The Art of Not Quitting

April 1, 2015 — 13 Comments


The last time I quit a job, I was 15, and it was my newspaper delivery route. Other than a few internships with fixed terms, I’ve worked at just one company since leaving graduate school: IDEO. So what do I have to offer about the topic?

Quitting an organization and quitting a job are not the same thing. While I’ve never quit IDEO, I have quit roles within the company several times. And this is why I think the distinction matters: If you find a place and a group of collaborators who bring out the best in you, leaving that behind just to find the next career opportunity is a big price to pay.

This was the case for me. The creatively confident, collaborative culture at IDEO has inspired me and brought more out in me than I ever thought possible. It started from day one and has never let up. Over the last two-and-a-half decades, I’ve gone through multiple job titles and even more roles. Even since taking on the mantle of CEO some 15 years ago now, I’ve done my best to redesign the job every few years so that I continue to grow my impact and learn.

Reid Hoffman describes this as doing “tours of duty” in his 2013 HBR article. Whether or not your organization officially embraces the idea of tours of duty, there’s nothing to stop you from doing it. Consciously anticipate quitting your current role and design what you want the next one to be. If it can be in the same company, great. If not, at least you’ll be in the position of understanding what you’re looking for out in the world. For most people, this is the way it works out at some point – or many points – in their career. But my experience shows that it doesn’t have to be that way. Staying with the same company can be just as exhilarating as switching to a different one.

Back when I joined IDEO (actually, it wasn’t even called IDEO back then), my plan was to work for my mentor Bill Moggridge for two or three years, then venture out to set up my own company. But I found that the creative culture at IDEO was far too valuable for me to give up. Ever since, by consciously trying to design my next job, I’ve never had to leave the organization I love.

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

Tim Brown


13 responses to The Art of Not Quitting

  1. Thanks for posting this!
    I can definitely relate to the huge cultural gravity that creative agencies have to offer, it’s pretty addictive.

  2. Also,
    Do you have a map of all your different roles? From Paperboy to IDEO CEO?


  3. It is certainly a valuable thought process and Design Thinking. I need to refer to my students.
    My visit in 2002 to IDEO Studio from IIT Kanpur, India brings back some memories of good things that I enjoyed!

  4. If I could find an organization like IDEO to work at, I’d still be employed (not self-employed), too. I haven’t given up hope! Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Making friends, making art, and creating a difference….all ar significant lifts, i feel if you plan to create a distinction, I mean extremely deeply committed to that and you can’t facilitate creating art you’ll build friends, real friends as a result of deep folks of deep conviction can’t facilitate themselves.

  6. Thanks for posting this!
    I can definitely relate to the huge cultural gravity that creative agencies have to offer, it’s pretty addictive.

  7. the art is nature which will make happy

  8. I know what you mean. At Web Design and Company the daily stress can get quite great, and make you question your decision to have a small business.

    Something keeps me going though. Perhaps the thrill of working with great clients or working with such great people.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Me parece genial lo compartido, muchas felicidades, es todo un ejemplo para mi.

  10. Managing an SEO Agency & Web Design Team it can have its stressful days. But If your doing something that you truly love you’ll never want to quit.

  11. Thanks posting this………

    I refer my friend s too… its a good post of process and design thinking…..

  12. Thanks for posting this! it’s pretty addictive.

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