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I recently did a webinar with Roy Wildeman, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, on how you can minimize risk in product innovation by addressing gaps in your new product development processes. If you make it to the end of the post, you'll see how I make the connection to square dancing.
Roy's assertion was that companies are planning to innovate by introducing new products and services to market (90% agreed or strongly agreed on this point in an August 2008 Forrester Research survey of global strategy and marketing professionals). Yet, the success rate for new products is modest at best. Here are a few of the figures he shared:
15% of new product development projects fail outright, 51% are challenged. (Standish)
Half of resources spent on product development are spent on products that fail. (2003 Harvard Business School Cyberposium)
Only 67% of originally defined features show up in the finished product, of those 45% are never used. (Standish)
90% of electronics components function as designed, 50% of them fail when integrated with their systems. (IEEE Design Magazine)
The resources spent on unsuccessful products naturally divert resources from the successful ones. By improving innovation processes, companies can reduce mistakes and inefficiencies to improve the chances of products hitting the mark, and during the right window of market opportunity.
Companies also stand to make great gains by bringing their customers deeper into the product innovation process. Broadening ideation practices to include internal and external audiences (employees, customers, partners, etc.) can expand innovative thinking even further.
One challenge posed by an attendee is making sense of all the incoming ideas and picking the good ones from the bad. Having a well-defined screening process is important to make sure capturing ideas doesn't become an unwieldy, inefficient process itself.
For ideas that pass initial screening (this can be automated to adjust the incoming flow), you can then triage, route and evaluate them. This should become part of a daily routine - going through backlogs at periodic intervals has a number of drawbacks I won't go into in this post. Roy pointed out that:
Over 75% of innovation leaders have clear ways to define & prioritize ideas. (Capgemini Consulting, "Innovation leader or Laggard?" report)
Another great attendee question was about agile principles and whether these lessons oppose the position that people trump process. Roy's response was that you need to combine people and process, and product innovation software can make human interaction more effective.
It's a lot like square dancing. There's a process that keeps everyone moving in a harmonious, streamlined manner, but there's still room for creativity and innovation. You're not stepping on each other's toes (literally!) or bumping into each other because the groundwork is set for how everyone will be in motion, as teams (or dance partners) and as a whole.