Scott Underwood

Scott Underwood builds on stories and experiences gained from over 20 years at IDEO, where he wrote, edited, led workshops, and contributed to many of its books and publications. Since going on his own in 2009, he has delivered workshops and talks on design thinking and innovation to thousands of participants on three continents (and a South Pacific island). Scott lives in the SF East Bay and plays upright and electric bass with various groups.
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Recent Posts

Peter Drucker Inspires Lunch

Posted by Scott Underwood on 3/17/17 8:00 AM

“Culture eats strategy for lunch.” We love that quote. It comes from the management consultant Peter Drucker and he meant that you can make all the plans you want, but it’s your corporate culture that will ultimately drives success.

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Topics: Test & Prototype, Ideation & Brainstorming

Collaboration + Creativity + Empathy = Innovation

Posted by Scott Underwood on 2/14/17 4:08 PM

To solve big problems, you need many perspectives colliding together, creating surprising combinations and leading to great ideas. This is collaborative creativity, when people apply their skills together to solve an old problem challenge in a new way.

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Topics: Empathy & Inspiration

The Sound of Healing Part 2: The Jingle of Life

Posted by Scott Underwood on 11/10/16 1:22 PM

As a follow-up to my last blog post, I'll tell a personal story of the use of sound to change the perception of the hospital environment.
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Topics: Reflection & Integration, Empathy & Inspiration

Leveraging Design Thinking in Hospitals: The Sound of Healing

Posted by Scott Underwood on 10/18/16 4:56 PM

Hospitals are intended to be places of healing, recovery, and rest. But walk into any busy hospital ward, and listen: the experience is usually anything but calming.

The typical cacophony of noise in a hospital includes televisions, phones, intercoms, and constant beeps, chirps, hums, and alarms from medical devices. All of which creates stress and increases the torment for people in pain.

And for hospital staff,  a phenomenon known as “alarm fatigue” can set in: the incessant, routine noise of hospital machinery leads to delayed responses to audio warnings for actual emergencies, which can have a negative impact on patients’ health and safety. Remember the boy who cried wolf?

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Topics: Empathy & Inspiration, Examples

Go Paper, Go Vertical, Go Visual, Go Big

Posted by Scott Underwood on 5/12/16 5:52 PM

Remember maps? You know, paper maps, those big unwieldy foldy things you kept in the glove compartment of your car?

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Topics: General, Reflection & Integration, Leadership & Organization

Bringing Design Thinking to UTEC in Lima, Peru

Posted by Scott Underwood on 8/24/15 4:06 PM

Larry and I just got back from teaching a design thinking workshop for three days in Lima, Peru, where we had a great time! The food, the people, the ocean -- I recommend it, and not just as a stop on the way to Cuzco.

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Topics: General

Compounding Pharmacy Makes Innovation Agents

Posted by Scott Underwood on 12/4/14 1:04 PM

A large compounding pharmacy hired Innovationship for design thinking training and consulting. Over four months, participants generated concrete ideas for near-term product improvements, and emerged with the skills they need to drive ongoing innovation.

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Topics: Examples, Innovation Capacity

Treat: Design Thinking Workshop at Stanford for Ashoka's Catapult

Posted by Scott Underwood on 10/31/14 6:00 AM

We’re looking forward to leading a design thinking workshop this Friday for Ashoka’s Catapult, a business incubator that aims to source the world’s best young entrepreneurs.

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Topics: Leadership & Organization, Innovation Capacity, Mentoring

Innovation Begins With An Eye: Empathy & Design Thinking

Posted by Scott Underwood on 10/3/14 11:55 AM

In this post I connect the concept of the "empathic practitioner" with the concept that "innovation begins with an eye" — a phrase Leon coined and Tom Kelley reused in his book The Art of Innovation.

