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.
As we got bigger, and it got harder to know everyone else really well, we needed something more to aim for; a shared reason to get out of bed in the morning. We spent time on some internal things like growing the breadth of our disciplines and expanding beyond Palo Alto. We also got excited about broadening the definition of design and what kinds of challenges it was applied to. We started using the term ‘design thinking’ and before we knew it had started a kind of movement that has had a dramatic effect on our work, our business and the perceptions of design out in the world. Even so, we still needed something to help guide us as we became ever more diverse in our work and our interests. That guiding idea is ‘impact’. The positive effect we have in the world through design.
You can think of this as our purpose - the long term focus on creating the maximum possible positive impact through design.
This purpose manifests in many ways. It has caused us to work harder on our client relationships so that more of our ideas get to market. It gives us permission to have the tough conversation with our clients, and ourselves, about whether we are seeking to answer the right questions. It has encouraged us to let go of our methods and approaches and build tools like OpenIDEO, Design Thinker and HCD Connect that equip others to create impact through design.
We cannot anticipate where this focus on impact will take us in the future; although we hope that it will cause us to get ever more innovative in the way we take design to the world and create steadily more evidence that we are indeed having positive impact.
All we can say about the future is that we will continue to experiment and seek to reinvent ourselves; that our best ideas will likely emerge from unexpected places around IDEO and that we will have to be ready to constantly adapt and redesign ourselves to meet the exciting challenges that face us.