Hot Intrapreneurial Teams





Hot Teams


Lessons from a world's leading new-product design company with a great culture for innovation


Lessons from Business Legends slide deck for teachers hot teams


IDEO Tom Kelley creativity innovation quotes

Create hot teams, not dull teams. A hot team is infused with purpose, personality, and a great passion about doing great things or projects together.

Tom Kelley




“Stay human,” say IDEO’s innovation practice rules, “scale your organizational environment so that there's room for hot teams to emerge and thrive.” At IDEO, a world's leading new product design firm, building of hot teams starts from the hiring process. "The typical job candidate will be interviewed by more than a dozen of IDEOers before the thumbs-up," writes Tom Kelley.
"The process takes time but it's worth it in the end. You don't get hired at IDEO unless you wow a bunch of us. Those that make it receive a tremendous boost, knowing that a lot of other accomplished people think they're talented and capable. We believe in giving individuals an opportunity to perform. Everyone starts out roughly equal and then is given lots of chances to mess up – and to shine. Newcomers that flourish in our environment are often offered a key role in a new project, or even an opportunity to manage a project. Age and experience aren't factors. You actually get to pick two or three people who will review your work, and IDEOers invariably pick team members. An since we live for projects, there's an opportunity to spread the work around.”


IDEO’s Hot Studio and Hot Team System
At IDEO, a world's leading new product design firm, teams are at the heart of the innovation method.
“People at IDEO believe it's how innovation and much of business take place in the world. Quite simply, great projects are achieved by great teams,” says Tom Kelly, the author of The Art of Innovation.
The organizational structure at IDEO is very flat. There are definitely people who aspire to lead teams, but the company’s goal was to create an environment where hot teams formed on their own. So IDEO created a Hollywood-like system – hot studios – for quickly building teams around projects and disciplines. When IDEO get a new project they give to a team that's going to be excited about it.
Design firms seldom exceed a hundred people because when talent can't find enough places to blossom, it generally splits in new directions. As the company matured, David Kelley, CEO of IDEO, realized he couldn't have a personal relationship with each person at IDEO and couldn't be mindful to everyone's individual needs.
So as the company approached the 100-person mark he took a chance and threw things open, designating some of the best people as studio leaders and giving them an opportunity to make their pitches to prospective members. No one at IDEO was going to be assigned to a studio. They reversed the routine where players wait to be selected. IDEOers got to pick their team leaders, not vice versa.
At the company's Monday morning "all hands" meeting each leader described the type of work they favored, and what was exciting and challenging about their approach to product innovation. Everyone gave David a "secret ballot" with their first and second studio choices. Amazingly, they were able to juggle studio sizes so that everyone got their first choice. Each group ranged from 10 to 20 people. After a couple of years, they opened it all again and gave everybody a chance to reshuffle studio membership if they wanted. It's worked. IDEO have not only grown but also developed hot teams with very unique capabilities.
The hot studio system is the IDEO's biggest sustainable competitive advantage. A hot team works together for a period of time. There's a lot of movement at IDEO between teams and among studios. If someone wants to gravitate to another studio, that's encouraged. Each studio has a head who is responsible for the profit and loss of that group. It's like running a small business. There are also opportunities to be discipline leads -- people who oversee best practices for their discipline across the whole firm.