Chapter 1: Flip

From Design Thinking to Creative Confidence

Being human centered is at the core of our innovation process. Deep empathy for people makes our observations powerful sources of inspiration. We aim to understand why people do what they currently do, with the goal of understanding what they might do in the future. Our first-person experiences help us form personal connections with the people for whom we’re innovating. We’ve washed other people’s clothes by hand in their sinks, stayed as guests in housing projects, stood beside surgeons in operating rooms, and calmed agitated passengers in airport security lines—all to build empathy. An empathic approach fuels our process by ensuring we never forget we’re designing for real people. And as a result, we uncover insights and opportunities for truly creative solutions. We’ve collaborated with thousands of clients to leverage the power of empathy, creating everything from easy-to-use lifesaving heart defibrillators to debit cards that help customers save for retirement.

We believe successful innovations rely on some element of human-centered design research while balancing the two other elements. Seeking that sweet spot of feasibility, viability, and desirability as you take into account the real needs and desires of your customers is part of what we at IDEO and the call “design thinking.” It’s our process for creativity and innovation. There’s no one-size-fits-all methodology for bringing new ideas to life, but many successful programs include a variation on four steps: inspiration, synthesis, ideation/experimentation, and implementation. In our experience, an innovation or new idea may cycle through many iterations before the process is complete.