Tim Brown

c. 1960

American Industrial Designer, CEO and President of IDEO, Chairman of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Creative Economy, Author, Writer for the Harvard Business Review and The Economist

Author Quotes

As soon as two or three children get together they start to role-play: they become doctors and nurses, pirates, aliens, or Disney characters. Without prompting, they begin to perform lengthy enactments full of complex plots and subplots. Research suggests that this form of play is not only fun but also helps establish internal scripts by which we navigate as adults.

Design of participatory systems, where value beyond cash, created and measured, will be theme of design and economy.

Design?s too important to be left to designers.

It has to be an experimental culture. There has to be an enthusiasm for new ideas. You have to have a culture that?s willing to explore new ideas, test them and then get rid of them if they?re not good ideas. If ideas get shut down, if they?re only allowed to happen in some little corner, or if only certain people are allowed to have ideas, then you?re failing to tap into the innovation potential of an organization. So this notion of experimentation is thoroughly important.

Perhaps the most important opportunity for long-term impact is through education. Designers have learned some powerful methods for arriving at innovative solutions. How might we use those methods not just to educate the next generation of designers but to think about how education as such might be reinvented to unlock the vast reservoir of human creative potential?

The myth of creative genius is resilient: We believe that great ideas pop fully formed out of brilliant minds, in feats of imagination well beyond the abilities of mere mortals. But what the Kaiser nursing team accomplished was neither a sudden breakthrough nor the lightning strike of a genius; it was the result of hard work augmented by a creative human-centered discovery process and followed by iterative cycles of prototyping , testing and refinement.

We are designing verbs, [Bill] Moggridge kept reminding us, not nouns.

As the challenges of the industrial age spread to every field of human endeavor, a parade of bold innovators who would shape the world as they have shaped my own thinking would follow him [Isambard Kingdom Brunel]. We have met many of them along the ?reader?s journey? that I have tried to construct: William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, the American industrial designer Raymond Loewy, and the team of Ray and Charles Eames. What they all shared was optimism, openness to experimentation, a love of storytelling, a need to collaborate, and an instinct to think with their hands?to build, to prototype, and to communicate complex ideas with masterful simplicity. They did not just do design, they lived design.

Design projects must ultimately pass through three spaces. We label these ?inspiration? for the circumstances that motivate the search for solutions; ?ideation,? for the process of generating, developing and testing ideas that may lead to solutions; and ?implementation,? for the charting of a path to market. Projects will loop back through these spaces ? particularly the first two ? more than once as ideas are refined and new directions taken.

Designers learn to draw so that they can express their ideas. Words and numbers are fine, but only drawing can simultaneously reveal both the functional characteristics of an idea and its emotional content. To draw an idea accurately, decisions have to be made that can be avoided by even the most precise language; aesthetic issues have to be addressed that cannot be resolved by most elegant mathematical calculation. Whether the task at hand is a hair dryer, a weekend retreat in the country, or an annual report, drawing forces decisions.

It?s critical that young people start flexing their creative muscles in order to take on the world's most complex challenges.

Rather than thinking to build, build to think.

The natural evolution from design doing to design thinking reflects the growing recognition on the part of today's business leaders that design has become too important to be left to designers.

We build these bridges of insight through empathy, the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, understand the world through their experiences, and feel the world through their emotions.

At IDEO we have dedicated rooms for our brainstorming sessions, and the rules are literally written on the walls: Defer judgment. Encourage wild ideas. Stay focused on the topic. The most important of them, I would argue, is ?Build on the ideas of others.?

Design thinking becomes with examining opposing ideas and opposing constraints to create new solutions.

Divergent thinking is the route, not the obstacle, to innovation.

It?s possible to spend days, weeks, or months conducting research of this sort, but at the end of it all we will have little more than stacks of field notes, videotapes, and photographs unless we can connect with the people we are observing at a fundamental level. We call this ?empathy? and it is perhaps the most important distinction between academic thinking and design thinking. We are not trying to generate new knowledge, test a theory, or validate a scientific hypothesis?that?s the work of our university colleagues and an indispensable part of our shared intellectual landscape. The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and services that will improve lives.

Social issues are, by definition, human-centered. The best of the world?s foundations, aid organizations, and NGOs know this, but many of them have lacked the tools to ground this commitment in ongoing, sustainable enterprises fueled not just by outside donations but by the energies and resources of the people they serve.

The process of the design thinker, rather, looks like a rhythmic exchange between the divergent and convergent phases, with each subsequent iteration less broad and more detailed than the previous ones. In the divergent phase, new options emerge. In the convergent phase it is just the reverse: now it?s time to eliminate options and make choices. It can be painful to let a once-promising idea fall away, and this is where the diplomatic skills of project leaders are often tested. William Faulkner, when asked what he found to be the most difficult part of writing, answered, ?Killing off your little darlings.?

We have already seen hints of storytelling at work: in ethnographic fieldwork; in the synthesis phase, in which we begin to make sense of large accumulations of data; and in the design of experiences. In each case, we are talking about adding not just a widget but a whole new dimension to the designer?s toolkit: the ?fourth dimension,? designing with time. When we create multiple touch points along a customer journey, we are structuring a sequence of events that build upon one another, in sequential order, across time. Storyboards, improvisations, and scenarios are among the many narrative techniques that help us visualize an idea as it unfolds over time.

Because design thinking balances the perspectives of users, technology, and business, it is by its nature integrative.

Design thinking can be applied in short-term ways and in long-term ways. In fact, the imperative for doing this is even greater in a downturn. The opportunity to capture more market share is greater because many of your competitors have taken their eye off the ball.

Empathy is the mental habit that moves us beyond thinking of people as laboratory rats or standard deviations. If we are to ?borrow? the lives of other people to inspire new ideas, we need to begin by recognizing that their seemingly inexplicable behaviors represent different strategies for coping with the confusing, complex, and contradictory world in which they live.

It's not an 'either/or,' it's an 'and.' You can be serious and play.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date
c. 1960

American Industrial Designer, CEO and President of IDEO, Chairman of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Creative Economy, Author, Writer for the Harvard Business Review and The Economist