IDEO General Manager Tom Kelley, MBA 83, to Receive Leading Through Innovation Award

IDEO General Manager Tom Kelley, MBA 83, will be the second alumnus to be honored with the Haas School's Leading Through Innovation Award at the school's annual gala Nov. 5 in San Francisco.

Kelley will be recognized for his contributions to advancing the understanding and practice of innovation and its power to transform a business's culture and strategy. The annual award was established to celebrate Haas alumni who embody the school’s emphasis on innovative leadership and serve as exemplars to others in the Berkeley-Haas community. Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, executive director of the Center for Open Innovation, received the award last year.

Since 1997, Kelley has served as general manager of IDEO, a global design firm that has worked with clients to innovate more than 5,000 products, services, cultures, environmental spaces, and even solutions to social issues. Kelley has shared the insights gleaned from this work in two best-selling books, The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation.

Kelley, who became the Haas School’s first executive fellow in 2007, applauds the school's emphasis on building innovative leaders. "Top business schools have done an excellent job of developing the left-brain, analytic capabilities of their students," he says. "But if you want to prepare the leaders of tomorrow, you have to give them tools that go beyond analytical ones. Equip them to apply design thinking to some of their challenges and they'll have a broader array of tools available to them."

Design thinking, as Kelley and the IDEO folks see it, is a problem-solving approach that draws upon intuition and empathy and borrows from non-business disciplines, such as anthropology. "Design thinking means asking, 'What do people seem to need?' rather than 'How do we increase market share?'" says Kelley.

Answering that question has led IDEO to help launch innovations in everything from children’s toothbrushes to checking accounts by watching how the intended customer truly interacts with a product. In recent years, the firm also has applied its expertise to services and social challenges. One example is Open IDEO, a newly launched online community where people can create solutions to tough global challenges.

Kelley is thrilled to be part of these efforts and sees conncections to business education.

"At IDEO we've seen a general trend over the past decade in young people being increasingly interested in the legacy their generation will leave the world," Kelley says. "This concern leads to the desire to help your clients or company create lasting and meaningful value, which leads to preparing the next generation to do the same—through education—all of which leads to preserving the environment around us so that the cycle can continue."