Now Reading: Design Thinking, Tim Brown, Harvard Business Review

Rachel Block, the Executive Director of the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC – pronounced “nice” – get it?) alerted me to this article in the June, 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review. It’s available for free on their Web site now, so waste no time in getting it.

The article is written by the CEO and President of IDEO, Inc., and talks about several projects that created value for customers using design thinking. The first project described is one at Kaiser Permanente, where, through this approach, nurses changed their rounding strategy to “at the patient’s bedside” instead of “at the nurse’s station.” This in and of itself was striking to me, because it’s exactly the approach that other national leaders in patient and family centered care are pursuing. How great that the same conclusion was reached about where nurses can best serve patients.

Beyond the great health care example, there are other examples that demonstrate the same thing:

Many of the world’s most successful brands create breakthrough ideas that are inspired by a deep understanding of consumers’ lives and use the principles of design to innovate and build value.

As Diana Forsythe discussed in her article on creating a patient education system for migraine sufferers, the most valuable innovations are the ones that understand the lives of the people they will touch, and then support those lives with the product/service/technology to make things better, rather than the other way around. To me, understanding the lives of the people that innovations touch means going to where those lives’ experience happen, and bringing the people who feel the impact into the design of the innovation.

I happen to have been to the Kaiser Permanente Garfield Innovation Center in Oakland, California (here’s a post about it and a little about its namesake, Sidney Garfield, MD), where we received a demonstration of the IDEO process underway on a project in one of the Kaiser Permanente Hospitals. I brought my most critical LEAN goggles with me to assess the process for respect for patients and those who serve them, and I was very favorably impressed. The Garfield Center is an impressive place in general, if you look at the photos in the post, or get a chance to visit yourself.

The theme of patient (and community) involvement in the design and leadership of systems has been on my mind in the next phase of work I am doing, hence these posts. I am glad that there are people like Rachel who know me well enough to add the right fuel to the fire….Enjoy the article and please post your thoughts on what it means for what you do.


Hi Ian,

Sure, it's linked from the image attached to this post. Thanks for checking it out,


Well, this is awesome, Ted. It's like the Kaiser-Permanente solution was right there all the time, under our noses, but we all just accepted that it was done the old way for some good reason that somebody else must know.

We have so much good we're going to find from viewing problems from the bottom up – from the stakeholder's view, not top-down.

Ted Eytan, MD