Lunch & Learn: Dennis Boyle

Author: Eva Marie Costello

Dennis Boyle

February started off with a Lunch and Learn with Dennis Boyle a Notre Dame alum and founding partner of design firm IDEO. Dennis spoke about his journey to date and the role of empathy in his work life. As part of the ESTEEM program, we all have become familiar with the importance of design thinking in solving business problems and how crucial it is to put the customer center stage. Dennis reiterated this point again and gave us some tips on how as STEM entrepreneurs we can act and think like designers.

To design a sustainable solution Dennis emphasized that you ‘Don’t start with the answer'. He advised that we all start by asking questions like ‘How might we’, ‘What if’ and ‘What is the future’ to gain insights into the customer’s real pain point. To explain this methodology he gave us some examples of some projects IDEO worked on. He spoke about a time when IDEO worked with Lufthansa to try and improve the experience of long haul flights. To understand the pain IDEO replicated a plane, went through the experience, made videos and tried and tested the service to try and design a solution. Always putting yourself in the customer or user’s shoes is key.

Dennis suggested that to start incorporating design into our everyday we should become aware of what good design and bad design is. He said it’s as simple as taking a photo of something that makes you think ‘That’s surprising’ or ‘Are you kidding me?' Noticing ‘workarounds’ and where people are adding signs or sticky notes to explain something demonstrates an opportunity for better design.

Lastly, Dennis listed some pressing needs and future opportunities for designers. He explained that many aspects of the health care experience need improving or restructuring. For example how we can look at managing all the health data the world is gathering so as to create value for the systems and patients. Or how we might manage chronic illnesses like obesity which is going to affect 50% of people by 2030. These issues left us all with food for thought as to how we can contribute our skills to help solve these problems. Dennis signed off with telling us to enable entrepreneurs or to be one. This left us all inspired to start our entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial journeys post ESTEEM.

Dennis 2


Dennis Boyle was a Mechanical Engineer/Industrial Design Major at Notre Dame. He also has an MS in Product Design from Stanford University. Dennis was one of the Founding partners of IDEO and has worked on many aspects of the organization for the last 37 years. During our ESTEEM Spring Break trip, our class is getting to visit the IDEO HQ office in Palo Alto.