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, often gathered 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 large commercial 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 out operating 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 of absurd-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....