New Product Development

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Developing New Products in Emerging Markets

How can multinational companies turn ideas from their emerging-market subsidiaries into global products? A successful innovation developed by Cisco’s R&D unit in India offers practical insights into how to make that process work effectively. Key enablers in the Cisco case included well-developed R&D capabilities at a company center in Bangalore, a large market opportunity, and the support of executive champions. The process also demanded clarity about what product to develop, and how — including working on a shoestring budget.

Why Learning Is Central to Sustained Innovation

Many managers think they can create better products just by improving the development process or adding new tools. But it’s skilled people, not processes, that create great products. So-called “lean” organizations invest heavily and continuously in the skills of product developers, and rather than developing single products, they think in terms of streams of products. By making people the backbone of the product development system, companies can achieve a triple win: increased innovation, faster time to market, and lower costs.

Learning the Art of Business Improvisation

The ability to innovate and rapidly respond to changes in the business environment is critical to competitiveness and success. Improvisation and experimentation combined with focus and flexibility are needed to identify new business opportunities and effectively execute projects. But while improvisation may seem to be spontaneous, managers can foster it through the deliberate development of certain processes and capabilities in an organization’s culture, team structure, and management practices.

How Crowdfunding Influences Innovation

Crowdfunding is changing how entrepreneurs bring new products to market. It has allowed thousands of innovating entrepreneurs to raise money, build brand awareness, and join a broader conversation with large numbers of potential backers — all while still in the product development process. But crowdfunding’s potential goes beyond financing and marketing. The people who back projects can also be important sources for product feedback and ideas.

Lessons From Hollywood: A New Approach To Funding R&D

Could science-based industries benefit from a financing model similar to one used to make Hollywood movies? “We propose that a form of governance centered on the project rather than the company may be a more efficient way to organize innovation in science-based industries,” write the authors. Their proposal addresses the fact that traditional venture capital “wasn’t designed to deal with the costs, risks, and slow payout of science-based industries.”

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When Customers Become Fans

Beijing-based smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. has actively involved enthusiastic customers — known as “Mi Fans” — in both software and hardware development processes. Tech-savvy users test interfaces and products as volunteers, doing much of their communication on the Internet. Customer involvement in the product development life cycle has not only helped Xiaomi reduce R&D costs but also enabled the company to cultivate a sense of participation and pride among lead users.

Image of Elon Musk courtesy of Flickr user Maurizio Pesce

How Do Innovators Spot Market Opportunities?

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Executives need the ability to quickly spot both new opportunities and hidden risks. Asking the right questions can broaden perspective and shake up existing assumptions. For instance, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, has a noted ability to spot unmet market needs. Musk has said that his forward-thinking style, exemplified in his vision of commercializing electric vehicles for the mass market, comes from “just trying really hard — the first order of business is to try. You must try until your brain hurts.”

Developing Effective Intellectual Property Partnerships

All too often, companies from emerging and established economies talk past each other when discussing intellectual property. The result is that often fail to consider all their options for a productive collaboration. The authors detail five ways that companies can structure such IP partnerships, and say that it’s important for a company to choose the one that’s the best fit for the project: “The choice of IP business models is a strategic decision, not merely a legal matter.”

One Critical Strategy New Products Often Overlook

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“New industries are characterized by an early period of confusion and uncertainty about use and meaning, which brings about a proliferation of category labels that attempt to describe the new products,” write Fernando F. Suarez and Stine Grodal, both of Boston University School of Management. Ideally, companies want to time their entry into a new industry to when a dominant category label emerges, but not every product can enter the market at the ideal time. Three strategies identified by Suarez and Grodal can help new products make the most of any timing.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jah. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jahdakinebrah/3669752502

The Easy Industry Research Hardly Anybody Uses

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Before introducing a new product to an emerging industry, companies should track the evolution of category labels in that industry. “Once you understand the nature of category labels and how they evolve, you can fairly easily track them,” write Fernando F. Suarez and Stine Grodal, both of Boston University School of Management. “But few companies do.”

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How to Tee Up Choices: The Upside of Default Rules

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How much choice do people really want? Asking people to make their own choices requires time and focus — there’s all those options to consider. Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein writes that default rules, which establish starting points for everything from rental car agreements to health insurance plans, can save people time and keep them from being overwhelmed by too much choice.

Mastering the ‘Name Your Product Category’ Game

When is the best time to enter a new industry? As it turns out, understanding the product category dynamics in an emerging industry and when a dominant category label has been introduced are important to identifying the “window of opportunity” to enter. Dominant category labels typically are introduced right before the industry starts a phase of rapid growth and consolidation. Companies would do well to track category labels before introducing a product in a nascent industry.

Innovation Lessons From China

China is becoming the best place to learn how to make ideas commercially viable, even as many multinational companies are growing increasingly wary of doing business there because of concerns about unfair competition and theft of intellectual property. Chinese companies excel at cost reduction, accelerated product development and networked production — and know how to assess what they can do and quickly find partners to fill the gaps.

How Procter & Gamble Uses External Ideas For Internal Innovation

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Using its own version of open innovation called Connect + Develop, Procter & Gamble is now accessing externally developed intellectual property to accelerate internal innovation. Its Live Well Collaborative, for instance, was founded by Procter & Gamble and the University of Cincinnati with the goal of specializing in research and development of products and services for the 50+ market.

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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Image courtesy of the World Economic Forum/Flickr.

Creating Societal Benefits and Corporate Profits

The odds of launching a new business that creates value for both the company and the public can be improved with good planning. An in-depth analysis of how four companies created for-profit initiatives that also have high societal value suggests that each followed a similar step-by-step process to achieve what the researchers call synergistic value creation. Those steps include establishing cross-business incubators and installing multi-perspective monitoring systems.

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?

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.

A Little Competition Brings Out Astonishing Innovation

Contests can be big motivators for getting people to bring all their creativity to the table. The Oil Cleanup X Challenge, for instance, shows how an organization can generate new solutions to a known problem. Companies vied for a $1.4 million prize in 2011 to come up with a product to recover oil from the surface of the sea. The winner, Elastec/American Marine, is now preparing to bring its winning design to market.

Image courtesy of Astrobotic Technology.

Spurring Innovation Through Competitions

Rather than seeking in-house solutions to problems, companies are increasingly turning to contests to generate many diverse ideas. The authors write that companies are finding “that many of the very best ideas lie outside their organizations, in an ecosystem of potential innovators who possess wide-ranging skills and knowledge.” But the advantages of using competitions to pursue innovation must be set against the potential costs and risks.

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