At CCA’s Graduate Lecture Series this week, IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown shared the challenges they have introducing organizational change at IDEO. He pointed to 2002-2005 when they expanded into services and business design and to their ongoing challenges as they implement design thinking across 50 disciplines, 7 offices and hire more than 400 employees. It is heartening that even the innovation experts share this phenomenon with the rest of us, the multi-year pain and confusion, the staff attrition, that comes from introducing new products, people and services. Brown made the point that business culture, and I would add human nature, often insists on “knowing the answer before it has defined the question or desired outcome.” This observation rings equally true in the executive search field where the express need for a new hire can proceed the definition and impact of said hire.
Brown mentioned other challenges I will expand on in coming weeks, those of t-shaped roles and organizations, in particular the tension between depth and breadth, the necessity of substantive craft and deliverables, the need for people who “know how to manage stuff” and “know how to manage people” and the necessity of developing a shared language for designing, prototyping and delivering solutions with cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural teams–IDEO’s shared language is “design thinking” even though many of their staff are not formally trained in design.
Brown was exceedingly cheerful and optimistic despite or maybe because of his transparency and comfort with the “stream of failure”. We hope to emulate his pitch perspective that if one finds oneself in the position of defending design thinking then one has already lost the battle and should move on to a different conversation!