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Economist

Schumpeter: Back to the drawing-board

July 4, 2013

THE office looks like a cross between a Starbucks and a youth club. Bicycles are piled high in racks; there is a ping-pong table in a corner. Young people sit at long pine benches, sipping coffee and poring over laptops, the males looking as if they are taking part in a beard-growing competition. But do not be deceived by the laid-back atmosphere: this is the London branch of one of the world?s most successful design consultancies, IDEO. When it started up in Silicon Valley in 1991 one of its founders, David Kelley, said he did not want to employ more people than could fit in a school bus. Today IDEO has more than 600 employees and offices in eight countries.The firm made its name designing such successful products as Apple?s first mouse and the Palm V hand-held organiser. It continues to design things that you can touch: for example, a new beer can with a wider lid for the Samuel Adams brewery, intended to make swigging from a can more like drinking from a glass. More recently it has moved from product design to redesigning services, which now provides a large share of the company?s work. There is much demand for its skills in western Europe, where firms are...

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