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Altec Lansing

A

Interviewee

122 Engineer

Team Disadvantages

0, 2

Project Outcome

Successful

Industry

Home electronics/cameras/TV/copiers

Location

Shanghai

Team Risk Tolerance

High

Team Dynamics

TeamDynamics_Turnaround

Company

Altec Lansing


Something about being very explicit about that and having a client that really believed in the importance of this project must have greased the skids for us to negotiate a nice long schedule to make sure we could iterate and refine and review and incorporate all of their feedback. And test, and iterate again. And I think that's what led us to such a nice end result. [5888],[5872]
I think the one thing where corner may have been cut were on the actual engineering execution of the design. Because we basically came up with the architecture for how this device would go together in a way that made sense and allowed us to realize the design we were hoping to get. [5873]
Which is more and more commonly the case. And the end result on this project is sort of typical of what we see, which is that that part gets rushed, it's done by the client internally, by engineer who are not as invested in the design and what we're trying to accomplish with it. They take some shortcuts or they squeeze some cost out of it and it ends up not being quite as nice as we like to think it would've been had we done it ourselves. Of course we'll never know. [5889]
Obviously very iconic itself, the round click wheel on the iPod sort of is reflected in the end caps of the speaker design, so that was an element of it that I think appealed to a lot of people in terms of creating a relationship between our product and the one that it had to work with, just visually. [5874]
But I think it was combination of the round cylinder being such a simple extruded form, and yet being sort of antithetical to what people think of when they think of speakers, which is rectangular boxes. And I think it's that tension, or those two seemingly incompatible ideas working so nicely together, is what made that idea sort of exciting for all of us. [5875],[5876]
Generally speaking ... A little bit of a love/hate ... the CEO and the people who only we engaged with at these very important milestones, very positive relationship. They didn't always love what we did, but they respected us as consultants, they didn't wanna second-guess every decision we made, they sort of empowered us to make the decisions we felt right most of the time, and they trusted us to do that as their advisors. [5877],[5890]
And we respected the feedback that they gave to us and their priorities. That might have been the love part. [5878]
The hate part was our day-to-day guy being a little bit too micro-managing, being a little bit too constantly flustered. Like if we ever called him, I'd be like, "Well you know, we're not quite ready for this review tomorrow, can we have it the next day?" [5879]
And he would just be like ... You know the kind of guy, he's wedded to his GANT chart, he freaks out if something's not going exactly according to his plan. Whereas we at IDEO are thinking three steps ahead and saying, " It takes us an extra day now to get a better result three weeks from now. Doesn't that make sense to do it that way?" [5881],[5880]
And he would just be like ... You know the kind of guy, he's wedded to his GANT chart, he freaks out if something's not going exactly according to his plan. Whereas we at IDO are thinking three steps ahead and saying, " It takes us an extra day now to get a better result three weeks from now. Doesn't that make sense to do it that way?" [5891]
But this guy was much more of a by-the-books, Type A stress case. And so having him as a day-to-day ... You know, maybe it's a good thing, that he gets us thinking about some of the stuff that we don't always think of as the highest of priorities. [5883],[5884],[5882]
But on the whole I would say he probably added more stress and discomfort and unproductive anxiety to the team, I would say that would outweigh any potential positive contributions he made. [5886],[5893],[5885],[5892]
One other comment on that guy was that it was really valuable that we were cultivating this relationship with the CEO as well. Because ... And Ian was really good at this. If there was a problem in the inter-company dynamics, Ian is very diplomatic and yet effective at bringing that to the attention of people on their side who could help iron things out. Tell them call off the attack dog, or whatever. And I think that was probably a significant help, or reason for our success. [5895],[5887],[5894]
And think what was cool about that project was first we had just a killer team with Jerry O'Leary, who was one of our greatest, I think, industrial designers, in the company, Ian Roberts, who is one of practice leads, who's got a really strong design and engineering background. [5828]
But I guess the really cool thing about that was the client took a very holistic approach. They were like, "Let's start with figuring out what our brand is gonna stand for, and then let's think about what are the opportunities to really express our values through design. And then let's take our time with the design and make sure we're coming up with something that's compelling, and doing solid engineering work to back that up." [5832],[5831],[5829],[5830],[5854],[5855]
