Right now, in my New Product Development class, we are still in the introductory phase- learning about the product development process and walking through specific examples from some of the most innovative companies. This week, I was supposed to read a paper on Blue Ocean Strategy and in class we were to talk about a company called IDEO.
Somehow, I found myself so caught up in the optional reading about IDEO, that I neglected to read the ASSIGNED reading. 🙁 Oh well… at least I was still learning and luckily, I had time to read it quickly the next morning… So back to what I was saying-
In class, we watched a video from a little while ago, when ABC’s Nightline had asked IDEO to redesign the grocery store shopping cart in 5 weeks. In the video, one of the IDEO founders described how their company could do anything. It’s a simple statement, but if you really think about it- it’s extremely bold. Your company can do ANYTHING? His reasoning was that everything was a result of their perfected process. The process, no matter the subject matter, would produce a winning result. (Winning is kind of like beauty though, I guess- it’s in the eye of the beholder.)
So what is their process? Well, they kind of have this laid back, organized, creative chaos thing going on, with a huge focus on the consumer. I’d go as far to say it’s the type of environment that most “marketing-types” crave. It’s a super flat organization, where people take on roles in different projects because of what they do best, not because of tenure or other typical factors.
They started out by using secondary research and a preliminary brainstorming session. The result was a few key areas they intended to focus on for the remainder of the project. The team broke into smaller groups to speak with various experts on shopping carts (customers, manufacturers, store employees, etc) and then returned to share their discoveries with the team. Rather than just merely telling the team what they had found, each group came back with photographs and other visual aids to really communicate the lessons learned.
After everyone shared, another brainstorm took place and it was exactly the way a brainstorm was meant to be- a free flow of ideas, people drawing sketches, demonstrating their ideas, politeness and respect all around… organized chaos, as they say. Wild ideas were encouraged and believed to be viable starting points for winning ideas. Three ideas were chosen from the session and the team broke into groups to further develop each one and build a prototype to show. Finally, one new design was produced based on the best elements from the three prototypes. It was impressive, to say the least.
If you take a look at their website, like I did instead of doing my homework, you’ll be able to find lots more that will intrigue you. I definitely added them to my list of cool companies to watch and am hoping to be able to infuse a few of their ways of doing business into my next organization. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to be confident enough to say you can do anything?