How would you characterize IDEO`s management?

Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
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IDEO Product Development, is a world-renowned product-design firm that places emphasis on creativity and idea-generation to develop successful products. Internationally, it has won the most awards in its industry. But what is truly remarkable is how the company steered away from the traditional corporate mold in order it achieve its desired end—that is, to develop products that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional without sacrificing technological competency. They have adopted a playful environment and have broken many organizational conventions—and it worked.

IDEO is one of the most successful business in the world not only for its technologically advanced products, but also because of the creativity and innovation that are incorporated in their pieces. This reflects on their company that fosters a culture that encourages creativity and continuous innovation. Prototyping and brainstorming are the central tenets to IDEO`s innovation process. Prototypes ensure that everybody is visualizing the same thing and that the right ideas are being communicated. It holds to the principle of failing often to succeed sooner.

They try to generate as many ideas as possible early on in the design process through brainstorming sessions. When all else fails, they do what is called the “Deep dive approach”, which is basically a highly pressurized and time-constrained version of their fail-often-to-succeed-sooner principle. What happens is that they try to generate as much ideas as they can on a short period of time then start working and making prototypes based on the best ideas. Failure is not seen as a bad thing but as a necessary part of success; IDEO's company culture in fact, encourage it—they call it "enlightened trial and error".

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Their design process may seem “messy” to some, and their inherent inability to precisely predict how a project will turn out may leave a negative impression to some, but these practices are the very reasons why IDEO has through the years, churned out some of the most innovative products ever available to man. The management also places a great importance on creating a playful and carefree environment for its employees—it's whole culture is built on the premise that freedom and stimulation is good for a business wherein creativity and innovation are the most important tools.

The fun factor is incorporated in almost all aspects of the company's culture. IDEO's well-placed emphasis on management practices that makes innovation and creativity seem routine lays much of the groundwork for the company's success. Creating innovative products requires designers and engineers to step out of and transcend the conventional. As such, office sites were chosen for their "stimulating locations". As opposed to traditional companies, offices lie in creative disarray, like “kindergarten classrooms”.

Much liberty is given for employees to express themselves--office spaces were designed by the employees to suit their tastes and reflect their personalities. Formalities have been abandoned—there are no formal titles, and no dress codes. IDEO also encourages insight and innovation with its "Tech Box" full of electronic and mechanical odds-and-ends which designers can create or devise new uses of, and "show-and-tell" Mondays where employees can demonstrate their latest product ideas.

These practices, as well as other similar ones, encourage stimulating interactions between employees. All these work to foster the work/play environment. The company's unusually creative and innovative culture does pose challenges for the management. But the playful attitude does not in mean they are not disciplined—it's is just a necessary step to reach their desired goals. Teams that last only for the duration of a project are assembled, and a person's personal excitement or enthusiasm regarding a certain project provides the basis from which his role is determined.

Studios are small and employees are grouped into teams, which that everybody knows everyone's business. There is no room for non-performers, and in fact, the close-knit atmosphere encourages them to work and try to contribute more. It is not uncommon for IDEO employees to work longer than the average designer or engineer. The management and the company's attitude towards how an organization should operate and function has redefined the image of the innovative corporation. The traditional corporate hierarchies are eschewed in favor pragmatism.

Promotions are done away so designers and engineers are spared of administrative duties and do the thing that they love in the first place, that is, designing and engineering. Proposed royalties and equity deals to provide a better incentive of doing a good job. Should IDEO accept the Visor project as it 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. Read about The Strong Culture Perspective

From the perspective of IDEO, it would be best for them to try to persuade Handspring to postpone the deadline. This will allow them to innovate, so that in the long run everyone benefits, including Handspring. The manner in which IDEO operates is the essence of the organization, and their methodology requires much time and involvement to come up with good results. As is the case here and also generally, haste is detrimental to the good results that can otherwise come from steady progress.

In view of IDEO's history, there can be no doubt that the company will be able to provide value for Handspring, but the superior product that could have been will be lost if the planning goes through aggressive shortcutting. The many phases typical of IDEO's product development process (Understand/Observe, Visualize/Realize, Evaluating/Refining, Implementation/Detailed Engineering, and Implementation/Manufacturing Liaison) each require a good chunk of designated time. The first phase can be particularly lengthy, as it involves a very thorough absorption of a great amount of material related to the planned product.

Although their previous familiarity with the Palm V will of course help, this new product requires many new features and innovations, and is intended to be a rival to the Palm V; thus it will most likely need ample attention in the early planning stages. IDEO has a guiding principle of “fail often to succeed sooner,” but with the aggressive schedule proposed by Handspring, they will have less chances for trials (“failures”) and will thus be less likely to come up with innovations.

Although the delay that IDEO should ask for could mean some lost (or, perhaps more accurately, delayed) revenue for Handspring, it could very well be compensated for by the superior product that can be achieved by going through IDEO's typical (and lengthier) creative process. The reason for the great success and innovation of IDEO is their creative process, and if it cut short, the product might not be created to its full potential. As is generally the case in this context, the more involved path yields the best results.

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How would you characterize IDEO`s management?. (2018, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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