Even though autumn is soon upon us, I have started another “spring cleaning” project. Spring cleaning, to me, means going into every corner, nook, and cranny to organize and tidy up. More than anything, spring cleaning means to eliminate all the clutter, all the useless stuff, and to refresh and reorganize. I’m really happy to see the wastebasket overflow since it is a sign of success for spring cleaning!
We need to go deep in our innovation reorganization, too, and remove the clutter and waste. Over time, processes get bulky and bureaucratic causing new products to lose their luster in the marketplace. Worse, our team members and customers drag their feet through the chaos, not sure what to do.
Removing just three wastes in innovation can refresh and reorganize your new product development (NPD) processes. By eliminating clutter in these three areas, you’ll see refreshed and revitalized NPD teams and processes and happier, more satisfied customers.
Waste #1 – Time
Time is so easy to waste but it is perhaps the costliest of all innovation wastes because it is completely unrecoverable. If we spend one minute on an activity, we can never, ever recover that minute. Therefore, for successful NPD, we have to plan our time to be productive and work to eliminate all time wasters.
What are some examples of time waste in innovation? Long meetings without decisions. Repetitive, duplicate discussions. R&D that does not support strategic goals. Email chains without actions. All of these items are time wasters that drain the energy of team members and fail to advance a project.
The most important use of our time as new product development practitioners and innovation professionals is to refine our craft. We need to understand customer needs and build empathy for their pain points. Solution generation for innovation means going to the R&D lab only after we have gathered in-depth customer data. Involving customers throughout the design and development process saves time because we are able to continuously gain end-user feedback to ensure customer satisfaction. Spending time to build customer insights is a remedy to wasted time in innovation.
Waste #2 Money
There’s an old saying that says where our money goes is where our time goes. So, if your innovation program is wasting time in designing products without customer feedback, you can bet you are wasting money in the same way! Investing in feature development for a new product without spending productive time to truly understand customer needs is a waste of money.
We also see waste of money in the overdesign of products and services. Putting lots of bells and whistles into a product can be a waste of money. You’ll have to spend more to manufacture and sell the product, but simple is often a better answer. Can you simplify an existing product to market a sleek and sophisticated solution instead? Can you save money by minimizing packaging? Can you reduce financial waste by first understanding the scope and scale of customer needs?
Waste #3 Talent
To me, wasted talent is almost as bad as wasted time. We can never recover wasted time and it is very, very difficult to recover lost knowledge and people skills. Many firms succeed at innovation because of their differentiation in talent development. What do they do to ensure there are no wastes in talent?
First, talent development means Building Effective Cross-Functional Teams for innovation. Skills, such as marketing and engineering, need balancing for each project effort. Moreover, the work styles of team members need to balance one another as well. For example, at the beginning of a project, you need a lot of creative input, but as a new product goes to commercialization, you need to have team members focused on execution.
Next, talent development requires education and training the team members in the NPD processes, the team member’s functional expertise, and technology. Technology is changing at a rapid rate with AI and machine learning while markets are becoming more universal and mobile. Functional experts must stay on top of the latest emerging trends that impact their work. Likewise, Agile project management processes are leading to more flexibility and adaptability in designing new products in a globally competitive environment.
Finally, as electronic communications infiltrate our personal and professional lives, we need to learn to work together in collaborative and cohesive teams. Our Virtual Team Model (VTM) offers five (5) elements and sixteen (16) practices to help remote and dispersed team members build trust and to accelerate time-to-market for innovation work. Face-to-face teams also need to build trust, commitment and accountability.
Eliminate Waste in Innovation
Reorganizing and rejuvenating our living spaces with spring cleaning results in freshness and cleanliness, bringing order where there was once chaos and clutter. By eliminating waste in innovation, we can also refresh and reinvigorate our NPD teams. First, we have to eliminate time wasters: unproductive meetings, run on emails, and misaligned projects.
Next, we eliminate waste of money. Wasted time is the same as wasted money, so innovations must focus on customer needs. Nurturing customer relationships teaches the NPD team what really matters, and such feedback leads to improved product design. Innovation team should only go to the lab after gathering in-depth customer insights to save money and time!
Finally, one of the saddest wastes in innovation is wasted talent. Instead of using serial development with bureaucratic checkpoints, involve your teams in collaborative discovery. By matching team members skills and expertise with project needs, you can motivate and inspire higher level work. And when the NPD team is more productive, time-to-market accelerates and customer satisfaction rises.
How Do You Eliminate Innovation Waste?
How can you eliminate waste in your innovation programs today? First, learn how to build effective, cross-functional teams. Our next free webinar is 27 September at noon CDT (1 pm EDT, 10 am PDT). Register now – we won’t waste your time!
Next, ramp up your own skills as an innovation leader. Join the Innovation Master Mind group. We are hosting a free webinar pilot on 22 November 2019 at noon CST (1 pm EST, 10 PST). Register here. You will learn from other innovation professionals and also share your successes in NPD to help others. Contact me at area code 281 phone 280-8717 or at email@example.com for more information.
© Global NP Solutions
Building Innovation Leaders