Choice of new IDEO CEO raises interesting questions on future of design industry and practice

IDEO’s new CEO does not have a design industry background, nor any industrial design education or experience. He’s an experienced advertising industry professional with a background in marketing. He starts work in January 2023


What are the implications for design industry and practice? Where are they going with this choice? What is their strategy?

from April 2022 when the search for the CEO began.

Other recent news (December 2022) hints at shrinking revenues and markets. Does this reflect trends for the entire industry or is it a firm specific issue? Note that Asia is not affected, only North America and Europe. Or, is this a signal of another mega shift occurring for industrial design? (see Bhan, 2004)

Screenshot_2022-12-23 Breaking Ideo is laying off 8% of its global workforce

Regardless of our personal opinions on the firm, it is hard to deny IDEO is a 800lb gorilla in the room. IMO a timely moment to ponder these shifts and reflect on both industry and practice.

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I think the CEO coming from marketing and advertising makes sense for IDEO. From the outside looking in (and according to friends who have passed through there), they seem to be more of a McKinsey competitor than a design agency these days. Maybe I’m wrong and I just happen to not be seeing the work.

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I agree with you about their positioning as McKinsey competition. McKinsey too has purchased and grown its design unit. These two gorillas are making a standoff.

Back in Fall 2005, I made this crude position map: its interesting to see how things evolved since then.

Back then, I imagined the red box was where the opportunity lay. I should draw this out again now to incorporate the convergence. Are McK and IDEO moving towards the center on their own diagonal or are they both moving towards “Doblin” or “Stone yamashita”?

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A few years back the company I worked hired McKinsey to do a large project… pure business strategy consulting. I worked closely with McKinsey on the project from the in-house side. Over dinner I asked one of the partners how the integration was going with Lunar and his take was that they were basically just turning Lunar into McKinsey.

While at that company I had the opportunity to work with McKinsey, BCG, and a number of other business consulting groups… the outputs always seemed pretty obvious. But I guess sometimes a CEO needs to spend a million dollars to get told some hard truths.

That might have just been my experience with them. I know those firms are huge and output can be very variable depending on what team you get.