Silicon Valley Business Trip: Ideo Visit

Silicon Valley Business Trip: Ideo Visit

PHOTO CREDIT: Yvette Adams


On Monday we started the site visits on our one week study tour. … First up was Ideo, a globally renound… design and innovation consulting firm.


I’d heard of Ideo before coming to Silicon Valley, and I knew by ‘design’ they weren’t talking about graphics, but rather the design of work processes and strategy. But I realised from the visit they were a whole lot more than I thought they were.

From the moment you walk in you feel like you are in a creative place. Wifi access is offered upfront by way of a discreet sign on the reception desk without even having to ask for it, there are two large jars of lollies welcoming all sweet tooth, and a massive ‘pod’ couch that looks like a space ship, with a coffee table top made out of paper – great for entertaining kids or adults!


I’m really interested in work spaces while I am on this trip as we are doing some work with Regional Development Australia around Digital Work Hubs, so these first impressions were good!

I’ve started a pin board showcasing the work spaces we are visiting on this trip. If you are interested take a look at the Ideo ones below.

A world famous shopping trolley

One of the first stops on the tour was the infamous ‘trolley’ which Ideo challenged themselves to redesign in just 5 days. I’d never heard of this before, but some of the academics amongst the group shared that this video is something that is regularly played in University lectures to extol the virtues of innovation. Here is the clip if you’re interested:


From here we cruised various departments – the toy department where they come up with toy innovations (my six year old daughter would have loved it as it has some Barbie products rolling around), the science department including the… revolutionary… 3D printers (awesome… to see these for the first time in the flesh when their current costs prohibits main stream use) and a ‘mad’ scientist running tests in a corner, and a centrally located cafe.

‘Being an entrepreneur is a lot like a… smorgasbord’


Both of the hosts from Ideo explained that food is central to everything we do as humans, therefore they place emphasis on creating an eating space that people like and use. Free drinks and snacks are on offer at all times, and they also host events such as waffle and bacon Tuesdays where people from their various offices will converge to catch up over waffles and bacon.


Interestingly Leslie Witt made a comment that being an entrepreneur is a lot like a… smorgasbord. It is very hard for a true entrepreneur to say no. We just eat and eat and eat until we have a stomach ache. Man did this ring true for me!


Being in perpetual beta


The other running theme throughout their tour was that they aspire to be in perpetual beta with the products and strategies they are working on for clients, as if … you stop, you will lose agility and momentum. Personally I’m quite comfortable with being in a perpetual state of change, but I know some people really struggle with this and probably even just getting their heads around the concept. They discussed that they have many ‘sacrificial concepts’. In short they aim to fail, but to fail fast as this accelerates what does not work so they can get to what does work. A lot of work they do is in prototyping. They build to think and they think to build.


If a concept does get to market stage it will always be at MVP stage (minimum viable product) to get valuable feedback form the users and develop from there.


Internships and externships

Ideo have never advertised in 20 years per say, though, like most of the other tech companies we are meeting here, they are very actively involved in content marketing and general digital marketing. Their workers regularly guest lecture at the local Universities and they say their strong position with the University is crucial to their succes. They offer internships, which have always been huge in America, but interestingly also externships, where they actively encourage their staff to go and work somewhere else to learn something, a concept I have loved with myself but never executed before.


Many of their staff have in fact gong on to start their own businesses, which they also deem a success.



  • Working in perpetual beta is something to aspire to.
  • Though virtual work is good, collaborating in person with a board, post its and markers in hand is a great way to get creative. Stand up, thrash it out and move forwards.
  • Create a work space that fosters innovation and creativity through use of furniture, a central and well stocked kitchen, flexibility, yet achieving outcomes.