Change By Design

Design is now too important to be left to designers.

- Tim Brown


Tim Brown was previously the CEO of innovation and design firm IDEO.

He's an avid speaker and champion on the topic of Design Thinking, creative leadership, and innovation.

This book dives into the core mechanics of why Design Thinking is more important than - not only for businesses to get by in a competitive world, but for them to innovate & flourish. 

There are many interesting parallels & connections between the Design Thinking process and other key topics and disciplines like Business Model Innovation & Deep Generalism (see my summary on Range).

Tim argues that Design Thinking is a foundational component & methodology to holistic business creation and is now "too important to be left to designers".



I've reordered these takeaways. For a chronological ordering - see my original Thread here.


We are in the midst of an epochal shift in the balance of power as economies evolve from a focus on manufactured products to one that favours services and experiences.

Nobody wants to run a business based on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as dangerous. The integrated approach at the core of the design process suggests a ‘third way’.

As we say at IDEO, ‘Fail early to succeed sooner’

As Dilbert has shown, regulation-size spaces tend to produce regulation-size ideas.

For the moment, the greatest opportunity lies in the middle space between the twentieth-century idea that companies created new products and customers passively consumed them and the futuristic vision in which consumers will design everything they need for themselves.

[...] business thinking is integral to design thinking. A design solution can only benefit from the sophisticated analytical tools - discovery-driven planning, option and portfolio theory, prospect theory, customer lifetime value - that have evolved in the business sector.


One of the measures of an innovative organization is its average time to first prototype.

What we need is an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective, and broadly accessible, that can be integrated into all aspects of business and society, and that individuals and teams can use to generate breakthrough ideas that are implemented and [...] have an impact.

This may sound self-evident, the reality is that most companies tend to approach new ideas quite differently. Quite reasonably, they are likely to start with the constraint of what will fit within the framework of the existing business model. Because business systems are designed for efficiency, new ideas will tend to be incremental, predictable, and all too easy for the competition to emulate.

Faced with more complex problems, we may be tempted to increase the size of the core team early on, but more often than not this leads to a dramatic reduction in speed & efficiency as communications within the team begin to take up more time than the creative process itself.

The natural tendency of most companies is to constrain problems and restrict choices in favor of the obvious and the incremental. Though this tendency may be more efficient in the short run, in the long run it tends to make an organization conservative, inflexible and vulnerable to game-changing ideas from the outside. Divergent thinking is the route, not the obstacle, to innovation.

Prototypes should command only as much time, effort, and investment as is necessary to generate useful feedback and drive an idea forward. The greater the complexity and expense, the more ‘finished’ it is likely to seem and the less likely its creators will be to profit from constructive feedback - or even to listen to it.

There are many approaches to prototyping, but they share a single, paradoxical feature: They slow is down to speed is up. By taking the time to prototype our ideas, we avoid costly mistakes such as becoming too complex too early and sticking with a weak idea for too long.

If it is truly innovative, it challenges the status quo. Such innovations often threaten to cannibalize previous successes and recast yesterday’s innovators as today’s conservatives.

The most challenging type of innovation - and the riskiest - is that in which both the product and the users are new. A revolutionary innovation creates entirely new markets, but this happens only rarely.


The evolution from design to design thinking is the story of the evolution from the creation of products to the analysis of the relationship between people and products, and from there to the relationship between people and people.

The next generation of designers will need to be as comfortable in the boardroom as they are in the studio or shop, and they will need to begin looking at every problem as a design problem.

The reason for the iterative, nonlinear nature of the journey is not that design thinkers are disorganized or undisciplined but that design thinking is fundamentally an exploratory process...

We build those bridges of insight through empathy, the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, understand the world through their experiences, and feel the world through their emotions.

Design is about delivering a satisfying experience. Design thinking is about creating a multipolar experience in which everyone has the opportunity to participate in the conversation.


The most successful leaders [...] ‘embrace the mess’. They allow complexity to exist, at least as they search for solutions, because complexity is the most reliable source of creative opportunities.

To harvest the power of design thinking, individuals, teams, and whole organizations have to cultivate optimism. People have to believe that it is within their power (or at least the power of their team) to create new ideas [..] and that will have a positive impact.

More good ideas die because they fail to navigate the treacherous waters of the organization where they originate than because the market rejects them.

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