As a society, we love inventions. Americans are enamored with the idea that we can go into our garages and walk out with an electronic device, like Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard did in 1939. (Hewlett and Packard’s first successful product was a precision audio oscillator.) Inventing something like the iPod™ or Windows® really put Steve Jobs and Bill Gates into the limelight as great “inventors”.
Unfortunately, as they say in the movies, “it ain’t that easy.”
Computers and electronic devices, mp3 players, and software are not just inventions, they are useful inventions. In the field of New Product Development (NPD), we call a useful invention an innovation.
You see, innovations require more than just tinkering in the garage and coming up with a cool, new technology. Innovations require a market, a business proposition, and yes, a profit. Inventions only become important in society once someone else buys the product or service.
Packard, Hewlett, Jobs, and Gates knew that besides getting the technology right, they had to find a market in which the electronic devices, mp3 player or software would be useful. In NPD, we call this strategic alignment.
Innovation requires a disciplined set of steps. These instructions are followed to ensure an idea can be brought to market successfully. These steps include:
- Divergent thinking about the problem to be solved,
- Convergent thinking to narrow a wide field of results to a few, attractive solutions that are progressed forward,
- Market research through “camping out with your customer,” surveys, or other methods to ensure the identified solutions meet end-user needs,
- Technical development and scale-up for the idea to a quality, repeatable manufacturing process, and
- Commercial launch of the product (or platform) at a time and place in a market that delivers top-line growth.
- Repeat above steps.
Innovation is not easy. There are no magic bullets. It takes a lot of people, performing tasks in a specific order, focusing on milestones and deliverables, to launch a successful product in a globally competitive marketplace.
And only, only when the new product reaches the market and is accepted by potential customers is a useful invention an innovation.
This week take a look at your new product pipeline of ideas. Are the ideas inventive? Are the ideas also innovative??
Image of oscilloscope courtesy of Flickr.
Image of dice courtesy of Freefoto.
© 2011 Global NP Solutions, LLC