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Ideo: the Organization and Management Innovation in a Design Firm and the Role of Alliances and Collaboration

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Introduction
Schumpeter (1949) wrote of the individual and collective embodiment of the “entrepreneurial spirit” – the “Unternehmergeist”. One company that channels this “geist” is the Sillicon Valley,
California-based design and consultancy firm, IDEO. Founded in 1991, this self-styled innovation and design firm balances process and product innovations grounded in a human-centred design philosophy. Through this approach IDEO elided the pitfalls of the technology push versus demand-led innovation dichotomy to produce products and services that feel just as good as they work. In the latest rankings IDEO was listed at no.10 on Fast Company's Top 25 Most Innovative Companies
(2009) and no.15 on Fortune's 100 most-favored employers by
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It is important to note here that though the innovation process is commonly depicted as a linear unidirectional sequence, in practice, the activities are inherently iterative and often occur in parallel (Rothwell 1992; Weiss 2002; and
Brown 2008).
Innovation and R&D at IDEO
IDEO's approach to the organization and management of innovation and R&D can be summarized by the phrase: “design thinking”. Tim Brown (2008), CEO of IDEO, explained that it is centred on meeting people’s needs in a technologically feasible and commercially viable way. Design thinking is an example of the systemic and integrative approach to innovation highlighted in Hughes
(1983) and Rothwell (1992). The model attempts to understand the innovation challenge as a dynamic interplay of human, business and technology factors. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Designing thinking at IDEO
Source: adapted from Weiss 2002.
IDEO's variation of the innovation process (cf. Tidd and Bessant 2009 etc.) comprises five phases: Understand the market, the users, the technology, the constraints; observe people in reallife situations; visualize new-to-the-world concepts and the potential users; evaluate and refine the prototypes; and implement for commercialization (Kelley 2001).
Empathetic research, brainstorming and rapid prototyping are core
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