Designing inside-out vs. outside-in

I’m looking for research on the subject of (what I call) “outside-in vs. inside-out” design.
I define them as follows:

Outside-in: Start with the user needs, take time to design the ideal solution.

Pros: Enables breakthrough solutions, builds a platform for the future. Plus as Alan Cooper says “no one cares if you ship the wrong product on time.”
Cons: Risk missing a window of opportunity, profit in hand. Slower to market.

Inside-out: Start with the limitations of the product/technology, rush to develop a “solution that works” now.

Pros: Faster to market. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” “We can always fix it in version 2.”
Cons: Risk building the wrong thing. You don’t deliver innovation and you pay for it later, via competitors with superior solutions. Version 2 is limited because of wrong or limiting choices made in Version 1.

Is anyone aware of research into this subject? Case studies or anecdotes?

It is refreshing to see a thread that is specifically cerebral. This is the topic that should be 100 responses long.

Time? consumer behavior? Are designers pulled into a production line methodology rather that a thinking methodology to get to the solution?

Are designers using metrics to make the next best decisions for a product?

This might be the solution for a value added approach to gain more clients, but the caveat is that the fickle consumer has currently been trained to vote with their dollar…unfortunately a lot of dollar bill votes are going to the inside out products.

I think I’ve worked this out. But I’m still interested in other literature on the subject.

I realized that what I’m really talking about is “supply side design” vs. “demand side design.”

The approach I’m taking with projects is the “demand side” (idealized design from the users perspective) which we later match with our “supply” (ability to build.)

That can be a tough sell for PM’s who are painfully aware of the “supply” at project inception. They view any work that “strays from reality” as counter productive. In the end, it all comes back to the companies principles on Innovation, and how we incent and reward our developers. ie. Those who are rewarded for hitting deadlines are doomed to “supply side” thinking.

The other thing I realized is that this debate can be summed up by the choice to follow the “ready, aim, fire” vs. “ready, fire, aim” approach. The fire-first approach has been popular in the software world, but is antithetical to the design process.

A friend of mine works at Oracle and unquestionably believes in “ready, fire, aim.” He suggests that this gets you to market before your competitor, and you “aim” with subsequent versions.

Great, except the “first to market advantage” (aka “pioneer advantage”) has been debunked by hard research.

But, if you read your Moore, he’ll show that the innovators and early-adopters do in fact want your crappy technology if it solves a unique need. The problem comes in “crossing the chasm” to the profitable “early majority.” This is where design becomes essential.

…But is it too late by then? Is your product flexible enough to change to meet their needs?

it’s different from one economy/culture to another.

in US things traditionally started on the supply side. after japan and europe entered US economy substantially after 60’s and boosted the consumer preference side of the market things started to change.

I read somewhere that Asian companies tend to prefer the “ready, fire, aim” approach in a “shotgun style.” Meaning they flood the market with options and see what sticks.

This is different from the “rifle” approach favored by western companies that follow this methodology.

Apparently Ross Perot was a big proponent for “ready, fire, aim” at GM. He saw GM as having a paralysis problem, stuck in “ready, aim, aim, aim, aim…”

Back to Inside-out vs outside-in , it seems that there are internal conditions and external conditions in every design problem. Very often the internal conditions dictate constrains that cause the designs to converge. Designers fight against convergence, they try hard. So often the internal conditions are ignored. Many designers prefer to start with a blank piece of paper – with the hope of coming out with a unique design, which normally does not happen as the reality of internal and external constrains pushes towards convergence.

The strategy that nature uses to come up with a very divergent forms of designs is to play exclusively with the internal conditions to explore millions of possibilities – without thinking about it. The knowledge is derived from the previous solutions that have survived and reproduced (note that the object referred in the previous mail is of some importance). So I think driving the design by internal conditions, could lead to a powerful way of exploration.

I wish I knew what you guys were talking about. I’m trying to get a question answered about supply-side vs. demand-side design. Can we stay on topic please?

we make flow charts to analyse how our performance should be carried out.

I spoke at length with a friend in advertising. His latest conference had some very supply side speakers. Even though it was geared for an advertising audience, the discussion was similar to this thread.

To get ahead of the competition one of the speakers gave this example.

Pretend you own a refrigerator company.

  1. Do you design a new refrigerator with slightly better internals; a compressor, Insulated exterior cabinet, icemaker etc?
  2. Do you think of a new way to store food so that a cold box in the kitchen is not necessary?

Keeping food fresh is the goal however keeping things cool is the other side ot the refrigerator equation. As the owner of a refrigetator company if there is no incentive, you will always take the demand side (pull) rather than the supply side (creative solution)

The speakers point was that society should promote an atmosphere that encourages companies toward creative solutions. The current market does not profitably treat a supply side company as well as it should. Hence second to market but early enough to beat the early majority is the best current method for most companies.

CG -I know you are requesting more literature and real links on this, I will ask my friend the name of the speakerand if he has any written material or reports or more speaking dates

Would also be interested in that speaker, thanks moderator.

A lot of the more iconic products at Nike that have stayed in the line for years where designed not to fill a line plan gap, but where side projects started by designers who gleaned an insight direct from consumer needs.

Anyone know of other examples of this happening in corporations? Does it ever happen intentionally? Or is it the result of people putting in extra work and pushing new concepts?

The Razr and Pebl at Motorola was definitely a result of underground design-initiated work sponsored by the Design VP Tim Parsey.

Design VP Chuck Jones at Whirlpool reportedly threatened quitting if they didn’t go forward with the Duet Washer/Dryer.

OK -Thanks for being patient

Please be warned I have not read these two books yet, so recommending them is not quite my style, but this is the guy – pun intended

Ta-da: Guy Kawasaki

“The Art of the Start” and “Rules for Revolutionaries.”

Hope this helps create better products!

thanx dude. I will check him out…