New Product Development Process

New Product Development Process One of the two key processes in Robert’s Rules of Innovation is the NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS. A formalized, NPD process – also referred to and best practice: the Stage Gate™ Process – is a must, from simple to sophisticated. Overall, it is important that the NPD process must be a cross-business function – all business functions must be aware of the process. The process, in essence, has two key elements. Investigate more about the NPD process in the book, Robert’s Rules of Innovation.

Creating a Structured, Repeatable Process For Innovation

Established companies do not easily reinvent themselves.  History shows us that Innovation is often the strategy of startups – but not only is it important in getting to the top, innovation is necessary in order to stay on top. New talent, new techniques, and new products are all needed to stay abreast of the competition. In addition, having a champion within the organization is imperative. Innovation executives are often the facilitator of change, and the leaders responsible for the development of corporate innovation culture.

Recently McKinsey Quarterly published an article entitled, “The eight essentials of innovation,” by Marc de Jong, Nathan Marston, and Erik Roth. The article highlights a set of eight essential attributes from a survey of 300 companies that are present (either in part or in full) at every large company considered a high performer in product, process, or business-model innovation. The first four essentials help build the foundation for innovation. They are: Aspire, Choose, Discover, and Evolve. The next four ensure that innovation is not only successful, but repeatable as well. They are: Accelerate, Extend, Scale, and Mobilize.

The following is a quick summary of the first four attributes, with insight from the 10 imperatives laid out in “Robert’s Rules of Innovation”. You can read the full article published by McKinsey Here.

Whether it’s 8 essentials or 10 imperatives; having a structured and repeatable process from start to finish helps to ensure innovation is not only successful, it is repeatable and sustainable.


Aspire: According to De Jong, Marston, and Roth, “A far-reaching vision can be a compelling catalyst, provided it’s realistic enough to stimulate action today.”

Innovation and ideation is pointless without buy-in and support from top management, usually the CEO, who should acts as the chief innovation officer (CINO). As Robert Safian, editor of Fast Company says, “Inspiration Needs Execution”.  Define innovation so the entire organization is moving in the same direction. Quantify your goal, whether it’s a sales figure or number of new products you hope to achieve, and this will help justify the resources to be allocated.


Choose: “Since no one knows exactly where valuable innovations will emerge, and searching everywhere is impractical, executives must create some boundary conditions for the opportunity spaces they want to explore.”

While creativity and ideas can be found in numerous places and in numerous ways, how you manage them determines the viability of a product or process. Ideation should be harnessed by a process with dedicated resources, and with NPD and LTD teams working together.


Discover: “The insight-discovery process, which extends beyond a company’s boundaries to include insight-generating partnerships, is the lifeblood of innovation.”

Keep an eye on new technologies as they come along, but at the same time, you must be aware of your customer’s wants and needs. It isn’t enough to tell your customer what they want, sometimes you have to listen too.


Evolve: “Business-model innovations—which change the economics of the value chain, diversify profit streams, and/or modify delivery models—have always been a vital part of a strong innovation portfolio.”

According to Doblin’s “Ten Types of Innovation”, creating new products is only one way to innovate – and on its own, it provides the lowest return on investment and the least competitive advantage.


Accelerate: “There’s a balance to be maintained: bureaucracy must be held in check, yet the rush to market should not undermine the cross-functional collaboration, continuous learning cycles, and clear decision pathways that help enable innovation.” As the authors relay, Innovation must have the ability to move through an organization in a way that creates and maintains competitive advantage, without exposing a company to unnecessary risk.

Suffice to say that companies are not naturally inclined to try new approaches without clear evidence that those approaches are likely to work. However, without risk, there can be no innovation. An effective innovation leader should encourage well-reasoned creativity and risk taking, while also practicing tolerance for failure. Fail fast and fail cheap, the saying goes. In 2014 Amazon’s innovation efforts fell short; and sure, Fast Company might have put them in the penalty box, leaving them off the list of “the 50 most innovative companies in 2015″ – but Amazon’s place in the market is all but guarunteed. In fact, even with the kerfuffle, Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos are still a force to be reckoned with.


How would you answer the following questions in McKinsey’s Survey?



For more in-depth guidelines on how to promote innovation in your business, refer to Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Be sure to keep an eye out for the forthcoming Robert’s Rules of Innovation II, “The Art of Implementation.” 

How Does Your Company Match Up to the GE Innovation Barometer?


The GE Global Innovation Barometer conducts annual surveys to put a finger on the pulse of innovation around the world. The survey was conducted earlier this year with over 3,200 high level business executives from over 26 countries participating. The executives surveyed are those chiefly responsible for their company’s innovation development.   This year’s survey touched on 5 key points. It comes as no surprise that many of these points reiterate Robert’s Rules of Innovation®, the imperative on how to Create and Sustain Innovation.

Disruption Ready: Two-thirds polled believe that they must disrupt their internal processes in order to search for the “new kind of talents, technologies and partners”, they need for innovation success. What does this come down to?  Sometimes, you have to shake things up to create innovation.  Robert’s Rule of NO RISK NO INNOVATION reminds organizations to embrace the possibility of failure, and encourage well-reasoned risk taking. See Failure as a learning experience!

