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IDEO Product Development Case Solution

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
1605 3521 Words (14 Pages) Stefan Thomke Harvard Business School : 600143
This solution includes: A Word File A Word File

This case talks about the company IDEO. The company has been involved in the production and creation of innovative solutions for their clients. The concept of design thinking is used in the company. This helps them to balance the rational aspects and the aesthetics of product design. The company puts emphasis on the brainstorming and prototyping for their product development process. The case explains how the new product of Handspring needs to be completed within the stipulated time. For the purpose of this report, the company’s design process and culture have been explained. Some recommendations have also been highlighted that will be helpful for the company in this scenario.

Following questions are answered in this case study solution

  1. How would you characterize IDEO’s process, organization, culture and management?

Case Analysis for IDEO Product Development

1. Introduction

IDEO is a firm involved in helping organizations innovate and grow. The company places emphasis on designing the best possible solution for customer's problems by thinking out of the box solutions to their problems. The organization believes in the concept of design thinking. This approach believes in using the skills and ideas of a designer to find out new possibilities for the business. The philosophy is that individuals in organizations should not only rely on rational thinking for making decisions; emotions and intuitions are also important. Design thinking helps the organization in doing both of these things (IDEO, 2015). This case talks about product development at IDEO. The team had earlier created a successful product Palm V but now the same team was asked to work on the Visor product. This case report will talk about the different processes at place in IDEO, the structure of the organization and the culture and management.   

2. Analysis of the Selected Question

The people at Handspring were looking to launch a new Visor product in the personal computer category. The problem was that the time for development of this new product was less than half of what it took to design the Palm V product. The team at IDEO was not comfortable with this plan because they felt that several of the early development stages would have to be skipped if the deadline was to be catered to. However, this was not a good thing as the product might suffer because of the rushed deadline. To make this new product the company will have to face challenges. There needs to be a certain amount of balancing that should be done. IDEO should be willing to adapt their processes so that the new product is delivered within the time given to the company. 

This means that the design process being used by IDEO should be analyzed to understand whether there is a possibility of completing the task in due time or not. In case the product can be developed then the constraints to be faced should also be considered. Besides this, the culture of the organization and the team structure should also be evaluated to find out whether this can work or not.    

3. Detailed Analysis    

i. Design Process

The first thing that the company did was have brainstorming sessions early in the design process. This was done to generate as many ideas as possible. The process used was similar to that of a funnel approach where several ideas were present at the top level; few remained at the middle stage, and eventually only one idea passed through (Thomke and Nimgade, 2007). The entire strategy did not create any negative sentiments as the process helped individuals in connecting with each other. The ideas that did not succeed were recorded for future use. The strategy of brainstorming is effective because when individuals engage with multiple ideas whether same or different it helps them in generating more ideas (Dugosh & Paulus, 2005).

Concurrent Engineering

To understand the process of design in IDEO, the concept of Concurrent Engineering must be studied. This is a technique that companies can use to improve their execution and production timeline. This concept says that organizations can and should perform different phases of the production cycle simultaneously (Aslani, Helo and Naaranoja, 2012). Instead of focusing on hierarchies, teams should be created that perform these different tasks. This requires that the team members should be well-trained and ready to take such a challenge otherwise the process will not work (Aslani, Helo, & Naaranoja, 2012). A major benefit of using this approach is that companies can reduce the time of product launches. This is important because changing trends are now demanding that companies release new products more quickly and adapt themselves to these changes (Ramana, 2012). This aspect of engineering will also help IDEO in delivering the new product. By doing things that are multiple but needed for the production to finish, the company will process their production faster. Since the new product requires that it must be developed in half the time, it is better that the company continues to follow on this idea so that the new product is made in time. 


One aspect of engineering that is commonly used in industries is prototyping. These might be used from everything ranging from small objects to medical equipment, etc. The use of prototypes helps product development team to visualize the final product and introduce any improvements in it (Salmi et al., 2012). These models are usually elaborate and require a lot of effort and precision. This is an industry wide practice as it helps professionals to gauge the efficiency of the final product if they make the prototype close to its actual state (Salmi, et al., 2012). The prototyping method used in the industry is called Rapid Prototyping. Each layer of product is made based on the 3D computer model of the product. The emphasis in this process is of maintaining the right quality, and a considerable amount of expertise is required to ensure that the product comes out as per the quality standards. There are also some cases where companies use virtual prototyping instead of physical prototyping. This reduces the hassles and material cost required to make the prototype (Choi & Samavedam, 2001). 

IDEO also puts a strong emphasis on prototyping. However, the company's concept of prototyping is a little different from the industry norm. The company believes that prototyping is important more than the competition. The reason they consider this important, is that it helps them to communicate with clients, marketers, experts and end users. It also helps in staying on the same page as others can view the product. This also became a learning opportunity for the workers who felt they could learn more about the product and its features by observing their mistakes. Rough, Rapid and Right were the three R's of the process. The team at IDEO is not afraid of rejection and believes that prototyping does not need to be of an elaborate nature. Prototyping might be a doodle, a drawing or even a rough model (Fredman, 2002). 

Product Development Process

The product development process at IDEO followed several phases. In the very beginning, the team tried to understand the business of the client and figure out whether the product was feasible or not. To do this, the team tried to absorb all the available information regarding the product and its users in the market. This was the observation and understanding stage. In the next step, the product was visualized using the knowledge from the previous stage. One choice was made regarding the product direction based on ideas, technologies and market perceptions. This was the stage of prototyping where in the end, rough models were prepared, and a general idea was reached regarding the manufacturing design. This was the visualization and realization stage. Evaluating the products and ideas of the last stage formed the next step of the process. Different prototypes based on functional aspects were made. Engineering the product became the main point of emphasis. Completion of the product design was done in the Implementation and Detailed Engineering stage. Testing that the final product worked and could be manufactured was also done. The end goal for this stage was to deliver the complete model with supporting documents. The last phase moved the production of the product to the assembly line based on the specifications laid down in the earlier stage. The good thing about this process was that the steps could be performed simultaneously by the team members and this is an essential requirement for concurrent engineering (Ramana, 2012).  

4. Organizational Culture and Management Approach

i. Management Approach

Organizational culture was considered by the company's management of key importance from the very beginning. They made continuous efforts in formulating a culture that helps to contribute toward the organizational goals. The management and Kelley believed in giving their employees the required discretion during the product development process. They believed that the employees should be free in giving their input otherwise they would not perform up to their full potential. Each employee was given a chance to work on different projects so that they could increase their learning. Employees were also asked to share their perspectives on the new developments as well as discuss the different structural initiatives. The top management also laid emphasis on training and development of employees. This is a good thing because researchers have also placed extreme importance on employee training as it helps in obtaining competitive advantage (Batool and Batool, 2012). Recruitment was limited to be done through internship program, and it was preferred that employees were not hired other than this program. The company also encouraged the policy of no-firing as it felt this increased the loyalty of their employees. The company believes that a smaller team structure reduces the chances of people not performing to the required level. Employees who performed better than others were given more challenging assignments. The company also started to award equity to employees and royalty when the percentage of employees was leaving the organization started to increase.

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