Emily Lam

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On What I learned this Summer at IDEO

Somebody tell me who did this?
This past summer, I had the most fortunate opportunity to intern at IDEO. And while I received great industrial insight into design and innovation, rapid prototyping, human-centered design, [insert buzzword], etc., there are a few things that particularly resonated with me and go beyond conventional industry wisdom. They are of the age-old truths sort. Truths, themes, realizations, if you will, that will arguably follow me onward.

By IDEO-er Elaine Fong.
1. There's so much time and so much you can do! #story!
We read stories; we watch stories; we tell stories; we experience stories; we create stories; we live stories. We use stories to interact and connect; our lives become stories: it's the way of the homo-sapien species. However, it is important to note that it is the chapters, the characters, the plot, the setting that make a story what it is. At IDEO, I was surrounded by people that were older than I was and definitely a lot more accomplished than I was. And it was thoroughly refreshing. It made me realize how much could be achieved in a span of time. I got to hear about the many chapters of their lives and how multifaceted it could be and still be coherently linear. It gave me great optimism. So often I think I'm put on earth to do one thing; and the fact of the matter is that I can do additional things to that one thing. It's very liberating.

By IDEO-er Lawrence Abrahamson. 
2. "'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar."
The people at IDEO are passionate. They are passionate about their work and they are passionate about other aspects of their life, non work things that can be extremely fringe or mainstream. And that's who they are; no one bats an eye. In fact, they are intrigued and curious, inspired even. These people are genuinely passionated and curious about the world and everything in it: people, life, the good, the bad, the unknown. They have the courage to think the great ideas, as well as the not so great ideas. It's a very attractive and contagious trait: being yourself.

By IDEO-er Josh Sin.
3. Share your work; collaborate. Don't reinvent the wheel.
People at IDEO are constantly learning from each other. I definitely learned a lot from them. There was always a workshop or break out to share and learn. In school, you will no doubt work on assignments that have been done year after year after year. But that's the difference between school and the real world. In school, you are practicing, honing your skills, becoming better. But in the real world, you are out to contribute. And you're allowed to build from other people's work. And they are allowed to build off your work. Otherwise, innovation would take forever.

By IDEO-er Zeke Markshausen.
4. The T shaped person.
A lot of people at IDEO are T-shaped people. This was something I wasn't too familiar with before IDEO. But unconsciously, this was what I've been striving to become my entire life. You can revisit some of my past posts and you will see that I struggled with being a dabbler, a not entirely field devoted individual. I was constantly afraid that I wasn't focused enough, that I had too many interest. And at IDEO, I realized this was a strength, not a flaw. I realized that the kind of work I wanted to do was the kind that required T-shaped contributors. (If you wikipedia T-shaped person, the short article mentions the CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown. I didn't know; I've been brainwashed . . . D:)
By IDEO-ers Tasos Karahalios and Leigh Cohen.
5. Actions speak louder than words, sometimes.
A huge part of IDEO is rapid prototyping. And a huge part of that is making abstract ideas physical. Many times, we have ideas. But we don't actual know how those ideas will translate unless we work them out. Trust in the process and make, make, make!


Anonymous said...

Joe Graceffa did the amazing chalk-work for a big client meeting - it's so revered, it's been up their for months now.

emily said...

Thanks Andrew!

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