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Ideo Product Development Harvard Business Case

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The ideas of IDEO and Handspring were different from one another in terms of development and time frame. Additionally, IDEO was working on products directly competitive to one another with the projects assigned by 3com and Handspring. The primary issue in the IDEO Product Development case is the question of whether Boyle and Kelley should persuade Handspring to postpone the launch of “Visor.” The option of postponement would allow the team to follow all of the steps of IDEO’s legendary innovation process (see Appendix for a flow chart of this process). The other option, accepting the client’s request for a very aggressive and immediate schedule, would allow the team to create a product quickly enough to enter the market during the busy holiday season, and avoid entering the market too late. A secondary problem is the conflict of interest between the IDEO team working on the Palm V and Visor at the same time.

IDEO’s Product Development Problems include the following: * Ignoring client wishes and continuing on with IDEO’s long innovation process could lead to Handspring’s potential release of partnership with IDEO. Handspring wants a product that can be produced within a quick time frame, while IDEO places emphasis on using flexible timeframes in order to fully explore the design process. The two ideas do not work well together.

* A time constraint would order IDEO’s team to bypass some of the early
development stages, which means that the product may not, or will not, be as good as if it were analyzed under each phase accordingly, thus compromising IDEO’s reputation for the most innovative problems possible.

* After the developers of Palm V left to start up the Handspring project, they created a conflict of interest among IDEO developers working on the Visor and the Palm V project. The projects were being developed simultaneously, which created secrecy between the groups of developers. IDEO’s workforce was split between two competing products.

IDEO had a very effective, creative, and well-established product development process. Deadlines were not extremely important to IDEO. Instead, they focused on developing customer-centered products by using multiple product development phases to achieve breakthroughs. IDEO’s teams were committed to creating the best design possible. They placed heavy emphasis on client involvement during the design process, rather than clinging to an extremely specific timeline. They valued rough, rapid and right prototyping along with teamwork in brainstorming sessions. “Fail more, succeed sooner” was a token phrase used to describe the company’s philosophy. Because of Visor’s magnitude in terms of technological advances, it would likely benefit from the full-scale IDEO methodology in order to generate the desired sales.

The conflict with Handspring was that if IDEO maintained this heavy focus on client input, they would be forced to produce a product rapidly, thus following one core value (client involvement) and violating another core value (the design phases). If IDEO were to use Handspring’s values regarding time, they would be unable to fulfill all of their phases, and the product would not be as innovative as it could be. Without a lengthy development phase, the Visor project would lack the stability of numerous ideas in an effort to hand select the very best one. IDEO valued effectiveness while Handspring valued efficiency. The goal of the Handspring Project was to come out with a fully compatible, slightly smaller, more functional and less expensive clone of the palm-size computer. This extensive list of qualities required an intensive product development period. With this venture came many conflicts among Handspring, 3com, and IDEO.

* Management must take into account the advantages versus disadvantages of lengthening the Handspring Project development process. In shortening the process, the project would miss out on some key components necessary for innovation and creativity. These components include a large quantity of ideas, wild ideas and building on the ideas of others during brainstorming sessions. Lack of time also denies developers the chance to engage in the use of the current product in order to discover how best to improve it.

* Handspring must be made aware that in order to develop a breakthrough product, research concerning the marketplace can never be overdone. This research takes time and is typically qualitative in nature, comprised of interviews and focus groups with users. Even the developers should immerse themselves into the product so that they can preemptively predict what the market needs. Without such a mentality, Visor will merely compare to the Palm V, but never surpass it.

* IDEO must realize that splitting its labor force between two competing products will create an uncomfortable situation, which could result in animosity, tension and secrecy between all of the innovation groups. This is especially true for 3com, whose Palm V developers from IDEO could use what they learned with the Palm V to create a better product for a competitor.

IDEO has essentially two different paths to choose from when deciding its course of action. It can either disregard its design process in order to please the client, or it can stick to its award-winning design process and request an extended period of time for innovation and production.

A secondary area where a decision is necessary is on how to break up the staff between the two competing products. Conflict of interest is a major concern for the company because of the secrecy between the two products, one of which licensed its OS from the other.

Should IDEO accept client demands and adapt its system, or stay true to its values and request more time for the project?

Handspring should be made aware of the importance of following the design process. They should be reminded of the importance of providing a quality product over just being the first product. IDEO should reassure them that the process is tried-and-true, and that they will not regret taking the time to truly understand the wants and needs of their target market. IDEO can definitely compromise a bit on the limited time frame, but the design phases must not be neglected entirely.

* Spending a longer amount of time on a quality product is better than having the first product on the market with faults. Therefore, it would be best to decrease the time allocated for each phase, and spend more time on the insights and innovation portion to ensure accurate data on the target market is gathered.

* To reduce the issue of conflict of interest in the workspace, it is necessary to keep IDEO employees together. Splitting them up to work on separate projects with respectively different and competing clients can cause animosity in the workplace. Employees must develop loyalty to one type of product so that there is no possibility of overlap of ingenuity or innovation. The workers that began at Palm V should stay with that project and not crossover and work on Visor.

* Management should compromise with Handspring and push back the release date of “Visor” so that the launch can produce a more profitable and productive experience for the organization, as well as the users. If Handspring refuses to push back the launch date:

* Management should seek support from upper-management in refusing the project proposal without adequate time. IDEO has a reputation for a distinct brainstorming process and for building innovative products. They have won numerous awards as a company. With the imposed time constraints, the project could be extremely detrimental toward IDEO as a company. If the product fails in the market, or if it does not live up to the IDEO standard, IDEO’s reputation will be damaged. IDEO should not be willing to take this risk.


*The illustration above shows the award-winning IDEO development process.

*The illustration above shows the project progression specifically for the Handspring Project.

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