The Little Book of IDEO


Who is the Little Book of IDEO for?

Those of us who have been here for a while and have witnessed our constant “evolutions” (we are being kind to ourselves there) and who want to know how to stay involved and on track.

Our new hires, who inevitably end up (as we all did, remember?) asking themselves: “Now I’m in, how does it all work?”.

Potential new hires who are interested in IDEO and want to know the mechanics and exactly how Grown Up We Are (or not) and help make an informed decision about whether they want to come aboard.

What is it for?

We’re going to attempt to address some of the eternal questions that we are asked, such as:

“People talk a lot about the culture here,
how would you describe it?”

“How exactly does IDEO work?”

“What are the development opportunities
for me at IDEO?”

“Why don’t you even have an organizational chart?”

…and many more. And of course, when we are also frequently asked questions about ourselves by clients intrigued to understand how our organization enables us to do what we do, we say (truthfully) that many organizations and clients should be more like us. This intrigues them and then we do a lot of hand waving when they ask:


IDEO, Yesterday,
and Today

by David Kelley

I’ve always been proud of IDEO, but I am particularly proud of where we are today. The diversity of our teams and the importance of the projects we do are staggering. Most impressive to me is that IDEO-ers are so smart and talented that when a new project comes in, we can put together a seemingly random team of designers out of who is available in the firm at that time, and in the end, magic happens: breakthrough ideas and happy clients.

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David Kelley

IDEO, Today, and Tomorrow

by Tim Brown

In the early days of IDEO, we focused on balancing great work with a business that was successful enough for us to keep going. While we were small (and could get everyone on the same school bus) we didn’t need much more than that to keep us all headed in the same direction.

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Tim Brown

A Loosely-Designed

by Paul Bennett

I remember clearly that the day before I came to Palo Alto to be interviewed at IDEO, I had an interview at a major athletic apparel company. During the conversation there, two things stood out – firstly, they completely blindsided me by immediately asking what my “connection was to team sports,” to which I blankly answered “none,” essentially ending my career there on the spot.

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Tim Brown
A Peopley Weopley Organisation

A Peopley-Weopley

For a human-centered organization, it of course makes perfect sense that our inner core, the magma at the center of our earth, is our people. Put most simply, IDEO is all about our talent: finding, supporting, keeping, growing and nurturing them, not to mention, inspiring, supporting and enabling them once they’re inside. That’s you, or hopefully you, if you’re reading this - it’s now official: you are literally the center of our universe.

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The Ties That Bind Us

What are the values that we as citizens of that country all share, or more subtly, should start to expect from each other, and dare we suggest it, even hold one another accountable for being…or not?

Be Optimistic
Take Ownership
Embrace Ambiguity
Talk Less Do More
Learn From Failure
Make Others Successful
From Grasshopper to Master

to Master:
Your Journey

There’s probably another huge thought bubble floating over your head at this point that says something along the lines of: “Back to me: this is all well and good, but how does all this work in practice?” Let’s put some of this in perspective for you, how to go about managing your career and understanding what makes people at IDEO successful.

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Oops, We Did
It Again

Not every organization is perfect, and we are far from perfect. Not everything is buttoned up, and to go back to David’s quote about us not being ordinary, sometimes there is chaos and swirl at IDEO in our desire to be extraordinary. We are a creative organization run by creative people, and as we tell our clients every day, creativity is messy, and well, so are we. Some gentle reflections on ourselves as we continue on our journey, perhaps think of them as things to work on and lessons still to be learnt.

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