Champions of organizational Innovation must have, and encourage, a tolerance for failure and enthusiasm for risk taking. Risk requires investment (people, time, capital), and willingness to invest without ROI assurance.

Collaboration – In 2013 only 38% of executives felt that collaboration with other parties would be successful.  Many executives feared the backlash of collaboration concerning the protection of intellectual property.  However in 2014, 77% of innovation executives felt that the risk was worth taking.

OBSERVE AND MEASURE; Make sure objectives and reward systems are aligned to get the collaboration that is needed.

IDEA MANAGEMENT is about ideation, also known as the idea management process. Much of the focus of this imperative is how to break down silo’s and pack the front end of innovation with a ample ideas waiting in the hopper. Diverse internal teams fuel ideation, but companies should also consider breaking down the walls around their organization to co-create and collaborate with outside parties.

Big Data – 69% of executives that use “big data” feel that it adds value to the innovation process.  What gets measured gets done” in Robert’s Rules of Innovation OBSERVE AND MEASURE.

When creating innovation, it is vital to set metric goals and track these metrics. Observation and measurement – in terms of the performance of the program implementation needs to be built-in as a recurring element. Look for Leading and Lagging indicators, not just lagging!

Future Talent – The importance of talent is a priority among executives, up 6 points to 79% over last year.  INSPIRE AND INITIATE, one of Robert’s Rules of Innovation enforces the idea that management champions of innovation can create inspiring work environments.  Employers that inspire and initiate can retain current talent and will be attractive to future talent.  REWARD, Innovation is all about ROI but make sure employees get recognized and rewarded…

External Framework – This follows Robert’s Rules of Innovation – TRAINING AND COACHING. Innovation executives are often the facilitator of change, and the leaders responsible for the development of corporate innovation culture. These innovation leaders are accountable to assemble teams that will lead them to optimal ROI’s.

In addition to alleviating the amount of government red tape that hinders innovation, the barometer shows that executives also desire current and future business needs top be factored into current college curricula.


The GE Global Innovation Barometer measures many of the imperatives to Robert’s Rules of Innovation.  Without taking risks, successful innovation cannot be created or sustained.  Innovation leaders must inspire and initiate as a model for current employees to follow and so that future talent can be recruited.  Innovation must be observed and measured to track failures and successes.  Once a successful innovation process is in place, training and coaching becomes a critical factor of sustainable innovation.

You can learn more about the 10 imperatives of Robert’s Rules of Innovation here. Robert Brands is the founder of and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation”: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman, published by Wiley.

The Sharp Edge of Innovation

It is no hidden secret that innovation is a necessity to compete in today’s marketplace. Often hailed as the Holy Grail for which every organization should strive for, sustainable innovation requires a strategy from start to finish. From the “I” of Inspiration to the “N” of Net Result, you must commit yourself to the process in order to succeed.

But what happens when your innovation journey hits a dead end?

It’s worth noting that failure is an inherent component of this epic journey, and one which innovation champions need to be ready to celebrate as much as their successes. However, it is important to know which road you are traveling on. Are you on the way to the next evolutionary step or an innovation dead end?


In 1901 King C. Gillette fundamentally transformed shaving with the invention of the first safety razor. “The idea of clamping a smaller version of a straight edge onto a handle was genius – the blade was easier to control, which resulted in fewer nicks and cuts, and was replaceable when it became dull,” says Gillette’s website.

Since then we have seen the safety razor go through numerous innovations. From reusable to disposable, from one blade to five, and most recently back to one.

In a forum post from Badger and Blade, they asked their readers what innovations they want to see in 2013. One contributor left this amusing (although a bit facetious) recommendation, “I want to see the newest Gillette multi-cartridge thing. I’ve heard it has 12 blades, a lubricating strip that is 3 inches wide, 18 lifting fins and battery power to make it vibrate. I’ve also heard they put an MP3 player in the newest one…”

To be fair, the most recent razor released by Gillette is indeed battery operated. The Fusion Pro-Glide has five new and improved blades, a micro comb, an updated lubricating strip which lasts “25% longer,” and now has mineral oil to deliver the perfect shave.

The comment begs the question… where can Gillette go from here?

Most recently, in an effort to push into emerging markets, Gillette’s newest shaving system has just one blade, a light plastic handle, and a sharply (no pun intended) lower price. It seems Gillette is stepping away from product innovations and instead focusing on the low road, seeking to increase its market share by pursuing innovations in product delivery instead.

According to Tim Barrett, who follows the men’s grooming industry for Euromonitor, “U.S. razor volumes have fallen for the better part of a decade as customers cut back”. Jamie Hopkins for the Baltimore Sun points to the rising popularity of facial hair as one of the many reasons, but Barrett believes a negative feedback loop is the main driver. “Gillette raised prices to deal with lower sales, customers reacted by using fewer razors, and so Gillette raised prices”, he said. Now Gillette is focusing on new markets.

According to Doblin’s “Ten Types of Innovation”, creating new products is only one way to innovate, and on its own, it provides the lowest return on investment and the least competitive advantage.

