New Product Development

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Why China Is the World’s Innovation Role Model

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 3 min 

There’s a lot of talk of trade tensions between the U.S. and China, but there’s another way to think about China: as an innovation role model. “Anybody involved in international business needs to treat China not just as a place to sell, but also as a place to learn,” wrote Edward S. Steinfeld and Troels Beltoft in MIT Sloan Management Review in 2014. China, they argued, is “becoming the best place to go if you want to learn how to make ideas commercially viable.” Three years later, this is truer than ever.

Harnessing the Secret Structure of Innovation

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 11 min 

Innovation, much like marketing and human resources, can be made less reliant on artful intuition by using information in new ways. But this requires a change in perspective: We need to view innovation not as the product of luck or extraordinary vision but as the result of a deliberate search process.

Mastering the Digital Innovation Challenge

For Volvo Cars, pursuing digital innovation required fundamentally rethinking the organization, while also keeping the core business functioning efficiently. The company did so by balancing four interrelated competing concerns: (1) new and established innovation capabilities; (2) process and product focus; (3) external and internal collaboration; and (4) flexibility and control in relationships with external partners.

The Customer-Inventor Revolution

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 3 min 

For over 30 years, MIT Sloan’s Eric von Hippel has investigated the ways general users of products and services have improved them through tinkering and invention. “The Age of the Consumer-Innovator,” which he co-authored for MIT Sloan Management Review in 2011, was an important marker in explaining how user communities were changing product development. It laid the groundwork for von Hippel’s current research, which looks at the way some of today’s innovation is given away as a “free good.”

How to Monetize Your Data

Companies can monetize their data by improving internal business processes and decisions, wrapping information around core products and services, and selling information offerings to new and existing markets. Adopting any of these approaches, however, requires management commitment to specific organizational changes and targeted technology and data management upgrades.

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Competing Through Joint Innovation

Even as multinationals struggle to make inroads in emerging markets, companies from those markets are finding ways to compete in Europe and the U.S. A case in point is Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company, which has used strategic partnerships to gain ground in Europe. Huawei’s overseas expansion closely resembles the strategy the company used to build its position in China: Start at the perimeter and work toward the center.

Organizing for New Technologies

When faced with an emerging technology, many companies have trouble responding — not because they don’t recognize how it impacts their business, but because they have difficulty managing the uncertainty around the new technology’s competitive viability. And when the technology significantly disrupts the company’s existing business, it can create structural impediments to pursuing opportunities.

Warding Off the Threat of Disruption

In a fast-changing digital landscape, companies shouldn’t wait too long to reconfigure their offerings — but they also should be wary of moving to an untested technology too soon. Monitoring trends in related industries and identifying high-potential startups for acquisition helps to ensure appropriate timing for business model changes.

Which Features Increase Customer Retention?

Companies have an incentive to design goods and services with customer retention in mind. Unfortunately, they often add expensive features to their offerings without knowing whether or how much they will increase retention — and adding too many features can actually decrease customer satisfaction with products after customers have used them.

Designing and Developing Analytics-Based Data Products

The combination of new analytical capabilities and burgeoning data assets are being used to form value-added “data products.” Such products have powered rapid growth in the value and success of online companies, but the expansion of analytics means the standard model for developing these products needs to evolve. An updated model needs to reflect new “time to market” expectations and input from a variety of stakeholders.

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The 2016 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

This year’s winning article is “Accelerating Projects by Encouraging Help,” by Fabian J. Sting, Christoph H. Loch, and Dirk Stempfhuber. The authors examine project planning and execution challenges and describe a case study of a company that designed a help process to encourage workers to seek and provide mutual assistance. The Beckhard Prize is awarded annually to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development.

Finding a Lower-Risk Path to High-Impact Innovations

Pursuing a high-impact innovation strategy can have terrific payoffs — but it’s also extremely risky, and most companies won’t do it. Yet a comparatively less risky, proactive approach that strings together “lily pads” of capability-building investments, technical and conceptual advances, and market explorations into “enabling innovations” can bring companies closer to their goal and provide a long-lasting competitive edge.

Navigating the Patent Minefield Through Consortia

Bringing high-tech inventions built on patented technologies to market can be complicated and risky. The threat of added costs from patent infringement lawsuits has led technology companies to pool their talents — and patents — in technology consortia. Joining a tech consortium requires managers to weigh intellectual property value against the value of future collaborations and assess the consortium’s pros and cons for innovation, competition, and market creation.

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Leveraging Smart Data and Internet of Things to Realize Mass Customization

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 1 min 

In an on-demand webinar, Wolfgang Gruel and Frank Piller detail new experiments in personal transportation. Gruel and Piller say that transportation customers are on the cusp of having seamless travel experiences that synchronize all transit options: schedules, traffic conditions, and personal preferences. But making this vision a reality requires knitting together previously independent systems — in part through smart data and the Internet of Things.

Customizing Your Social Strategy to the Platform

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 2 min 

Companies that want to draw innovation ideas from social media need customized approaches. An approach that works on Facebook, for example, is different from one that works on LinkedIn. Companies also should emphasize the “social” by helping users create or enhance relationships. Companies that do this often benefit through people’s subsequent engagement with the company’s online innovation activities.

Getting Product Development Right

The Spring 2016 issue of MIT Sloan Management features a Special Report on new product development. Articles include “Why Great New Products Fail,” “Finding the Right Role for Social Media in Innovation,” “Developing New Products in Emerging Markets,” “Why Learning is Central to Sustained Innovation,” and a look at the opportunities presented by the Internet of Things, in “Now That Your Products Can Talk, What Will They Tell You?”

Why Great New Products Fail

Many innovative new products don’t succeed. One common reason: Companies don’t focus on understanding how customers make purchase decisions. But paying attention to how customers search for information about what to buy, and how they make guesses about details they can’t easily find, helps predict whether customers will embrace certain product innovations. Companies need to focus on innovations that customers will easily recognize or find ways to alert them to innovations they may not detect on their own.

Finding the Right Role for Social Media in Innovation

Social media provides a game-changing opportunity to support new product development. But taking advantage of the opportunity requires more than just a Facebook presence with a loyal base of “friends.” To use social media for innovation, organizations need clear strategies and objectives. They also should look beyond social media used by the general public to lesser-recognized platforms, such as special user forums or expert blogs, for especially valuable user-generated feedback.

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