Design Experiments at Best Buy


BEST BUY approached me in 2007, after a talk I gave in Seattle about how designers could shape an organization’s strategy. At the time, the notion of strategic design was in its infancy, and mostly untested. But Best Buy was eager to experiment, and I agreed to help lead their efforts.

After immersing myself in the company’s operations and culture, it became clear that a new strategy shouldn’t be designed in isolation and then forced into place. Instead, it needed to emerge from a design process that was embedded in the organization’s culture. It needed to be designed in situ. So I sketched a rough framework—just enough structure to get started. We christened it the Manifesto for Routine Innovation, and then we immediately began piloting it.

The pilot involved a diverse team tasked to envision new products, experiences, and services. We did a lot of great stuff, including creating the concept (and the initial rough prototype) for the Best Buy Express kiosks that sell electronics at airports and other locations. Today there are hundreds of these kiosks in operation, generating tens of millions of dollars in annual sales.

This pilot helped secure a mandate for ongoing design experiments at Best Buy. I continued to lead this effort for a brief time, updating the Manifesto into a more robust framework, and training managers to continue after I left.