Surviving IDEO
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Surviving IDEO

Photo by Matt Ridley

Surviving IDEO

  1. As the co-founder of GGS, it’s naive of me to imagine that my letter wouldn’t potentially confuse readers as to who this letter represents. This letter is a deeply personal expression of me, George Aye, and does not reflect the opinions and views of Greater Good Studio, nor its staff (past and present).
  2. I have removed references to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the introduction since my intent was simply to place the time and context for the letter. I see how referencing their deaths in this way was exploitive when in fact those incidents have no bearing on the contents of the open letter.
  3. Despite my critique of the firm, I have included how I have benefited from IDEO’s reputation and credibility by referencing them many times in my life.

I. Introduction

Screen capture from IDEO’s commitments dated June 15, 2020,

After 23 interviews over twelve months, I believe that without significant reform, IDEO is an unsafe workplace for women, PoC (People of Color) and WoC (Women of Color).

II. Psychological risk to your mental health

“At IDEO, we are committed to the work of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization and in the world.”
Screen capture from IDEOs recruiting page (

III. Professional risks to your career trajectory

Screen capture from IDEO’s ‘Little Book of IDEO’, an informal employee manual

IV. Ethical risks to your moral compass

Screen capture from IDEO’s ‘Little Book of IDEO’, an informal employee manual

V. Why speak up now?

VI. Who does IDEO center when they say, “Human-Centered Design”?

For example, IDEO’s tendency to embrace chaos over structure has led to areas of ambiguity that impact the employee experience. IDEO’s vision of creating a workplace where people can do impactful work with their friends has led to a homogenous organization and an over-reliance on social currency, which benefits employees from majority groups. For example, men and White employees are most likely to feel that they belong, that they are involved in decision-making, and that their voices are heard.
An excerpt from the Paradigm report titled, ‘Diversity & Inclusion Assessment’, November 30, 2017

VII. Epilogue



An alumni-led publication created to surface and illuminate the persistent inequities at IDEO. This space is open to anyone impacted by IDEO harmful work culture (including folks who work at organizations led by IDEO alumni).

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George Aye

Co-Founder and Director of Innovation at Greater Good Studio. Full Professor (Adj) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago