Grand Designs

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Few organizations, Tim Brown says, are set up to allow much creative collaboration, and even those are often afflicted by a culture that mishandles the results. “Too many ideas that get through to the market make it there because somebody senior is the one sponsoring them,” he says, “not because they’re necessarily the best ideas.”

Brown, president and CEO of Palo Alto-based IDEO, looks to “design thinking” as an answer: incorporating designers’ problem-solving and idea-generation methods into a traditional organization, working with—and occasionally against—traditional R&D. The idea is to broaden horizons and instill a more innovative orientation, especially in a period of economic crisis. “In times when we’re scared,” Brown remarks, “we tend to get tunnel vision, don’t we?” He elaborates on design-thinking concepts and practices in a new book, Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation (HarperBusiness).

Brown, 47, spoke during a recent visit to The Conference Board’s New York offices.

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