I’ve gone to great lengths to try to encourage what I call an emergent culture at IDEO, where people understand that it’s essentially their responsibility to have good ideas. Not about the work they do every day — we all have to do that — but about new ideas for the company. What are we going to do next? What fields are we going to work in? What are our new big things?
… It’s very easy in business to get sucked into being reactive to the problems and questions that are right in front of you. And it doesn’t matter how creative you are as a leader, it doesn’t matter how good the answers you come up with. If you’re focusing on the wrong questions, you’re not really providing the leadership you should.
… There’s this idea that McKinsey first articulated many years ago of the T-shaped person, which is somebody who’s got some deep craft — a great writer or a great designer or a great architect, engineer or whatever they might be — and that’s the vertical stroke of their T. But then the horizontal is that they’ve got clear empathy and interest in engaging with other disciplines and doing other pieces of the process or playing other roles.
On the last quote, I’ve heard the T-shape before but love the use of empathy. If you don’t care how or why people work, you suffer.