one needs to acquire in order to be a great designer in terms of
visualization skills, prototyping skills. Yes, they may take some while to accumulate,
just like the skills in any field do, but the basic principles are really very simple.
And I think, it's possible for all of us to use them in simple ways in our own lives.
So, I'd love to see more of them having more support within conventional, primary education.
And there are some places where that's happening. There are design-focused, charter high schools
and things that are in the United States that have been quite successful.
I'm a little -- the only thing that worries me about that is this idea you pick people
up and say, "Okay. You're going to go into a design school."
That's what I did right? I mean, I went to art school.
I spent seven years in art school. I made that decision but, through luck, not
because I knew that was the right thing for me.
And a lot of people don't get to make that choice at the right moment or make the wrong
choice. So I'd rather see it being integrated into
-- more broadly into general education. I think the UK is a place that's tried to
do that, with some success -- not as much as it might be.
Partly, again, because -- one of the reasons why I'm interested in talking about this as
a "thought process" rather than as a "skills-based idea," although skills are important in design,
is because I think that gives it some level of legitimacy when you compare it to other
thought processes. And you can say, "Well, how does that compare
to narrative approach to thinking? How does that compare to an analytical approach
to thinking?" And you can start to understand the strengths
and weaknesses of each. And, in fact, we may all be better off if
we've got access to all of them. Thanks.
>> Hi. I'm really curious to hear about your creative-thinking
process at IDEO. I'm really -- when you have -- when you come
to -- you have your question -- you come, you kind of deduce it down into a pretty simple
specific question. What do you guys actually do in the creative-thinking
process? And I'm particularly curious how the balance
between people who are process experts in creativity and then domain experts, the people
who actually know how the water system works in India.
>> I mean, we're pretty much a community of generalists.
So, although people do build domain expertise over their careers, most of them don't start
off that way. And we don't hire domain experts.
The way we hire, we use this idea, which I originally stole from McKinsey, although I
think about it differently, which is this notion of hiring T-shaped people.
And you've probably heard of it. The idea of a T-shaped person is somebody
who's got some skill in something, and, in our case, some skill in something that allows
them to do something from a design perspective. So, that could be as a writer, a filmmaker,
an architect, or industrial designer, a business person, whatever that is, as long as it contributes
to what we do, then that's fine. But we're not interested in just having specialists.
What we need are people who've also got this horizontal stroke of a T, which is this --
kind of, almost sort of -- need to involve themselves in other parts of the process,
in other aspects of the process, in other things.
And then, more and more, we've got more people who've got multiple vertical strokes to their
makeup too. And the reason for that is that, it used to
be that design was a relatively simple idea. If I was, as an industrial designer, designing
this, I can do that on my own, pretty much. I mean, there's lots of people involved downstream,
you know, perhaps engineering, perhaps manufacturing, certainly distributing it.
But, when it comes to kind of figuring out what a water cup might be like, or a chair
-- you know, the sort of traditional objects of design -- individual designers can do that
relatively well. But, when we're talking about redesigning
clean-water systems or energy conservation -- whatever else we might be working on
-- it's way too complex for individuals to tackle.
So we need to work in teams and, at least for us, we want to work in teams which are
extremely interdisciplinary and able to work very collaboratively together.
In other words, I may be a designer, but I could lead the research team on a project.
Or maybe I'm coming up with new business models. We want people with that degree of flexibility
and agility. So that's why we have generalists.
It's not a simple, linear process, of course. It's messy; it's iterative.
We ask the question. We usually re-ask it many times during the
-- I mean, whatever we start with -- the original brief -- will have been re-asked,
redefined, and sometimes blown-up and started all over again several times before we get
to the end. You know, we do rely a lot on going out into
the world and trying to look at how people really behave as a source of our ideas.
We do a lot of the obvious things around, kind of, brainstorming other ways of coming
up with ideas. Prototyping is a huge core of our culture,
so people are building things all the time, and finding new ways to build things in order
to try them out. So it's hard to describe it as a step-by-step
process. It's a lot messier.
We can try and describe it, it always turns out to be a lot messier.
And for me, if there's one deep skill that people who practice design a lot get, it's
knowing how to use the tools of the process in messy and interesting ways.
I often compare it to being a cabinetmaker, you know.
A cabinetmaker will know when to use a plane, when to use a chisel, when to use a piece
of sandpaper. They won't necessarily use them in the same
order all the time, but they know exactly the right moment.
And I think that's the kind of process that designers --
It's one where there's all these tools you can use, and you've just got to pick the right
moment to use them, and that's where experience kind of really helps.
>> Just a quick follow-up question. When you're selecting people to join IDEO,
is there something that you've seen over and over again and you're like, "Yes, this is
the kind of person," something that indicates they're the kind of person who will succeed
>> Well, I mean that whole T-shaped thing is a pretty important filter.
They're generally good storytellers, kind of passionate about what they do.
But one of the things we found is that, it's very hard to tell from a resume who's going
to make a good person at IDEO. And so, you know, we rely a lot on internships
for bringing young folks into IDEO, and have historically done that, which is why we teach
a lot -- Stanford and other schools around the world -- is because that's the way we
get to have two-year-long internships with people, and find great people.
