Leon Segal

Leon Segal is an innovation psychologist with over 25 years of experience in human factors, product innovation, and experience design. His broad experience includes the design of spacecraft cockpits and the interior of long-haul trucks. After working in IDEO's Palo Alto offices, he founded and led the company's Tel Aviv office. He has directed innovation processes and taught design thinking all over the world. Leon plays saxophone and lives in Sonoma County, California.
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Recent Posts

Three Tips to Better Innovation

Posted by Leon Segal on 12/6/16 2:13 PM

I really enjoyed being a guest speaker at the Hubspot INBOUND 2016 conference this month in Boston. I was delighted that my session, Today is a Prototype for Tomorrow, was attended by over 400 people.  

One insight from the conference that I want to share is how technology has transformed the conference-going experience. From QR codes, through near-field sensors, to smart badges and real-time updates, the seamless emergence of an "event-based community" of thousands is amazing to observe. 

Check out my short 4 minute video from the conference that talks about the reason why some companies are consistently creative and innovative... and others are not.


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Topics: Innovation Capacity

Innovation Factors

Posted by Leon Segal on 6/20/16 12:05 PM

As you know, we love teaching design thinking: Our integrated learning programs focus on the practice and application of specific skills that, through repetition and integration, help develop a new mindset. 

We're often asked: "What are the fundamentals of innovation? What are the most essential ingredients that provide the conditions for innovation to emerge?" Well, we like to think of these as the three "Innovation Factors" of Creativity, Empathy, and Collaboration.

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Why don't employees innovate?

Posted by Leon Segal on 4/22/16 9:28 AM

According to a recent survey and HRB article, while executives say they want new ideas, employees often feel it is just empty talk; employees want to be involved with innovation, but feel they are rarely given the chance. All too often, "innovation" is something that people are expected to do in addition to all their other tasks. And as everyone is working at 120% to begin with, that doesn't leave any time for the open and creative exploration needed to innovate. 

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Why invest in design?

Posted by Leon Segal on 2/22/16 1:41 PM

The short answer is that it produces great customer experiences.  And, producing great customer experiences leads to positive business outcomes like customer satisfaction, social sentiment, revenue growth and lifetime value.  

This insightful video presents research by Forrester that provides insight into why many leading organizations are investing in design, and user experience, as a creator of value. Think Apple...

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Can you see what's NOT there?

Posted by Leon Segal on 2/5/16 11:09 AM

Anyone who's recently attended a workshop of ours knows this is a story we really like: how seeing what's not there was key to increasing aircraft survivability in WW2. Read the story.

For us, this story is a wonderful example of learning to look, and learning to see beyond the obvious. We encourage people to leave their office and go out into the world with open eyes, ears, and heart; look, listen, and empathize in order to learn and discover new opportunities for creativity and innovation.

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Re-think and Re-imagine

Posted by Leon Segal on 1/26/16 7:24 PM

These were words from Virginia M. Rometty, IBM's chief executive, when she talked about adopting a design-centered strategy at IBM.  

This recent New York Times article tells the story of how IBM is adopting a culture of design thinking to help accelerate their pace of change, solve problems in new ways and improve their customers' experience.  

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Creativity and the Brain

Posted by Leon Segal on 11/20/15 1:30 PM

As amateur musicians, both Scott and I loved reading this article by Katrina Schwartz, Creativity and the Brain: What We Can Learn From Jazz Musicians. The connection between improvising music and innovation is, to us, very clear.

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Ubiquitous Innovation: What are your thoughts?

Posted by Leon Segal on 10/12/15 5:00 PM


How can we make observation, ideation, and prototyping an integral part of daily life?

Post your comments and questions, and we'll be happy to respond and add our perspective.


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Topics: General, Empathy & Inspiration, Examples

Why Design THINKING?

Posted by Leon Segal on 7/6/15 11:43 AM

We love design thinking: it's a process that we've been creating and playing with for over two decades, one that continues to challenge us and give us joy every day.

