Innovation is probably the most exciting, stimulating and strategic activity of any business. It’s also one of the most important ones, and as the guru of all gurus Peter Drucker said ‘Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation.’
Businesses are created with an innovation (Ford with the affordable T-model, Google with a better search engine, Microsoft with MS Dos, Apple with the first personnal computer, Danone with yogurts etc…) and they survive through innovation.
The problem is that while companies have learned to master the process of improvement and optimization, innovation is still an essential but very unpredictable process. It’s more an art than a business process and that’s a problem for large companies.
Well, Ideo claims to have a process of innovation, and based on their track record to date, it seems like a fair claim. Large corporations hire Ideo to create new products: they designed the first commercial mouse for Apple,
they designed the stylish Palm V
and the Crest neat squeeze for Procter and Gamble (it gets harder to squeeze as it gets more empty)
When talking about innovation a lot of MBA programmes study IDEO. In particular they play a 30-minutes video where they show how IDEO was given the very complicated task of creating a new shopping cart for a supermarket in just 5 days. This is what they came up with:
The video is fun and instructive. It shows how IDEO works and it does seem like a unique place. Of course, innovation is not just about creating a cooler shopping cart… but one that will sell. Apparently the cart hasn’t succeeded commercially, so there will always be some uncertainty in innovation… and that’s part of what makes it exciting.
Regarding careers IDEO must be a pretty unique place. There are 500 employees working in different disciplines. They are based in the heart of Silicon Valley and have offices in New York, Chicago, Boston, Shanghai, London and Munich. What is particularly nice about their approach is that they work by projects and put together multi-functional teams with people from different backgrounds and professions. Diversity and originality is the essence of innovation and this is visible in their recruitment policies.
So take a look at the opportunities: http://www.ideo.com/culture/careers/