It's a cultural -- most of our hiring process is about cultural match as much as it is about
skill. It's easy enough to tell when somebody has
got the skills. It's a lot harder to tell when somebody has
got the cultural fit. So, we spend a lot more of our energy on trying
to find out if somebody's got the cultural fit than skills fit.
>> Thank you.
>> Thanks.
>> Thanks again for the inspirational talk. I would like to go back to the three questions
that you raised, especially the second one, which is, we should be designing closed-loop
systems. I was just curious.
What are the dimensions that you are thinking about when you talk about the "closed loop"?
And just to give a very simple example. If you manufacture a bike, which is made out
of iron and other different parts, it consumes a lot of material and energy.
But the person who's riding it saves energy by not using fuel.
However, the person loses productivity, because it takes longer, but the person is actually
using that time to exercise.
>> They're damnably complex.
>> So.
>> I mean, you know, it's going to take you guys to figure out how to even visualize these
systems. And actually I think that's one of the problems.
It will be a fun thing to work on together. How do we even start to visualize these closed-loop
systems? I find, as a designer, I can start to tinker
around with things when I can visualize them. And yet, most of what we have today, in terms
of tools to help visualize these kinds of systems, are based on life-cycle analysis,
which are just -- they're engineering flowcharts, basically.
They don't do anything for me as a designer. And, you know, I compare that to kind of Hans
Rosling stuff that you got down in the lobby down there, which is a great way of visualizing.
It's a change of state over time. I think we need similar kinds of clever ways
of visualizing these systems. The reality is you've got to look at energy
and materiality and I mean there are social pieces to it too.
And it's extremely, extremely complicated. And I suspect that we will not go from where
we are to designing perfect, closed-loop systems in one leap or ten leaps.
It's going to have to kind of be an evolutionary process that's goes on for quite sometime.
I think it'll start, right? And it seems to me, we haven't done such a
good job of starting it.
You mentioned the difference between telling stories and building movements, and I was
curious to hear a little bit more about that and maybe some of the fundamental differences
between approaching telling a story and approaching successfully building a movement.
>> The simplest piece of it is a movement that requires participation, right?
I mean, stories, you know, traditional advertising can be consumed.
You can sit in front of a TV or a computer and consume advertising; it can affect your
decision. But the participation at best is when you
go and buy something later. I think, for movements, absolutely require
people to participate. And I think, clearly, that's what Obama did
so successfully with the last election. He got people to go from consuming information
about an election to actually participating in it, you know, in really interesting ways.
And so, that, for me, is the big step -- the big difference between a movement and
a story.
>> So, more specifically, what characterizes in your mind a successful story vs.
a successful movement? Are there different fundamental?
>> Well, I mean, stories are controlled, you know.
I mean, one of the big challenges I think, for corporate America today or corporations
all over the world is this idea that they've spent the last 50 years controlling their
brands and controlling the stories that get told about their brands and producing them
in such a way that other people consume them but they can't change them.
In a world of movements, that can't happen, right?
You have to let go of your idea and let other people participate in it and change it and
control it. We see lots of examples of that happening,
and we see lots of examples of companies trying to prevent that happening.
And they will eventually all lose. Eventually all of them will lose that battle,
and it's going to require a fundamentally different way of thinking about brands and
a fundamentally different way of thinking about how we look after or steward those.
The simplest vision for me was, I was always used to thinking of companies as being entities
with 20-foot-high billboards all the way around them facing out, you know.
And I think that's the way we thought about companies for a long time.
They projected an image out into the world, and were often very different from the inside.
And companies like yours have kind of completely reinvented that idea.
You're a company where its internal behavior is its brand.
And a lot of the enthusiasm that people have for Google is the fact that people can look
inside it -- to some degree, anyway. And I think that's going to be the case for
all successful brands, whether they're companies or whether they're social movements, like
climate change. I hope that's somewhat helpful.
>> So what do you have to say about the American auto industry, and are they going to start
to let people participate inside?
>> It's a sad, sad case.[laughter] And I'm a bit of a car geek myself.
And, you know, fortunately, I got lots of other great car companies around the world
to get passionate about. It was unbelievable, kind of, inability to
see the future coming. Well, actually, that's not fair.
I think they probably saw the future coming. They couldn't figure out what to do about
it. I'm sure it will go down as the, kind of,
fundamental lesson in how large industries can just take themselves off the rails.
I'm sure good things will come bubble up out of what's left of the U.S. car industry.
There will be good brands and good cars and good things that happen.
But, you know, again as a Brit, I've been through the decimation of the national car
industry once already. It happened when I was a kid.
I grew up in Oxford, which was one of the centers of car manufacturing in the UK.
It now makes the Mini, which is very good, but it's owned by BMW.
It's not a British car. There are no British car companies left.
There are none. At least, nothing that doesn't hand-build
a few hundred cars a year. Everything else is gone -- owned by somebody
else. And, you know, I suspect that we're going
to see a lot of that same thing happening with the American car industry.
It'll look very small. It'll look very different in ten years time.
It's kind of a sad thing, but in some way that inevitability was probably set decades
ago. We done?
All right.
>> Thank you all for coming, and a special thank you to Tim.
>> Thank you.
>> [applause]