REV: APRIL 26, 2007
STEFAN THOMKE ASHOK NIMGADE, M.D.
IDEO Product Development
“I should have had café latte,” thought Dennis Boyle as he was sipping his strong espresso at Peet’s coffeehouse, just around the corner from his office. Many designers and engineers from his company, IDEO, one of the world’s largest and arguably most successful product development firms, oftengathered here and talked. It was late summer 1998 in Palo Alto, the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, and Boyle gathered his thoughts for a meeting with David Kelley, the head and founder of IDEO. Boyle had just led his group at IDEO through the development of 3Com’s Palm V hand-held computer, which designers and managers at both firms already considered a successful product with very largecommercial potential. Now he was being asked to design the competing Visor product by the very same individuals he had worked with previously. The only twist was that these clients themselves now worked at Handspring, a new venture whose goal was to come out with a fully compatible, slightly smaller and less expensive palm-size computer that could easily add functionality. 3Com had even licensed outoperating software to Handspring. Although working on the Palm V challenged IDEO’s engineering skills, working with Handspring promised to challenge the very manner in which it operated. It operated on the principle of getting all team members to “fail often to succeed sooner”—a creative process that often looked to outsiders like “spinning wheels.” The process usually generated a fountain ofabsurd-appearing but innovative ideas before the final answer and product miraculously came through a process of discipline and fast decision-making. The IDEO philosophy melded Californian iconoclasm with a genuine respect for new ideas and invention. For over two decades, the firm contributed to the design of thousands of new products ranging from the computer mouse to the stand-up toothpaste dispenser.Along the way, it had also become the largest award-winning design firm in the world (see Exhibit 2). IDEO came to national prominence when ABC’s Nightline illustrated its innovation process by showing its designers reengineer a decades-old icon, the supermarket shopping cart, in just five days. Now Boyle had to decide whether he should suggest to Handspring’s management to add more time to adevelopment schedule that was less than half of what it took to design the stunningly beautiful and innovative Palm V. Boyle’s group feared that an overly aggressive development schedule would require them to bypass many of the early development stages that the firm was
Professors StefanThomke and Ashok Nimgade, M.D. prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2000 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, writeHarvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.
IDEO Product Development
particularlygood at and, at the end, deliver a product that could be so much better if they just had more time.
History of IDEO
[David Kelley] and the company he heads, IDEO of Palo Alto, has designed more of the things at our fingertips than practically anyone else in the past 100 years, with the possible exception of Thomas Edison. — San Francisco Examiner1 — It was desperation caused by recalcitrant...