My computer crashed this week. It’s always an inopportune time for things like that to happen. And, the outlook is sobering – a phone call to the manufacturer with a detailed description of symptoms leads us to believe the computer suffered a catastrophic failure of the motherboard. I think this is a little like a fatal heart attack in a human being.
Lucky for me, I am very diligent in backing up important files. Still I’ve spent hours re-installing software on a temporary computer just to move ahead slightly.
I hope that your New Product Development (NPD) Portfolio is backed up so that you can move ahead, and more than move ahead slightly. Constantly adding innovative ideas to your NPD Portfolio through idea generation and combing both internal and external sources can keep the idea pipeline full. You never know when a project that looked promising will “crash”, just like my computer did.
Some ways to keep your pipeline full of new ideas are:
- Make sure that Customer Service and Technical Service representatives are religiously documenting customer visits and interactions in your Customer Management System. In this way, an NPD team can mine the data at any time to find ideas or groups of ideas for product improvements and enhancements. Make sure that the Customer Service and Technical Service personnel are invited to Brainstorming sessions since these folks are the closest to your customers and will have the best insight to that end-users’ wants and needs.
- Hold periodic New Idea Fairs. Here in Houston, the entire city goes crazy when the Rodeo hits town. Take that theme and hold a New Idea Fair for a couple of days in the lobby of your R&D Center or office building. Set up a few tables or posters highlighting your company’s core competencies and recent market offerings. Put an old-fashioned Suggestion Box on each table. Make sure that senior scientists are available throughout the session and can screen ideas that come in this way. You never know if the quiet new kid, a mature staff support person, or the janitor may have an idea that sparks creativity in the organization.
- Open Innovation and Mass Collaboration are new ways to throw your idea out to the technology public at large. Your company should, of course, continue to support university research relationships and joint development efforts with existing partners. But are there technical solutions already sitting on yet2.com or other sites that are crying out for your problem to solve? Many industry giants across the spectrum are finding that open innovation offers a source of ideas unprecedented in volume and quality from the old days of pure in-house R&D.
- Don’t forget to talk to your suppliers. They are especially helpful in finding ways to cut costs and may have new offerings that can grow your own firm’s product offerings. If your confidentiality agreements allow, it’s inspiring for the NPD team to have both suppliers and customers participate in their brainstorming sessions.
Finally, don’t forget the reward and incentive program. If you have a bunch of really smart scientists working for your company giving birth to new product ideas on a regular basis, you probably want to keep these folks around for a long time. PDMA’s best practices show that with high performing teams, clear strategy, well-run NPD processes, and effective portfolio management, approximately one of every 4 ideas can turn into a successful new product that delivers profit in the marketplace.
So, my advice is to give some thought on how you are backing up your innovation system. Are you filling your pipeline with great ideas? Are ideas coming from inside and outside your company? Are you sufficiently tapping all resources for new ideas? It sure is a lot easier to have the back-up plans for innovation than to having to re-build. Take it from me, I’ve got experience right here with my computer!
originally posted 25 Feb 2010
image of computer courtesy of Flickr
image of file cabinet courtesty of Flickr
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