Article | Harvard Business Review | January–February 2014

IDEO's Culture of Helping

by Teresa Amabile, Colin M. Fisher and Julianna Pillemer

Abstract

Leaders can do few things more important than encouraging helping behavior within their organizations. In the highest-performing companies, it is a norm that colleagues support one another's efforts to do the best work they can. That has always been true for efficiency reasons, but collaborative helping becomes even more vital in an era of knowledge work, when positive business outcomes depend on high creativity in often very complex projects. A help-friendly organization has to be actively nurtured, however, because helpfulness among colleagues does not arise automatically: competition, pride, or distrust may get in the way. The trickiness of this management challenge—to increase a discretionary behavior that by definition must be inspired—makes all the more impressive what the design firm IDEO has already achieved. Its help-seeking and help-giving culture is behind the firm's success. But how has IDEO managed to make helping the norm? To answer this question, the authors spent two years observing, interviewing people, and conducting surveys at one office of the firm. They discovered four keys to building a help-friendly organization that leaders of other organizations could learn and apply to similar effect.

Keywords: Management Style; Behavior; Attitudes; Organizational Culture; Relationships; Social and Collaborative Networks;

Citation:

Amabile, Teresa, Colin M. Fisher, and Julianna Pillemer. "IDEO's Culture of Helping." Harvard Business Review 92, nos. 1-2 (January–February 2014): 54–61.