eBay: Designing Culture Change - The Innovation Playbook

By Jennifer Aaker, Stephany Yong, Jessica Dodson, Tina Sharkey, Dane Howard
2016 | Case No. M364 | Length 7 pgs.

This case describes how eBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe, leading a multibillion-dollar global technology company in a highly competitive and changing environment, embraced design thinking as a key ingredient of culture change and a catalyst for growth and innovation. The case presents the efforts that were underway at eBay during 2013 and 2014 to use design thinking to enhance product development, enrich both customer and employee experience, and improve talent recruitment and retention. 

The design thinking process at eBay started with highlighting the importance of user empathy in understanding problems, and then using fast-paced, iterative brainstorming and prototyping of solutions to solve those problems. From there, Donahoe anchored on a simple goal—to build eBay’s reputation through craft and care in the company’s products, while injecting purpose and soul into the organization. Donahoe forwarded design thinking further at eBay by seeking independent and creative design voices, prototyping the organizational culture, and crafting stories. A key tool for accomplishing this was the introduction of the Playbook—a digital and physical representation of eBay’s design initiatives and how they shaped the eBay community. The company viewed the Playbook as a living document that defined eBay’s beliefs and approach to design. This new design thinking focus also included collecting and presenting customer stories. Donahoe’s approach fostered strong engagement across eBay’s design community and drove rapid cultural transformation.

Learning Objective

The objective is for students to learn how a major company can successfully implement design thinking to help it grow, innovate, and create a culture that is beneficial to customers and inspiring for employees.
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