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Topics: Defining & Framing, History, Empathy & Inspiration

An Innovation Agent's 9 Essential Skills

Posted by Scott Underwood on 9/25/14 9:00 AM

The capacity to innovate comprises a set of skills that are learned, and earned, through rigorous practice and expert mentoring. Skilled individuals — we call them Innovation Agents — use their new knowledge to instigate a revolution. Below is an excerpt from our booklet Building Agents of Innovation, that discusses their essential skills.

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Topics: Leadership & Organization, Innovation Capacity

Design Thinking, Fast and Slow (or, How Design Thinkers Succeed)

Posted by Scott Underwood on 4/2/14 8:00 AM

Our tendency in any problem-solving exercise is to solve the problem, ASAP.. This causes us to latch onto the first good solution we find and figure out how best to execute it. Design Thinking asks you first to pause and reconsider the problem: what is the opportunity here? Here I share thoughts on framing problems design-thinker-style, inspired in part by running across a review of Paul Tough's book, How Children Succeed.

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Topics: Defining & Framing

Common Ground: The Lean Startup & The Design Thinking Process

Posted by Scott Underwood on 1/13/14 7:26 AM

I've been struck at the overlap in the idea between design thinking and Eric Ries's Lean Startup. In this short LinkedIn teaser for the Lean Startup Conference (held a month ago; I'm slow), Ries provides answers to questions he's asked about Lean:

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Topics: Leadership & Organization

Where to Apply Innovation & the Design Thinking Process?

Posted by Scott Underwood on 1/11/14 10:08 AM

We often find ourselves introducing the tools of design thinking to a room full of non-designers. By that, I mean people whose day-to-day tasks don't involve defining the features of a new offering, or considering how to bring a new technology to market. They are software engineers or teachers, financial analysts or operations folks. The question from them is, inevitably, "Well, this is all fun, but what do I do with it?"

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Topics: Empathy & Inspiration

Design Thinking & Empathy: Jeremy Rifkin on Empathic Civilizations

Posted by Scott Underwood on 1/7/14 5:15 PM

Another great whiteboard animation from the folks at RSA, this time illustrating Jeremy Rifkin's talk on the evolution of human empathy.

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Topics: Empathy & Inspiration

Industrial Designer Addresses Risk in Design Thinking

Posted by Scott Underwood on 7/23/13 4:13 AM

John Caruso is associate professor of industrial design at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), and he was asked about design thinking in this interview with I think Caruso does a great job hitting all the highlights without glossing over how messy and chaotic it can feel to new practitioners. In particular, I liked this exchange:

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Topics: General

Stanford Design Thinking: How Innovation Leaders View Failures

Posted by Scott Underwood on 5/14/13 3:54 AM

Scientists have another name for failure: data.

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Topics: Test & Prototype

Design Thinking and the Art of Storyboarding

Posted by Scott Underwood on 5/12/13 3:54 AM

Here’s a 13-minute short called Finding Lady: The Art of Storyboarding, which gives a good history of the process from its origins in the Walt Disney animation studios through Disney live action films, Hitchcock, and modern movies (represented by Kevin Costner).

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Topics: General, Storytelling

The Design Thinking Process & Wally Olins on Reflection vs. Prediction

Posted by Scott Underwood on 5/2/13 3:54 AM

Why labor through the design thinking process, when we can ask people what they need?

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Topics: Empathy & Inspiration

Don Norman's Design Thinking Definition

Posted by Scott Underwood on 4/3/13 3:54 AM

An exchange between Bill Moggridge and Don Norman -- who once opened a talk at IDEO by declaring "no design was ever made better by human factors research” (I paraphrase, but not by much) -- highlights key issues in perceptions of design thinking.

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Business Innovation: Genius is 10.9% Desperation, 0.1% Pure Elation...

Posted by Scott Underwood on 4/3/13 3:44 AM

We toss around terms like "business innovation", "creative thinking", and "genius." What is genius? I like this answer. It's an update on Thomas Edison‘s old saying, courtesy Maria Popova‘s Explore:

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Topics: General