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"We had the opportunity to create a new story, one that had more mass appeal," said Jim Wicks, senior vice president of consumer experience design.
The Moto X, which was introduced last month and is available at all major carriers, took about a year to develop. Wicks and Iqbal Arshad, senior vice president of engineering and global product development, were given wide berth to design the device from scratch and concentrate on that product.
The single-minded focus on the Moto X was a sharp contrast from pre-Google Motorola, which made more than 40 phones a year for wireless carriers in different geographies. The pace left little time for thinking holistically about a device or collaborating with colleagues from other teams. Instead, employees were on a treadmill of fulfilling carrier-dictated technical specifications.
"For those of us who have been around Motorola for a long time ... there's a creative DNA that's in us to innovate," said Jason Wojack, a 16-year employee who heads the company's product architecture team on the engineering side. "When we got stuck on this churn through so many products, we lost a little of that. [The Moto X] allowed us to get back to that focus and pull that creativity back out. We have some of the best engineers in the world, and we leveraged that to use them in the right way."
Trimming the product pipeline allowed Wicks' and Arshad's teams to leave their cubicles and set up "war rooms" where they could spitball ideas in person with employees from supply chain and other groups, a collaborative process they didn't have time for in the past. They also had a live feed to Motorola's Sunnyvale, Calif., office, where they were joined by former Googlers who moved to the acquired company.
The newcomers helped the team question fundamental assumptions about the design and functioning of mobile phones: Do they have to be black rectangles? Why does taking a photo require so many steps?
Processes at Motorola also came under scrutiny. Motorola Chief Executive Dennis Woodside, the Google executive who oversaw the company's integration, wondered why the Motorola corporate system for dialing into conference calls was so cumbersome. Now employees use Hangouts, Google's video chat application.
The countless sessions of excited discussion and occasional yelling matches eventually produced trust and a unified vision.
"The [design] team came up with something that got people excited, and the engineers jumped on that and did amazing things to realize it," Wicks said. (continued...)
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