IDEO’s Process, Organization, Culture and Management

Questions 1. How would you characterize IDEO’s process, organization, culture, and management? Process IDEO’s product development process follows several phases. And each phase contains several IDEO’s core skills that are Observation, Brainstorming, Prototyping and Implementation. The five phases of the product development process and applied core skills are described in the following table (Figure 1). Figure 1. Product Development Process Phase| Process| Core Skills| Description|
Phase 0| Understand/Observe| Observation/Brainstorming| Seeks to understand the client’s business and immersed itself in finding out about the feasibility of a product. | Phase I| Visualize/Realize| Brainstorming/Prototyping| Ends up choosing a product direction based on ideas, technologies, and market perceptions. | Phase II| Evaluating/Refining| Prototyping| Enhances design prototypes through testing functional prototypes. | Phase III| Implement/Detailed Engineering| Implementation| Completes product design and verified that the final product worked and could be manufactured. Phase IV| Implement/Manufacturing Liaison| Implementation| Ensured smooth product release to manufacturing as the product moved from the shop floor to the client’s factory lines. | Prototyping and brainstorming are the most important core skills of IDEO. The role of prototyping in phases I and II is central to IDEO’s design philosophy, more than their clients can imagine, and probably more than their competitors. Frequent prototyping serve as the most important way for IDEO to communicate with clients, marketers, experts, and end users.
Prototypes ensure everyone was imagining the same design during discussions about a product. All IDEO offices have shops staffed by highly skilled machinists to rapidly produce both simple and sophisticated prototypes. If prototyping was central to IDEO’s design process, brainstorming of phase 0 and I was central to its methodology. The two processes, actually, went hand in hand, with brainstorming sessions leading to rapid prototyping or vice versa. The goal was to quickly create a whirlwind of activity and ideas, with the most promising ideas developed into prototypes in just days.

The firm followed several principles of brainstorming: stay focused on the topic; encourage wild ideas; defer judgment to avoid interrupting the flow of ideas; build on the ideas of others; hold only one conversation at a time to ensure that introverts also got their say; go for quantity; and be visual, since sketching ideas would help people understand them. Figure2. IDEO’s Core Skills Organization IDEO employs over 300 staff and maintains design centers in many sites. Although all centers operate independently, seeking business locally, they exchange a high volume of e-mail and often share talent as needed.
Each center consists in small units by budding out smaller design studios whenever one appeared to grow too large. An individual can work on one large project as a principal or on as many as three to four projects as a contributor. IDEO is a flat organization to an extreme. All work is organized in project teams, which are formed for the life of a project and then disbanded. As a result there is no permanent job assignment or job title. The lack of hierarchy avoids the problem of promoting designers and engineers into administrative position and out of creating products. Figure3. IDEO’s Organization Concept Culture
The core value of IDEO is organization culture based on different principles: willing to accept the failure as one of innovation process, respect the members on a creativity basis and get learn from failures collecting them in box instead of throwing them into the trash box. This culture heritage motivates IDEO members to create the more business effective prototypes and ideas faster than other competitors. This culture also had an overall effect on IDEO’s management, organization and product development process. Management and organization of IDEO was built to reflect the cultural emphasis on the ideas and do not be avoid failures.
And product development process also was created on the cultural base of IDEO. Management Employees are encouraged to design their own workspace to reflect their own personality. Rolling doors can quickly seal offices for privacy. Staffers keep personal possessions in portable bookshelves and cabinets so that moves between projects can be accomplished rapidly. In keeping with Silicon Valley informality, the company discourages formal titles and don’t mandate a dress code. Management encourages employees to leave their desk and walk around, especially during mental blocks. Management rarely fires employees.
Each employee is assessed through peer review sessions, with peer chosen by the employee. Management also seeks to reward high performers through more shares in its client venture capital base. As a result, through much of the 1990s, the turnover growth was less than 5% per year, which was surprising low compared to Silicon Valley standards. 2. Decision point: should IDEO accept the Visor project as is (on a dramatically reduced schedule)? Should they try to persuade Handspring’s management to change its aggressive launch schedule? Or should they simply decline the project?
In your discussions, please consider the IDEO and Handspring perspectives. IDEO should not accept the Visor project’s aggressive launch schedule. Core value and innovative product development process of IDEO can be lost because of limited time resources. IDEO’s competitive edge consists in the recurring idea development in a free environment, design verification through prototyping, and the incorporation of technology in the actual product. However, if the schedule is determined shortly, the schedule of the task of proposing design idea and prototyping would be reduced (Phase0 ~ II).
If that part’s time reduced, IDEO could not consider for the client deeply and verify the ideas perfectly. IDEO’s corporation culture aims at a free environment to suggest ideas and prototype and connecting them to the commercialization. Because of the time and price pressures, IDEO’s culture and product development process would be destroyed. It would make IDEO lose its higher competitive edge compared to other competitors. IDEO should try to explain the creation of the Core Value from their corporation culture to Handspring and persuade to postpone the Visor’s release schedule.
In the meantime, IDEO should provide examples of best practice with the reasonable time to Handspring and enable them to aware that IDEO couldn’t develop the product’s quality that matched their wants in their schedule. If Handspring is unwilling to delay release until after the holidays, IDEO should nevertheless accept the project. Although the first release of Visor may not showcase IDEO’s trademark superior design, the relationship with Handspring will provide future opportunities for innovation in the PDA industry. As a result, IDEO ; Handspring should narrow the gap between their perspectives.
By balancing their internal and external business strategies (Figure 4), they can leverage IDEO’s innovative developing capability of new products and Handspring’s higher market perspective capability. Figure 4. IDEO ; Handspring’s Perspectives | IDEO| Handspring| Perspectives(focused on)| * High quality, High price * Adapting the past experienced product development process * Long term innovation * Internal business(Innovation & Process)| * Lower quality, Lower price * Reducing the time to market for the higher sales volume * Short term business * External business (Financial & Customer)|

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