IDEO (pronounced “eye-dee-oh”) is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. The Palo Alto-based firm currently maintains 5 studios in the U.S., two in Europe and three in Asia. IDEO was ranked as one of the most innovative companies in the world by business leaders in a global survey by Boston Consulting Group and placed as #10 on Fast Company’s list of the Top 25 Most Innovative Companies.
As a portfolio director at IDEO Chicago, Aaron Ferber collaborates with clients to explore, design, and bring new products, services, and strategies to life. Focused on physical-digital offerings, the Internet of Things, and the creation of technology-centered new business ventures, his work has included developing new home automation and connected device ventures, designing mobile services for the healthcare and fast food industries, and engineering the first commercial liver perfusion transporter. He has collaborated with such diverse clients as Zebra Technologies, 3M, State Farm, Eli Lilly, McDonald’s, and Bayer. He also frequently works with the Chicago startup community and speaks on human-centered design methodologies.
A mechanical engineer by training, Aaron brings a technical lens to strategic business challenges. He completed graduate studies at Northwestern University, where he researched haptics and mechatronics and took the occasional accounting course. He’s also an aspiring homebrewer, a one-time “uncle” at an orphanage in Honduras, and a scuba diver who lives much too far from the nearest ocean.
Aaron, what is the most exciting or rewarding part of your work? What fuels your inspiration?
One of the most rewarding parts of my work is getting out of the office and talking to the people for whom we’re designing — seeing how they live and listening to their stories and observing how they respond to concept ideas that we have. It’s the richness of being immersed in the context of their lives and their experiences that gives my team inspiration for our designs.
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business? How has your company met these challenges in the way you do your work?
The inquiries we get from clients continue to expand in breadth and complexity, resulting in projects that are longer and involving ever more disciplines. Design has widespread recognition at this point as a solid approach for businesses to deal with the ambiguity, disruption, and accelerating pace of change in their industries, so IDEO is engaged in an incredibly diverse range of collaborations, applying a design approach to creating integrated digital-physical-service offers, redefining organizational practices, and forging new business models, to name a few. The change in the nature of projects requires us to constantly revise and reinvent our own internal processes as well.
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
I’m passionate about the opportunities that are made possible by connecting products and systems to the internet and believe we’re only in the nascent stages of realizing those opportunities. We’ve collaborated with clients across a very diverse set of industries about what those opportunities are for them, giving me the chance to see how connectivity can bring about much more than incremental product innovation to a market, and also how it offers incredible opportunity to reinvent business operations. I’m interested to discuss these opportunities with attendees at the Show and hear about their experiences exploring them as well.
Bigger Than You Thought and In Your Own House: The Real Disruption of Connected Products
Lakeside Center, Room E350
March 7, Monday, 12:30 -1:20 pm
Tell us what you will be speaking about and how and this topic is important for Show audiences.
I’m going to be talking about how connecting products and systems to the internet can create market disruption on a much bigger level than most companies are currently creating. Too many companies are thinking about internet connectivity as simply a digitization of the way that customers have always interacted with their product, or perhaps a feature addition at best. While incremental innovation can indeed be valuable in keeping products differentiated from competition, many companies are missing the bigger picture of the disruption that is going to take place — or that they could bring about — when internet connectivity is used to really reinvent the systems in which their product operates. I’ll be using examples from a variety of markets, and I’ll also talk about how having product connected to the internet can be used to upgrade internal business practices as well, benefitting everything from product development and sales to marketing and product support.
Thank you, Aaron, this sounds fascinating! I’m sure your insights will really inspire and inform the audience. IDEO is often at the forefront of change, so we’re delighted we will hear your reports from the frontlines. We await learning about your interpretations at the Innovation Theater on Monday March 7 at 12:30 pm.
The four days of the 2016 International Home + Housewares Show will be packed with events and education. To help you plan your valuable time at the Show, we introduce you to the speakers and the 21 exciting presentations that will take place in the Innovation Theater in the E350 of the Lakeside Center. Gain cutting edge insights that you can apply to your work. All programs are audio-recorded and will be available at www.houewares.org after the Show.