The Art of Innovation

Ever wonder who is really good at Innovation?  Clearly Apple comes to mind.  But what about when Apple goes looking for a little help?

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire IDEO

IDEO is the small silicon valley design firm that Steve Jobs and other corporate leaders turn to when they’ve got a tricky project (such as the first Apple mouse).

Since they do their work on behalf of other customers most people have never heard of IDEO, but for those with even a casual interest in product design, IDEO stands up there with Charles and Ray Eames as icons of design.

In 1999 ABC Nightline News aired an episode The Deep Dive, where they gave IDEO a simple design brief: redesign the grocery cart – in 5 days.  It’s a great watch:

More that 10 years ago Tom Kelley, general manager of design firm IDEO, inspired by the interest in the ABC Nightline special, wrote a book about IDEO, called The Art of Innovation.


Even though its a bit dated (loaded with admiration for the Palm V PDA!) it’s an easy read and a book that I’m likely to use again as a reference.  I’m not going to write up a summary – if you want one I would suggest this one by Gary Natriello at Columbia University.

Readers walk away from great business books with some new ideas to try out right away – and this is no exception.  For me the advice about running a great brainstorm and the exhortation to get out of the building and observe people (“Innovation begins with an eye”) touched a nerve and were worth the price of admission.  This is also one of the few books I’ll be returning to occasionally to improve the culture of creativity and innovation where I work.  I would highly recommend it for those interested in new product innovation.

As someone from a very technical background (Math and Computer Programming) I was pleased to discover that Tom has a new book dedicated to bringing out the creative side in all of us – Creative Confidence.  I look forward to reading it in the coming weeks.

About brendansterne

Sr Director, Product Incubator
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