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Topics: Defining & Framing, General

Steve Jobs: The Value of Early Prototyping

Posted by Leon Segal on 5/18/15 10:10 AM

Prototypes are the currency of innovation. Ideas, in and of themselves, are great for greasing the wheels of innovation and keeping the creative fire burning. But for an idea to be useful, it must be contextualized, it must be presented in what we consider to be a prototype.


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Topics: General, Test & Prototype

And the Oscar goes to...

Posted by Leon Segal on 2/24/15 11:03 PM

The Global Innovation Summit in San Jose was great: the Oscar goes to T2VC for a wonderful event.

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Topics: General, History

Intelligent devices can make us stupid

Posted by Leon Segal on 2/16/15 9:11 PM

Navigation apps are great at getting us to our destination, but teach us nothing about the place we're in. The more they tell us, the less we know.

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Topics: General, History

Isaac Asimov's Brainstorming Advice to Nuclear Scientists in 1959

Posted by Leon Segal on 11/5/14 6:00 AM

Way back in 1959, Isaac Asimov gave a small group of ballistic missile defense system scientists piercing insights regarding the creative process — even describing brainstorming sessions in high detail. Fifty-five years later, one of those scientists, Arthur Obermayer, PhD, has shared Asimov's insights with the public.

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Topics: Ideation & Brainstorming, History, Innovation Capacity

Creative Collaboration Thrives at TechWomen 2014 (#TW2014)

Posted by Leon Segal on 10/21/14 7:30 AM

Creative collaboration was everywhere we looked at #TW2014, where Scott, Anna and I led a design thinking workshop. Here are my takeaways from co-presenting at this remarkable gathering.

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Topics: Leadership & Organization, Innovation Capacity, Mentoring

Handout on Design Thinking Questions

Posted by Leon Segal on 10/16/14 1:45 PM

Sharing the fundamentals of design thinking means giving people a methodical way to approach creative collaboration. It's a true pleasure to see workshop participants "get" the approach and embrace it in their work processes. To that end, here is a handout on design thinking questions that we give to workshop participants.

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Topics: Defining & Framing, Test & Prototype, Reflection & Integration, Ideation & Brainstorming, Leadership & Organization, Storytelling, Empathy & Inspiration, Examples, Innovation Capacity, Mentoring

Innovation Mentoring Offer to Debut at North Bay Innovation Summit

Posted by Leon Segal on 9/18/14 4:27 PM

At the North Bay Innovation Summit this week, one prize for competition winners is use of our Innovation Mentoring service. Other companies can use it to drive business innovation, too.

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Topics: Leadership & Organization, Innovation Capacity, Mentoring

Jim Yurchenco and Isaac Newton

Posted by Leon Segal on 9/10/14 10:44 AM

Attending Jim Yurchenco's retirement party a couple of weeks ago reminded me of a time I watched him work with a brilliant inventor. Here I'll try to relate the story.

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Topics: Examples

Engaging Employees With Guided Brainstorming Sessions (Plus: New Booklet)

Posted by Leon Segal on 5/9/14 11:47 AM

What if companies used guided brainstorming to increase employee engagement? Thoughts on the benefits and links to new resources.

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Topics: Ideation & Brainstorming

The Design Thinking Process: Stop, In the Name of Space

Posted by Leon Segal on 4/29/14 8:00 AM

Reflection is a key step in our work, as well as in our workshops. Stopping at various points in the process to evaluate where we've been, where we are, and where we would like to be heading, is an essential activity that keeps our work efficient.

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Topics: Reflection & Integration

Innovation Leadership & Channeling Creativity for a Common Good

Posted by Leon Segal on 3/25/14 10:00 AM

Why an artist is free to ignore critics, while an innovator must answer a collective need.

