The art of new product development

A NPI (new product introduction) structure or methodology can help cross-functional team members follow specific steps in a coordinated way through a product development process that fits the business objectives and its culture. However, new product development is not a science; I would argue it is more of an art.

Business leaders need to recognize that even the most bullet proof process will not account for the complexity, fast-paced, technological changes and stiff global competitive environment we live in. Decisions need to be made faster and projects need to be shorter in scope in order to deliver quick results and adapt to change.

As such, new product development projects need a leader who appreciates that a process should be in place (science) and can combine this knowledge with leadership skills (art). These “art” skills are:

  • An inquiring mind and the desire to learn and grow;
  • The ability to network internally and externally on a continuous basis to test assumptions and keep in touch with what is going on;
  • The ability to motivate teams to keep projects moving forward despite changes or failures;
  • An understanding that value needs to be created for a project to be successful (it’s not just about meeting budgets and timelines);
  • The ability to see synergies between what appears to be disparate technologies , products or services to create more value for customers;
  • Someone who can synthesize complex information into simple statements for quick adoption / quick understanding;
  • A good listener and collaborator who can engage team members in participating in idea generation and in gathering market information;
  • The ability to create and deliver succinct and well-thought out presentations to leaders.

I would say the art of new product development is much more important than the science although the science is needed to. The ratio is probably 80/20: 80% art, 20% science.

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