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Embattled Ideo CEO Sandy Speicher is stepping down

After three years in the position, Ideo’s first female CEO is stepping down. Former CEO Tim Brown and Chief Creative Officer Paul Bennett have been named interim co-CEOs.

Embattled Ideo CEO Sandy Speicher is stepping down
[Photo: Flickr user Naotake Murayama]

Sandy Speicher, Ideo’s first female CEO, is leaving the company. Ideo announced the news in a press release yesterday.

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Sandy Speicher [Photo: Flickr user Eoin McMillan]
Ideo—best known for popularizing the notion of “design thinking“—is one of the world’s most renowned design studios, operating nine international offices, and earning more $100 million in annual revenue. Its clients have included Apple, Coca-Cola, and Ford. Speicher has been CEO since 2019 after she took over the role from longtime CEO Tim Brown. She had been at the company since 2004, with the majority of her time spent managing education products.

Under Speicher, Ideo’s pristine reputation has faced scrutiny. The news of her departure comes 11 months after former Ideo employee George Aye wrote a damning essay alleging that Ideo perpetuated a toxic work culture, which disproportionately affected many women and employees of color. Aye described working there as “an interview that never ends.” Ideo also drew criticism during Speicher’s tenure for posting a tone deaf response to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

While Ideo searches for the “right leadership to take us forward,” Ideo’s Chief Creative Officer Paul Bennett and Tim Brown, who has been serving as executive chair, will be co-CEOs.

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In the press release, Brown praised Speicher’s work on the Innova Schools project to bring education to tens of thousands of Peru’s middle class, along with her efforts to decrease Ideo’s environmental impact by turning it into a net zero company. “Sandy will always be a valued member of the Ideo family and we will always treasure her as such,” he wrote.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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