29
May

Our week in San Francisco (IV): EA Games and Ideo

Escrito el 29 Mayo 2007 por Ricardo Pérez Garrido en Educación / Education

Finally the last day of our visit we spend time talking about venture capital and financial support in the valley versus some of the examples we could share from the different perspectives of the students. We also visited Electronic Arts and had the opportunity to share some time with the group working in the Sims – Survivor game. Finally, we spent the rest of the day at Ideo, working with them to understand the type of work they do with clients and the processes they apply to help them find new ideas and make them work.
Michele Libraro, CEO and Founder of Globalstartups, helped us understand the flow of money and the changes that the crisis of 2001 brought up to the capital investment in the area. In fact the changes have been important, from the flamboyant times where you could be bought only because you had an office space, to today, where projects are well scrutinized and followed by the venture capital companies that are placing a lot of effort and experience in trying not to fall again for the excess of past times. Some of the interesting trends is the drive to find connections from different countries to the valley, in the case of Michele the links are to Europe.
We moved on to visit EA Games. Imagine the feeling of the group. They have grown up with the products of this company being part of their life, even of some of their best moments. As I mentioned before, we had the opportunity to share some time with the team that is working in the production of the next big Sims product, an island/survival game based on the successful TV. We had the opportunity to analyze with their help the evolution of the industry and the challenges they face. It was interesting seeing how the human team required to produce a top level game has grown to more than two hundred, meaning it is approaching the complexity of a film production, and also its budget.
This growing size is also placing a lot of pressure in companies to come up with successes, which in turn mean using the previous successes to build series of sequels (and as you know EA is extremely good at this). But the process is also making it difficult to risk it all with new games, and even more when non-traditional products like Wrold of Warcraft or Second Life are bringing new dynamics (pay-per-month) to the market, and impacting the traditional life cycle of a product.
At EA you could again feel the spirit of a very creative company, with the working space of the group really having the feel and even the looks of an island, lots of shared spaces, lots of fun and openness. Even the spirit during the visit, very open and fun, helped build the stage for an impression of a company that really wants to do different things and needs people bringing different skills to the table, not just doing the stuff, but thinking differently.
Our last visit was to Ideo, where we were part of an innovation workshop, a reduced version of what clients will experience in real projects, and had the opportunity to walk around the company while everybody was dealing with clients. The conclusion again is that setting up the stage is extremely important for results (the good ones). Small things are important, and the fact that they had a textures and interesting materials cabinet was a proof of that: anything interesting was placed there, with a small note of the composition and why it was there (things like how it felt, its special properties, why it was cool…).
All this experiences had a common point of how you link innovation to the market, with customers and technologies changing so fast that you cannot afford product cycles that are really long. The different answers we saw there had much to do with how you get the best people to do what they love for you, and help them be really creative. For most companies that I know, this means including the word innovation and creativity in their annual reports, maybe hiring some people to build an innovation department, but then manage the accounts, clients and workers as always… I am curious to see how long it will take for more “traditional” companies to realize that they have to learn to treat people and ideas differently. We have seen first hand how you can do it well and be successful.

Comentarios

Patxi 30 Mayo 2007 - 00:01

Very interesting Ricardo.
Thank you!!

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