IDEO no longer Innovative?

Reporting on Design Consultancies for a school project…

Is IDEO really still that innovative?
A number of their methodologies, if not all, are replicated by various competitors and clients.

Wondering why one would choose design consultant Company A over Company B…

For example why choose IDEO and not Frog Design? or Ziba? or Continuum?

In your opinion(s) what are/is IDEO core competenc(ies), competitive advantage(s)?


One thing I found back when I was in the position to hire a design firm was that, as you’re hinting at, most of the high profile firms look pretty much the same on paper. Their rates are similar, their size, their portfolio, etc.

What it really came down to me was whether I liked them or not. Some firms when you talked to them they listened. Others treated you like you were lucky to be talking to them.

I went with the “nice guys”.

One answer: divide the number of IDEA awards by the number of staff. IDEO may have the most number of awards, but it does not lead in the designer-to-award ratio.

But choosing the right vendor is a complex task. Personality, convenience, specialties, cost are all factors.

I map vendors on a 2D matrix:
X: Depth of Services: Pure-Play to Turnkey
Y: Competency: Tactical to Strategic Process

IDEO is clearly in furthest upper right quadrant of that matrix. But I refer to the matix when I’m considering my specific needs for a specific problem.

Clever clever.

exactly how would you define “Innovative”?

they did the Hoover “Z fold”, I guess it was supposed to be a Dyson killer.
It was very innovative - but all it killed was Hoover…

I like the thought of scoring # of IDEA awards / # of employees. I see one problem though - IDEO is no longer simply in the product design realm, having moved on to also include ‘service/experience design’ in their portfolio. Is there an organization that hands out awards for ‘service/experience design’?

As for the matrix, I really like that idea. To confirm, you are listing X from left to right and Y from top-to-bottom? Such that you are placing IDEO in the Turnkey/Strategic Process Quadrant?

X: Depth of Services: Pure-Play to Turnkey
Y: Competency: Tactical to Strategic Process

Curious if you’ve got a completed matrix based on your experience with /knowledge of various firms?

Sharing the matrix could be a career-limiting move :wink: A lot of the firms probably aren’t where they want to be, and wouldn’t appreciate the publicity. (I also track movement in the matrix, say if a firm is on the way up, or on the way down.)

The best way to do this would be to create an anonymous survey of design managers familiar with these firms, having them score each firm against my two dimensions on a scale of 1-7.

PS, here is a table of IDEA winners if you want to try my award:designer ratio trick.

IDEO has evolved from designing wonderful objects that people can love to the bigger picture stragigic innovation thing for big corporations. (IDEO 2.0 as instigated by Tim Brown about four years ago). To understand Tim’s priorities, look no further than his blog Design Thinking:

So there’s little value in looking at IDEA tables- they’re moving on.

This suggests that the IDEA is not relevant to IDEO’s “new focus”… I’m not sure if I agree with that.

There is no question that they are as innovative and creative as is appropriate for the challenges that they are being paid to solve…maybe even slightly more so.

Here’s Bruce Nussbaum talking about this on Biz Week

Talks about how IDEO 2.0 is about “designing strategies” rather than “designing artifacts”. 80% of their biz is “strategy” whereas the others do around “50% strategy”

He compares IDEO with Ziba which I think is a bit of a stretch…

It’s all about the $$$$$$$$

Where the hell does Bruce Nussbaum get off on calling himself an “Innovation Guru”?