Product Development

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For BASF, Sustainability Is a Catalyst

Risk mitigation drove chemical giant BASF to adopt a sustainability focus, initiating a chain reaction that transformed not only the company’s product lines, but its corporate culture. The company’s vice president of sustainability strategy, Dirk Voeste, explains the step-by-step process that BASF undertook to produce a company-wide shift in this massive organization’s mindset.

Image of Shanghai courtesy of Flickr user John Chandler.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnchandler/9268261356
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The Surprising Effectiveness of “Assembly Line” Innovation

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Unconventional approaches to innovation are speeding up new product development, making R&D faster and cheaper. In China, companies are embracing an industrialized approach to research that allows them to complete projects as much as two to five times faster than they did before. “These developments have potentially huge implications for how companies should think about global competition and whether they need to rethink and reengineer their established innovation and product development processes,” the authors write.

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Accelerated Innovation: The New Challenge From China

Chinese companies are opening up a new front in global competition. It centers on what the authors call accelerated innovation — that is, reengineering research and development and innovation processes to make new product development dramatically faster and less costly. The new emphasis is unlikely to generate stunning technological breakthroughs, but it allows Chinese competitors to reduce the time it takes to bring innovative products and services to mainstream markets. It also represents a different way of deploying Chinese cost and volume advantages in global competition.

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How to Position Your Innovation in the Marketplace

Should a new product or service launch at the high end of the market and move downward or at the low end and move up? In truth, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for entering the market, but a new research-based framework helps identify the best strategy for a particular product or service. The two key questions to ask: Is the basic functionality of the new offering better or worse than that of existing competitive products? And how groundbreaking are the novel attributes of the new product?

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The Discipline of Creativity

Managers can’t afford to rely on haphazard, hit-or-miss approaches to idea generation. Ideas must fit with an organization’s strategy or take it in a new, purposeful direction, and they must solve real problems for stakeholders. A new seven-step process for idea generation is designed to help managers understand their problems deeply, generate tangible ideas for solutions and translate those ideas into action.

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Mark Yolton, senior vice president of SAP Communities & Social Media

SAP: Using Social Media for Building, Selling and Supporting

SAP runs a 10-years old, online community network that has more than a million unique visitors a month. Mark Yolton, senior vice president of SAP Communities & Social Media, tells how his company is using social media for “outside-in” market insight and as a mechanism to immediately tell the world about its new products.

Image courtesy of Novartis.

How to Create Productive Partnerships With Universities

University-business collaborations are an increasingly important source of research and development for many companies. Yet despite their importance, many companies take much less care managing these relationships than they do those with their vendors or customers. As a result, business-academic collaborations often fail to achieve as much as they might. By taking a more structured approach, companies can improve the performance of their academic research partnerships.

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What It Takes to Be a Serial Innovator

It’s not easy to develop a breakthrough innovation in an established company and bring it to market successfully — and even more challenging to do so more than once. In their new book, Serial Innovators: How Individuals Create and Deliver Breakthrough Innovations in Mature Firms, authors Abbie Griffin, Raymond L. Price and Bruce A. Vojak describe several years of research they have conducted about a type of employee who can do just that.

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How to Identify World-Changing Innovation

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Anyone trying to figure out which kinds of innovation are most worth paying attention to has to come up with ways to, as Wired magazine puts it, “size up ideas and separate the truly world-changing from the merely interesting.” Here are seven things to look for.

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The Problem With Digital Design

Traditionally used for computer aided design and manufacturing applications, in recent years digital design has migrated to the front end of the development process, facilitating ideation, conceptual design and globally distributed innovation. Through empirical and case-based research — including a longitudinal study of 145 organizations that are heavy users of digital design — this article explores the challenges and opportunities of employing digital design during these early stages.

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Is There a Tweaker Driving Innovation On Your Team?

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Innovation doesn’t just come from the geniuses who come up with completely original ideas. Instead, it’s tweakers like the engineers in the British Industrial Revolution and Apple’s Steve Jobs who take existing ideas and turn them into something better.

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The Age of the Consumer-Innovator

It has long been assumed that companies develop products for consumers, while consumers are passive recipients. However, this paradigm is flawed, because consumers are a major source of product innovations. This article suggests a new innovation paradigm, in which consumers and users play a central and active role in developing products. The article also summarizes key findings from studies on consumer product innovation conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user marcusnelson.

Creating Employee Networks That Deliver Open Innovation

Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cisco Systems, Genzyme, General Electric and Intel are often credited with having attained market leadership through open innovation strategies. By tapping into and exploiting the technological knowledge residing beyond their own R&D structures, these companies outmaneuvered rivals. But while other organizations try to follow their example, many are failing because they neglect to ensure that the outside ideas reach the people best equipped to exploit them.

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Why Every Project Needs a Brand (and How to Create One)

Project leaders should sequence and articulate messaging about their projects in the same way a marketing manager would organize an external branding effort to promote a company’s products and services. Just as product branding creates awareness and sustains value in the minds of an organization’s external customers, shareholders, and constituents, a brand mindset can empower a project leader to develop strategically-timed messages to create visibility and engagement among key targets.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Linh_rOm.

What Great Projects Have in Common

From time to time a company’s project truly stands out, creating exceptional value and having an impact on the industry. IBM’s AS/400 development effort in the 80s was a game changer and gave IBM a competitive edge. Apple Inc.’s success in creating the iPod portable media player and iTunes online store is another more recent example of a great project — one that changed the way people listen to and buy music. Why are such projects so rare — and why can’t more projects be like them?

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