Learn More About Tim Brown
Why do some innovations succeed while other seemingly brilliant ideas fail? For decades, world-renowned industrial designer Tim Brown has been helping organizations address this key question.
According to Brown, traditional approaches to designing a new product, service or program often fail to see the big picture. By moving from traditional design methods to “design thinking” – a holistic, collaborative, human-centered approach – success is much more likely and the impact is more widespread.
Brown’s unique expertise is at the intersection of design, science, technology and the arts. For over two decades, he has been teaching organizations how to innovate better by looking beyond the design itself to its potential for improving the human experience and for solving big problems. Though it has been around for some time, many organizations still don’t know what design thinking is, which says a lot about how much has “changed” around innovation in the last few decades.
“Design thinking draws its strength from democratizing the design process, from putting the tools of design into the hands of as many diverse people as possible,” says Brown, executive chair of the global design firm IDEO, where he served as President and CEO from 2000 to 2019. “It’s about multi-disciplinary groups of thinkers coming together to tackle problems (some that may not yet be obvious), to collectively consider all possibilities and solutions, and repeatedly refine.”
As a leading voice for solving global and organizational problems through design thinking and design collectivism, Brown advises senior executives and boards of global Fortune 100 companies and frequently speaks about the value of design thinking, creative leadership and innovation. His critically acclaimed 2009 book, “Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation” challenged existing models and the concepts laid the foundation for the way he works with clients today.
Brown – who attended the Royal College of Art, fabled incubator for artists like David Hockney, James Dyson, Ridley Scott and Tracey Emin – was one of the early drivers of the design thinking movement. In 1982, a UK design magazine published his article “The Future of Design” in which he shared his paradigm-shifting ideas, and today he admits that while his thinking has evolved, the core ideas haven’t changed much.
According to Brown, one of the many benefits of design thinking is that it helps companies avoid missed opportunities and costly failures. In both business and social sectors, Brown has seen too many initiatives falter because they were not based on the end user’s needs, not prototyped to solicit feedback, and/or they suffered from incorrect preconceived notions. With its human-centered framework for developing new ideas, design thinking is an antidote to such outdated approaches.
The elements of empathy around design thinking make it particularly relevant today as organizations increasingly rely on AI to make key decisions. Brown teaches strategies for designing products, services, programs and business models that leverage technology for human benefit, rather than vice versa. Increasingly, his desire to use design thinking to build pathways has him tackling big social problems as well, with positive and far-reaching results.
“Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as being functional, and to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols,” says Brown. “Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking, the integrated approach at the core of the design process, provides a third way.”
Currently working with his own team to collectively find solutions to the COVID-19 crisis and other global problems, Brown is encouraged by mounting evidence that shows the more people participate in the creation of new systems and solutions, the more likely they are to change behaviors in order to support them.
Tim Brown has earned numerous design awards and has exhibited work at the Axis Gallery in Tokyo, the Design Museum in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He takes a special interest in the convergence of technology and the arts, as well as the ways in which design can be used to promote the wellbeing of people living in emerging economies. He speaks about the value of design thinking, creative leadership and innovation to business leaders and designers around the world. Brown participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks Serious Play and Change by Design appear on TED.com.
In addition to advising senior executives and boards of global Fortune 100 companies, Brown serves on the board of directors of Steelcase Inc. and is a member of the board of trustees of IDEO.org. In addition, he is a member of the board of advisors for the World Economic Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and writes for Harvard Business Review, The Economist and other prominent publications.
Brown holds honorary doctorates from The Royal College of Art (London), Keio University (Tokyo), Claremont McKenna Graduate University (Los Angeles) and Art Center College of Art and Design (Los Angeles). He maintains a blog, designthinking.ideo.com/blog, and contributes as one of LinkedIn’s original top 150 Influencers. He is also an instructor for the IDEO U Leading for Creativity course.
Tim Brown is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.