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Topics: Empathy & Inspiration

Bringing the Design Thinking Process to Quest University

Posted by Leon Segal on 3/20/14 12:00 PM

I've volunteered to lead a 2-day design thinking workshop March 27th and 28th at Quest University in British Columbia.  University President Dr. David Hefland, formerly of Columbia University in New York, came to Quest to "seize the opportunity to redesign higher education from scratch" according to TEDx.

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Topics: Leadership & Organization

March 16th: How to Leverage Human Factors, IDEO-Style, for Healthcare Innovations

Posted by Leon Segal on 3/10/14 6:00 AM

In our seminar next week at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society's International Symposium on Health Care in Chicago, we will address how IDEO used Human Factors to propel itself to the forefront of global design innovation... and how to leverage human factors to accelerate healthcare innovations, including medical device design innovations. Here's a seminar preview and links to learn more.

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Topics: Defining & Framing

The 3 Must-Haves in Innovation Leadership Training

Posted by Leon Segal on 2/6/14 3:13 PM

Today's executives need to be as nimble and skilled at navigating complex business issues as fighter pilots need to be going into a dog fight. With that in mind, who should be training them in innovation leadership?

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Topics: Leadership & Organization

Steve Jobs: See Everything as a Design Prototype

Posted by Leon Segal on 1/16/14 1:04 PM

When I mention the concept of "design thinking", people who are unfamiliar with the term often ask me: "So, how do designers think?" 

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Topics: General

Does Empathy Help Innovation Leaders Think More Freely?

Posted by Leon Segal on 5/26/13 3:54 AM

In a recent session with a client, participants noted how our insistent focus on the customer’s experience helped them think more freely and come up with innovative ideas. 

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Topics: General, Reflection & Integration, Ideation & Brainstorming, Empathy & Inspiration

Innovation: Is It a Craft or a Ship?

Posted by Leon Segal on 5/26/13 3:54 AM

I heard someone use the word “craft,” and thought what a great word it is for describing the precise and intentional application of a skill. 

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Topics: General

"How Might We...?" vs. "Why Should We...?" in Design Thinking Process

Posted by Leon Segal on 4/15/13 3:54 AM

“How might we…?” Harvard Business Review referred to this as “the secret phrase top innovators use”, in an article in which Tim Brown very precisely broke down the question and explained the value of using these three words at the start of every project. Learning to ask ‘how’ is indeed a powerful tool. Asking ‘why’ is just as important.

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Topics: General, Ideation & Brainstorming

Jobs and Edison: as personal as innovation can get.

Posted by Leon Segal on 3/28/13 3:44 AM

Neither of these two brilliant innovators relied on market research to choose their next product. What drove them was their personal need. Jobs saw the future of music (and other content) and got his designers to come up with the iPod, the perfect window into that new world. Edison had a personal need to capture and reproduce sound, and kept going at it until the phonograph emerged. Both had the conviction and ability to use a need — in their case, their own — as inspiration for relentless innovation.

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Topics: Empathy & Inspiration

Words: what wisdom they they can hold

Posted by Leon Segal on 3/17/13 3:44 AM

I was talking to Neder (my son), and pointing out that in Hebrew, the words “work” (avoda) and “fact” (uvda) come from the same root. So, work is about creating a fact: do something, and there’s a fact out there as proof. Which leads me to think about the connection between “fact” and “factory”…

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Topics: Empathy & Inspiration

Everybody is a designer? Yes, and yet…

Posted by Leon Segal on 3/16/13 3:44 AM

One of the big things that the design thinking “revolution” has highlighted is that everyone is a designer. True: we all create and produce new things on a daily basis, from what we wear in the morning to that special twist of lemon we add to the dish we serve for dinner. And yet… try walking into IDEO’s studio in San Francisco and applying for work as a designer, and when asked for your qualifications, quote Tim Brown or David Kelley who said “Everyone is a designer.” I don’t think that will work… There’s design, and there’s Design.

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Topics: General