Consider a recent transformation at Procter & Gamble. Once a hotbed of creativity, P & G had in recent years seen the number of its product innovations decline significantly.
Creativity In New Product Development
Consider a recent transformation
at Procter & Gamble. Once a hotbed of creativity, P & G had in recent
years seen the number of its product innovations decline significantly. In
response, the company established Corporate New Ventures, a small
cross-functional team that embodies creativity – enhancing practices.
In terms of challenge for
instance, members of the CNV team were allowed to elect themselves. How better
to make sure someone is intrinsically motivated for an assignment than to ask
for volunteers? Building a team from volunteers, it should be noted, was a
major departure from standard P & G procedures.
Members of the CNV team also were
given a clear, challenging strategic goal: to invent radical news products that
would build the company’s future. Again departing from typical P & G
practices, the team was given enormous latitude around how, when and where they
approached their work.
In the three years since its
inception. CNV has handed off II projects to the business sectors for
execution. And as of early 1998, those products were beginning to flow out of
the pipeline. The first product, design to provide portable heat for several
hours relief of minor pain, was already in test marketing. And six other
products were slated to go to test market within a year. Not surprisingly,
given CNV’s success, P & G is beginning to expand both the size and the
scope of its CNV venture.
a. Flexible Product Design for New Product Development
Product design is fast emerging
as a force in the new ICE – age economy – for Internet devices, Websites,
office equipment and even household gadgets. All these technological changes
are reducing the product life cycle and bringing in more and more
design innovation. The market that has taken most of the beating is an
electronic gadget, be it computers pocket devices or phones. Trendier, more
vibrant than the earlier versions, they are getting smaller too.
The shift towards sleek devices
has come from the need for physical mobility, something that is crucial with
almost all these gadgets. Studies indicate that the shift has more to do with
analysis on human interaction with the devices. Product designs, today, focus
on aspects of functionality, unlike the time when designs were incorporated to
have a product extension in the market.
The best product example to
describe this is the hands- free option that most third generation cellular
phones carry. Whether it is as simple as a pen or as complicated as a keyboard
that can be folded and carried in the pocket, design is changing the way products
are looked at. Another field that is witnessing a lot of design change is
pharmaceutical and medicine and medical equipment. With new technological
improvements and design innovations, one gets to know his or her blood pressure
with a guage attached to one’s watch.
The watch gives out danger
signals each time the pressure varies beyond the specified standards. It is
amazing how quickly designers are able to conceptualize designs that are then
incorporated into products. With designs playing such an important role in
product differentiation, design specifications will change beyond imagination –
Product design, the painstaking
process by which prototypes are developed and specifications are created and
implemented in actual production, is an integral part of any business strategy.
For the process to work effectively, every aspect of each activity related to
the product and its life cycle must be taken into account.
These include supplier
involvement, customer involvement, manufacturability, cost, time, management,
usability, marketability and disassembly or recyclability. With such
wide-ranging elements coming to play, a well – thought out design can provide a
company with the competitive edge needed for achieving greater profits and
higher market share. Organizations are always looking for better ways to design
Intel, for example, has emphasized design
ethnography, which focuses on understanding the customer and the culture in
which a product is used. The world wide web is increasingly used for product
design activities such as finding information on parts and materials, sharing
designs among people, automating design sign-off ’s and linking geographically
dispersed designed teams.
Majority of Chief Executives
believe that design issues will be of increasing competitive importance in the
coming years. Many product failures – even those by otherwise successful
companies – might have been avoided if better product design methods were used.
Author Tom Peters coined the phrase “design mindfulness” to refer to the
benefits of a committed creative, an energetic focus on great design.
b. Integrating Consumer and Designer Preferences
Improved product design can be
achieved by taking the viewpoints of both designers and consumers into account.
In conventional product design, the marketing department sends consumers
preferences to the designer, who then creates a design to meet those
preferences. A delicate balance must be struck between the struck between the
consumer and the designer since plans based solely on consumer preferences may
be unfeasible or unrealistic.
Designers acting alone, on the
other hand, may come up with a product that is a technological marvel, but that
consumers see as silly and unusable. Consumer’s decision-making processes are
not perfect and may given an inaccurate picture of preferences. They often
think in terms of abstract goals that are difficult to translate into product
features. A lack of expertise or incomplete consideration of alternatives can
also lead consumers to make choices based on vague preferences, rather than
considering ways to realize concrete operation benefits that would realized
with greater experience and exploration.
Designers can make up for some of
the short-comings of consumer input, since they usually understand more about
future technologically possibilities and look at a longer time line. They are
also in a better position to know that competitors might offer. For example,
consumers may desire a “user – friendly” personal computer that is easy to get
started with, but the designer realizes the computer should also meet
longer – term needs. Therefore, designers should have the freedom to create
innovative product designs that not only meet current user requirements but are
also up to the demands of future consumer expectations. This give and take
requires a delicate balance between designers and consumers since research has
shown a high correlation between inadequate feedback from users and the failure
of a new product containing technical innovations.
Striking a Balance between Consumers and Designers
The way a consumer looks at
product attributes is usually much different from the way a designer looks at
product “characteristics”. For example, a consumer may want a boat to be fast,
but a designer looks at characteristics that affect the speed of the boar, such
as engine size and full shape. A distinction can be made between product
characteristics and attributes: Product characteristics physically define the
product and influence the formation of product attributes; product attributes
define consumer perceptions and are usually fewer in number and more abstract
than product characteristics.
Past product design research has
focused on optimization with respect to either consumer attributes or designer
characteristics. However, both the consumer and the designer will benefit from
a balanced design. Plans based solely on consumer attributes ignore the
relationship between attributes and characteristics; using only designer characteristics
inadequately accounts for the consumer’s preferences. A better approach to
product design would account for the relationship between the two.
In other words, what design
characteristics would bring about the desired consumer attributes? In short,
translating consumer attributes into the appropriate and corresponding design
characteristics can optimize product design. This is the great benefit of
multi-source product design: it optimizes both sides of the equation
d. The Future Of New Products Management
In the new millennium, we are
seeing more segmentation there will be even more competition for almost
everyone than there is today; and life cycles of products will continue to get
shorter or stay short. Similarly, most of the forces acting to increase the costs of
innovation will remain high or will increase. In most instances productivity
will increase as all producers focus so intently on it as the path to lower
costs and higher-quality product. On the positive side, three forces acting to
at least partially forces acting to at least partially offset the negative
forces described above.
All three of these positive
forces will get stronger, not weaker. The first, technology, is the strongest
of all it can and that there is little left to invent, we know that this simply
not so. Computerization, automated manufacturing, molecular biology, fiber
optics and surface ceramics are just a few of many fields that offer what
almost certainly will be more technological opportunities in the next 25 years
than in the past 50.
Molecular biology has the
potential for outstripping anything else done so far in this century. Moreover,
there is an amazing move to invest large sums of money in older technologies,
especially in the so-called mature industries. And as a final plus
international opportunity continues to grow and contribute new markets, new
skills and new concepts of management.
The second positive force is the
general willingness of consumers to accept new items – otherwise there is
absolutely no basis for forecasting. And third, management’s general capability
has been growing almost exponentially, particularly by taking advantage of the
many MBAs entering the work force and the wide array of continuing education
opportunities for managers today. The combined results of these negative and
positive forces are mixed, of course, but the negatives had no perceived effect
on the development and marketing of home video systems or on the development of
new drugs in recent years.
Tags : MARKETING MANAGEMENT - New Products Development Strategies
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