So we laid out this really nice work plan that encompassed all those things, and we had a great core team that stayed engaged all the way from beginning to end. So I was an engineer. I wasn't leading a whole lot of the activities early on, but I was exposed to it. Also, I understood the philosophy of the project and what the client was looking for, and I was part of the whole concept generation, which I think led to stronger concepts and got me to buy into the whole direction of the project before I eventually became responsible for it. We had to get the products out the door. [5833]
So just the way the project was designed was really nice and just the way the team interacted. There was a lot of mutual respect in terms of what different people were bringing to the team. In terms of stress, it felt well-balanced. It felt mutually respectful, and I think it was neat because there were challenges for all of us. The designers were challenged to come up with something new and iconic and really strategic in terms of design. It wasn't just make it look pretty. It was make it exciting, make it say something about our brand, and make it cutting edge, which was a challenge that they can really get excited about. [5857],[5836],[5858],[5856],[5834],[5835],[5860],[5859]
And then for the engineering, they asked us to design not just the aesthetics but all the interactions. And we came up with these very animated products with lots of motion and lots of mechanism, lots of surprising behaviors that were engineering challenges, which was really kind of neat because those kinds of things had to be developed in parallel with the industrial design and the look of the products. So these guys would be coming up with concepts of what this thing should like. Together, we were coming up with the concepts for how it should behave and how things should move, and then the engineers, led by me, were responsible for coming up with figuring out how to make these behaviors happen inside this envelope that these designers were busy defining. [5838],[5840],[5837],[5839]
And we came up with these very animated products with lots of motion and lots of mechanism, lots of surprising behaviors that were engineering challenges, which was really kind of neat because those kinds of things had to be developed in parallel with the industrial design and the look of the products. So these guys would be coming up with concepts of what this thing should like. Together, we were coming up with the concepts for how it should behave and how things should move, and then the engineers, led by me, were responsible for coming up with figuring out how to make these behaviors happen inside this envelope that these designers were busy defining. [5861],[5862],[5863]
So it was a lot of parallel effort, a lot of give and take, a lot of me as an engineer explaining to you as a designer why we can't do what you're suggesting, but we could this. And the designer's explaining to me as an engineer why that didn't fit with his design philosophy and offering other ideas about how we might be able to accomplish something similar. And maybe that's where this feeling of professional respect comes in because there's a lot of give and take and needing to be able to explain to the team what your constraints as a discipline really were in making the vision come to life. But then as a team, compiling all those things and figuring out, for the good of the project and for the strategic objectives, how are we gonna push through this in sort of a multidisciplinary way? [5866],[5865],[5864],[5867],[5841],[5842],[5843]
And so he stayed involved, he was there, and he gave us great feedback and gave us well-informed decisions at appropriate times to allow us to keep going forward. And then there was this other guy, who was our day-to-day contact. And he was not a real effective leader, but he was the kind of guy to ... Did he really make important decisions? Not really, his role was answering any minor questions that came up along the way to make sure we could keep moving on track, which is valuable from a tactical, logistical point of view. [5870],[5868],[5869]
But it was also great because it made for a very engaged management team on the client side, right? They were obviously very motivated to make this successful, and that got the CEO to the presentations. It got him invested in making sure he was making longterm, value adding decisions [5871]
But it was also great because it made for a very engaged management team on the client side, right? They were obviously very motivated to make this successful, and that got the CEO to the presentations. It got him invested in making sure he was making longterm, value adding decisions. And so he stayed involved, he was there, and he gave us great feedback and gave us well-informed decisions at appropriate times to allow us to keep going forward. [5846]
