The Michigan Engineer News Center

IDEO Founder Visits Campus

David Kelley, founder of IDEO and Stanford University's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, engaged in a public conversation with ISD Chair, Panos Papalambros. | Short Read
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Students, faculty, alumni, and members of the greater U-M community gathered on March 28 to sit in on a conversation between two great minds: Panos Papalambros, the Chair of Integrative Systems + Design, and David Kelley, founder of the global design and innovation company IDEO and Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (commonly referred to as the d.school).

More than an hour before the event began, ISD alumni and students began arriving, and lines at the Chesebrough Auditorium doors soon stretched down the hallway of the Duderstadt Building. By the time Papalambros settled onto the stage to introduce his guest, the auditorium was nearly filled. The two men sat in living room style chairs, which gave the event a more casual feel than a traditional lecture-style presentation. Papalambros, who went to graduate school with Kelley, had an easy rapport with the speaker as he read through questions that audience members submitted prior to the event.

In response to the questions that Papalambros used to guide the discussion, Kelley reflected on his vast career experience and shared some of his philosophy about design thinking, including his belief that “finding the problem is more important than solving it”. For Kelley, a cookie-cutter problem that has a set solution isn’t all that interesting. Instead, he seeks the challenges that come with “ambiguous problems”, understanding that a team’s composition must be multi-disciplinary in order to reach the best results. His ideas seemed to resonate strongly with those listening to him speak, and audience members tweeted some of his more memorable quotations with the hashtag #DavidSharesHisIDEOs.

Finding the problem is more important than solving itDavid Kelley, Founder of IDEO and Stanford University's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design

Throughout the talk, Papalambros shared past experiences with Kelley — including the tale of the young IDEO team that created the first Apple computer mouse. Each story they shared was interesting, and Kelley’s thoughts stayed true to his idea that “trying to understand what is meaningful to people is the way to innovation.” This idea is strongly evident in the human-centered design thinking process around which Kelley has centered his life’s work.

At the end of the conversation, attendees had the opportunity to speak with Kelley during a short reception. Guests took pictures, and Kelley was available for short chats with audience members hoping to learn more.

ISD is incredibly grateful to David Kelley for taking the time to share his thoughts with the U-M community.

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