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IDEO Product Development Case Solution
The following write-up provides an analysis of the product development case of IDEO, one of the world’s largest and most successful product development firms. This analysis focuses on the product development, and design of the new expected hand held computing device of 3Com, Palm V. An insight is provided on why IDEO is the right partner and development firm for the 3Com, by assessing the value proposition of IDEO against the requirements of Hawkins’ team. The analysis briefly sheds light on how IDEO’s team, under Boyle’s leadership manages to design an aesthetically pleasing and technically competent product that brings in a new benchmark for the hand held computing devices.
Following questions are answered in this case study solution
What is IDEO’s value proposition for Palm V? That is, what value does Palm expect to gain from IDEO’s service?
Was IDEO able to deliver on this value proposition? How?
Identify the creative solutions implemented in the engineering and design of Palm V. How did they come about? How were the problems identified and the solutions developed? What were the costs and benefits of these creative solutions?
Describe the steps in the “knowledge funnel” for the development of Palm V. Were these steps serendipitous or predictable? Why?
Case Analysis for IDEO Product Development
1. What is IDEO’s value proposition for Palm V? That is, what value does Palm expect to gain from IDEO’s service?
The Palm Pilot, though hugely successful in the market, was not a well-designed product. It was heavy, thick and looked dull as compared to other master piece products available in the market. It was very difficult for designers to make it look appealing as a small change could have unforeseeable effects on the product. After the excessive usage of the Palm Pilot, Boyle and his team found out various issues with it, so they decided to provide solutions for all of them in the new model. IDEO was known for producing technically competent and aesthetically pleasing products by the fusion of art and engineering. It had practiced concurrent engineering not only on small computing devices, but also on complex automotive components and medical instruments. IDEO was offering the same to 3Com for its new product Palm V. The main value proposition of IDEO for Palm V was to design and develop a product that appeals to both mind and senses. With its experience and tested method of product design and development, IDEO’s proposition was to deliver a product that, not performs basic functions, but also inspires the people who are using it.
Hawkins and his Palm team expected from Boyle that the new model should not only be thin and light weight, but also designed in such a manner that it appeals to women, as well. Hawkins team gave the new model a code name ‘Razor’, which suggests the emphasis on the thinness of the product.
2. Was IDEO able to deliver on this value proposition? How?
The IDEO team lead by Dennis Boyle, senior project leader and studio manager, was determined to make a difference for the Hawkins and his company. They made use of their product design and development strategy to introduce a completely new product in the market. With their philosophy of brainstorming and practice of rapid, rough and right prototypes, the team showed new developments to the client in the form of prototype. Ultimately, they delivered a model, which was not only 8mm slimmer than the previous model, but also one-third of the weight. In addition to this, edges of the Palm V were tampered and made curvy so as to attract female target market. Moreover, while adjusting the apparent looks of the hand held device, Boyle’s team also focused on making it an engineering role model. They used new lithium ion battery, anodized aluminum for casing, new look for the stylus etc. All these engineering capabilities, along with the aesthetic feel made the Palm V a near perfect hand held computing device and allowed them to deliver the promised value proposition to Hawkins and his company.
3. Identify the creative solutions implemented in the engineering and design of Palm V. How did they come about? How were the problems identified and the solutions developed? What were the costs and benefits of these creative solutions?
First of all, because of lack of knowledge regarding customer preferences, Boyle decided to purchase dozens of Palm Pilot and gave them to his fellow colleagues, friends and to people from different walks of life. This allowed Boyle to collect data and reviews regarding the product. This was the main reason IDEO was able to identify problems associated with Palm Pilot like its delicacy, rigidity of the case, placement of memory & battery and location of the stylus. Secondly, as per the Hawkins requirement of building a slimmer model, the company decided to reduce the thickness from 19mm to 11mm. The design team realized that the traditional battery would not be compatible with the new thin design; therefore, they decided to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries. The team spent a considerable amount of time to collaborate with battery makers so as to make it work as per the user pattern. Third, another problem identified was of limitation of plastic because of thin casing. The design team decided to use anodized aluminum for the casing. The team was not well versed in the use of this material so first they had to acquire the expertise and then implement it in the hand held computing device. In addition to all of this, one creative step undertaken was to change the appearance of the Palm Pilot by making its edges curvier and giving it a better color. This was done after incorporating two female members in the team who then carried out surveys of over dozen females. The main idea behind this strategy was to modify the target market by attracting female customers. Finally, to make the product more aesthetically appealing, the designing team avoided the use of screws and preferred industrial glue over it. Again, the team lacked the competency for this task, yet they did not back out and made it possible by using their trial and error approach.
4. Describe the steps in the “knowledge funnel” for the development of Palm V. Were these steps serendipitous or predictable? Why?
In 2009, Roger Martin presented in the concept of Knowledge Funnel, a process to innovate more methodically and consistently. He defines three phases in Knowledge Funnel, which include mystery, heuristic and algorithm. IDEO uses the same funnel approach in brainstorming creative and innovative ideas for any new product. According to their philosophy, at the top there are many ideas, but as the development stage moves forward, or as the process moves towards the base, there are only couple of them left.
The steps used by the Boyle’s team for the development of Palm V were as following. During the initial stage, the team explores problems and issues with the earlier model, in this case, Palm Pilot. More than two hundred employees of IDEO were provided the earlier model so as to generate user preferences and reviews. This stage allowed the design team to understand issues of delicacy and location of battery and memory card etc. This stage according to the Knowledge funnel is called ‘mystery’ stage. In the second step, heuristic, a team generates rule of thumb to limit work to a manageable size. For example, a team was dedicated to working out the feasibility of lithium ion batteries, which were to be used in place of traditional batteries. Another example of this would be the prototyping of parts of the product rather than complete product. This allowed the team to focus on individual parts of the product. The last step of the knowledge funnel process is algorithm. At this stage, the design team usually has one or two designs in the form of prototype.
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