ad:tech Sydney: Keynote – What’s the Big IDEO? #AdtechANZ

ad:tech Sydney: Keynote – What’s the Big IDEO? #AdtechANZ

18th March 2014

Owen Rogers opened ad:tech Sydney with his interesting keynote presentation.  Owen is a senior partner at IDEO, a design consultancy at the forefront of innovation. They design products that are meaningful and they are fortunate to work on a variety of clients.

IDEO  believes in the notion of cross fertilization. They are a globally minded company and therefore they spend a lot of time and money moving staff between the different offices because it has such an impact on the culture of the company. Today, there are 680 people in the company which is small especially when seeing the impact IDEO has had on others.

IDEO info

Owen took the audience through a quick history of IDEO. He said they started looking into consumer insight to help solve the issues some of IDEO’s clients’ were having. One of the major pieces of work completed by IDEO was desigining the insulin pen in 1993.  In 2011, IDEO started working with the Ministry of Man Power in Singapore. They redesigned the application process on becoming a Singapore citizen.

Before delving into the meat of the presentation,  Owen asked the audience to perform a warm up exercise. He wanted everyone to interview their partner about their hobby. Then he asked the audience to create a secret handshake based on the hobbies. The point of this exercise was to inspire the audience with the notion of “ideas with long tales” which was the main crux of Owen’s presentation.

“Ideas with long tales” refers to the fact ideas can develop further than for the initial product/service and have a life of their own. It is important to have this as a goal for anything because then it will have a life of its own. Owen referred to the inventor of pasturisation, which has led to many cures of diseases which was never in the forefront of this scientist’s mind.

What is the notion of ideas with long tales?  Within this there are three components:

1. Design Thinking

It is incredibly intuitive to do. Design thinking is a tool that many businesses use and it becomes a process of how you can innovate in your companies.

There are three elements to any problem:
– Technical
– Feasible (the business)
– Human piece (which many companies overlook)

It is important to do all three.

The first principle of Design Thinking is:

A. Inspiration – you want to be inspired

Look at how people are doing work arounds. People are always doing tasks differently. For example,  IDEO created the method decks as a way to help people explore new approaches to design. They created 51 different designs not 52 (for 52 weeks of the year) because this means it will never be complete.

B. Ideation

Brainstorming has been turned into meetings in most companies. The rules are:
– defer judgment
– encourage wild ideas
– build on the ideas of others
– stay focused on the topic
– one conversation at a time
– be visual
– go for quantity (not quality) People have a fear of being judged cause they have been told they are not creative.

– culture and space

– Prototyping – using your hands  (Don’t talk about the idea, build it, sketch it)

C. Implementation

This is the key on why design is such a good tool in business. People are fed up of strategy and just talking. It is important to build stuff, build prototypes to then amend before the real thing/final product.

2. Creative Confidence

This is a book written by the founder of IDEO. It has fundamentally changed many areas of business. Owen asked the audience to take part in a couple of exercises to demonstrate “creative confidence”. One of the exercises was to fill in the 30 circles on a piece of paper each attendee had on their seat. Most people only filled in 10 circles, however a 10 year old filled in all 30 within in a minute.

IDEO Owen Speaking

This shows that the audience is conditioned, that they are told they are not creative and so therefore they have lost this creative ability from when they were a child. This creativity is lost, but the more people use it, the better they will become and they can be creative.

Creativity is seen as the cornerstone of turning companies around. This is what the “Creative Confidence” book is about. It tells us that we are all creative and adults have chosen to lose that. If you can find this creativity within you, everything will open up to you.

Putting design thinking and creative confidence inspired Owen to “Ideas with long tales”.

Owen then showed the audience a video about Karen Cheng who taught herself how to dance in a year. She recorded herself during this time and she clearly demonstrates creatively confident. Her video inspired Cynthia Abraham to learn to walk again after she was paralyzed from the neck down.

Now Karen has set up Giveit100 which encourages people to practice something for 100 days and track their progress by taking a 10 second video of their progress.

Owen also showed the audience another example of “Ideas with Long Tales” which featured a 10 year old boy called Caine living in East LA. Caine set up Caine’s Arcade in his father’s auto workshop as he loved building cardboard, arcade things like pinball machines. One customer came to get a handle for his car and visited the arcade. He loved it so much and as he was a film maker, made a video of Caine and his arcade. This generated over 200,000 visitors in a week and led to a college fund being set up for Caine.

This then led to the imagination foundation. Kids starting building stuff out of cardboard and within 6 months, there were over 85,500 participants in nearly 50 countries.

Owen showed a third example of how people can think creatively and it does not need to cost a lot of money. There were four MBA students at Standard who built a neonatal unit for less than $200. Currently 380,000 children die a day because they do not have a neonatal unit which costs around $20,000. The invention by the students means one million kids over the next 5 years will be saved. The students are not designers, they are business people who have been taught creative confidence and design thinking.

We are all paid to know the answers. But it the questions we should be thinking of.

3. Luck

Luck plays an important element in the above, but it is up to you to use the first two to help you and your business.

How can you be creatively confidence and use the principles of design thinking to….

1. Reinvent your business?

2. Reinvent an industry?

Eg education. IDEO – public school in Peru is very bad. How do you design private schooling in a country (Peru) where people are very poor? IDEO has managed to do this and their toolkit for design thinking is now in 23 schools. IDEO is mapping where the schools are what they are doing with design thinking

3. Re-invent a country

IDEO helped the Singapore government with the registration and process of becoming a Singapore citizen. They designed the process including reception area of the building, the welcome letter to make the process smoother and less bureaucratic.

Owen’s last question to the audience was “How will you design your embrace? Be more confident creatively?.  It is important to design your process to have a different outcome”.


Great keynote at #AdtechANZ.  Look forward to the rest of the sessions.



Written By
Jo Juliana Turnbull is the organiser of Search London and the founder of SEO Jo Blogs, which provides practical advice and tips for those in SEO.
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