But it was also great because it made for a very engaged management team on the client side, right? They were obviously very motivated to make this successful, and that got the CEO to the presentations. It got him invested in making sure he was making longterm, value adding decisions. And so he stayed involved, he was there, and he gave us great feedback and gave us well-informed decisions at appropriate times to allow us to keep going forward. And then there was this other guy, who was our day-to-day contact. And he was not a real effective leader, but he was the kind of guy to ... Did he really make important decisions? Not really, his role was answering any minor questions that came up along the way to make sure we could keep moving on track, which is valuable from a tactical, logistical point of view. [5847],[5844],[5845]
But I would say it was really the CEO who gave the strategic insight. [5848]
I think it was the four of us on the core team. I think Ian, who was the project manager, was really good at insulating the team from any day-to-day or short term or tactical considerations that might come up with the client. So he fielded all that kind of stuff to let the team keep thinking about big picture. And any decisions that came up in that arena, he handled without bothering us. But any questions that were about how are we thinking about this design problem, and how are we gonna give this client the best solution? That was a very democratic and respectful core team, which was nice, and just about everything was done by consensus, and it was never really divisive. [5849],[5850]
I can't think of any particular incidents, but if there were disagreements within the team, Ian was strong enough leader to either moderate them to come to a mutually agreeable decision or just pull rank and say, "Look, I respect what you guys are saying, but as project leader, we need to make a direction, and it's gonna be this. So sorry if you don't like it. That's what it's gonna be." [5851]
It was high. I think it was high because they understood the spectrum of innovation, like we can take this current product and put a new skin on it, and make it look fresh and be over at this end. Or we could throw it all out the window, and do something completely new and be at this end. And they understood the risk reward of moving along that spectrum, and they helped us focus our thinking on what was appropriate. [5852]
So that's not necessarily an easy thing to do, and so we were ... Those were basically the criteria, I think, that we were given. And within that, we were given pretty much free reign to explore wherever we saw fit. [5853]
Reference Tags
[5888] Methodologically creative,[5872] Pro-innovation bias,[5873] Ikea effect,[5889] Internal changes/challenges,[5874] Ikea effect,[5875] Appeal to novelty,[5876] Ikea effect,[5877] Trust,[5890] Trust,[5878] Great example - Received feedback, actively engage with it,[5879] Micromanaging,[5881] Man blaming man,[5880] Premature idea evaluation,[5891] Alignment,[5883] Empathetic disposition,[5884] Man blaming man,[5882] Micromanaging,[5886] Man blaming man,[5893] Man blaming man,[5885] Micromanaging,[5892] Reactive devaluation,[5895] Communicating ideas across domains,[5887] Decisive leadership,[5894] Decisive leadership,[5828] Organizing effectively,[5832] Ikea effect,[5831] Decisive leadership,[5829] Organizing effectively,[5830] Win-win conflict about ideas,[5854] Organizational encouragement,[5855] Organizing effectively,[5833] Ikea effect,[5857] Appropriate resources,[5836] Balance of challenging work,[5858] Organizational encouragement,[5856] Organizing effectively,[5834] Pro-innovation bias,[5835] Promote autonomy & sense of ownership,[5860] Trust,[5859] Win-win conflict about relationships,[5838] Ikea effect,[5840] Communicating ideas across domains,[5837] Great example - Productive innovation norms,[5839] Win-win conflict about ideas,[5861] Appropriate resources,[5862] Collaborative-Creative Disposition,[5863] Organizing effectively,[5866] Collaborative-Creative Disposition,[5865] Communicating ideas across domains,[5864] Win-win conflict about ideas,[5867] Win-win conflict about relationships,[5841] Communicating ideas across domains,[5842] Great example - Productive innovation norms,[5843] Win-win conflict about ideas,[5870] Appropriate resources,[5868] Communicating ideas across domains,[5869] Organizing effectively,[5871] Decisive leadership,[5846] Decisive leadership,[5847] Great example - Received feedback, actively engage with it,[5844] Organizational encouragement,[5845] Organizing effectively,[5848] Decisive leadership,[5849] Decisive leadership,[5850] Great example - Productive innovation norms,[5851] Quick resolution of relationship conflict,[5852] Great example - Productive innovation norms,[5853] Promote autonomy & sense of ownership

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MADISON BARNETT
I get my inspiration from the fictional world. I’m a social geek. Completely exploit 24/365 catalysts for change whereas high standards in action items. Conveniently whiteboard multifunctional benefits without enabled leadership.
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