What do you think this means for Gillette in the long run? Have they given up on creating the next big thing in shaving? Are they at a dead end? Or are they simply evolving as a company?

Leave your comments below…

8 Step Process Perfects New Product Development

airplaneEvery entrepreneur knows that productivity is one of the key ingredients for successful product development. One of the two key processes in Robert’s Rules of Innovation is the NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS. A formalized, NPD process – also referred to and best practice: the Stage Gate® Process – is a must, from simple to sophisticated. Here I will suggest an 8 step process which is fairly universal. Use it as a tool and adjust as necessary.

The New Product Development process is often referred to as The Stage-Gate innovation process, developed by Dr. Robert G. Cooper as a result of comprehensive research on reasons why products succeed and why they fail.

When teams collaborate in developing new innovations, having the following eight ingredients mixed into your team’s new product developmental repertoire will ensure that it’s overall marketability will happen relatively quick, and accurately – making everyone productive across the board.

To read more about the 8 steps to New Product Development: Please visit

Sustainable Innovation Meets Disruptive Innovation

Why is success so hard to sustain?

In order to succeed, everybody should be involved and engaged in innovation.  Innovation should be broad; from innovations in the product or offering, to innovations in the process, delivery, and/or finance.

For many years, innovation was seen as the development of new products. However, creating new products is only one way to innovate. “Initially developed in 1998, the Ten Types of Innovation showed that companies that integrate multiple types of innovation will develop offerings that are more difficult to copy and that generate higher returns.” – Doblin Group,

Much like Doblin’s innovation theory, Clayton Christensen, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School suggests another type of innovation as well; disruptive Innovation. According to Christensen, successful companies can put too much emphasis on customers’ current needs, and fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet customers’ unstated or future needs.

I recently met Dr. Smith, A Dentist in Memphis who really got the idea of service innovation in business. He offers his services in-office or from the comfort of the clients own home. A dentist that comes to you…

Read the entire article at:


*For more tips, see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation.”

*For a neat info-graphic about 7 disruptive innovations that turned their markets upside down, check out:

Five Key Innovation Questions to Ask

innovation2There are plenty of reasons to innovate. Especially now more than ever before, sustained Innovation is the means to developing marketplace showstoppers that lead to profitable growth. Innovation is not a luxury that can be placed on the back burner, even for today’s successful companies. So before beginning your next innovation effort, here are some key questions to consider for mapping out an effective innovation plan.

1. What type of innovation does your organization need?

The key to implementing innovation is first defining the type your organization needs. The hardest kind of innovation to manage is Breakthrough – which creates an entirely new way to deliver value. Few and far between, these game changers hold the greatest potential for business success. Most innovations are incremental, which can mean a tweak on an existing product, process, or service. Examining how your innovation effort fits into the current organization’s needs is critical at this go/no go checkpoint. (There is nothing wrong with focusing and starting with Incremental Innovation or Line Extensions, get some early wins, get the organization engaged and excited and create a structured repeatable process.)

2. Does your innovation satisfy customer needs?

Customer demand affects the successful outcome of your innovation. Beyond asking your customers what features they would like to see, ask them what their biggest concerns are and that will help shed light on the products and functionalities they require for a more successful innovation.

3. Who are your innovation champions?

The innovator-in-chief needs to truly champion this culture and drive it throughout the organization to make it happen. In order to defeat the devil’s advocates and become an agent for change, the leader must democratize the innovation process and select a group of people from different business groups, different backgrounds, and different skill sets joined together for a common purpose. He or she must engage, walk the talk and not just delegate the spiritual leadership. The companies with inspirational innovation leaders stand out with their results i.e Apple, Kohler, etc.

4. How will you measure success?

Innovation is ultimately about Return on Investment. It’s critical to use leading and lagging Key Performance Indicators, and observe and measure time spent on each segment of the new product development (NPD) process to see how it’s progressing. Leading Metrics used in the industry can include ideas generated, ideation sessions held, number of patents filed, and for lagging new products released, and percentage of sales due to new products.

5. How will success be rewarded?

With successful innovation comes profitable growth and a win-win situation for shareholders, employees, and customers alike. Incentives are needed for all participants on your NPD staff, and often times the key motivator is less financial than it is about recognition for a job well done. Motivation does not have to be about money – but it is necessary, so reward your people. They are your best innovation resource.

By focusing effort in the right places, companies can avoid oversight and increase their chance of innovation success. For more tips, see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation.”

Creativity Does Not Equal Innovation

creativity_and_innovationInnovation and Creativity are words that are at times used interchangeably in the research and development process, but they have two distinct meanings. While creativity is about coming up with the big idea, innovation is about executing the idea and making it a business success. Do not confuse the two. An organization can certainly have creativity without the right steps to implement innovation.

Innovation implementation calls for a robust, disciplined strategy. It can not be a one-time process, but must occur over and over again to form a steady flow of innovation that sustains long-term profitability. The only way to achieve that is by bringing focus, a road map, screening criteria, and checkpoints to the new product development (NPD) process.

Many innovation leaders are concerned that adding structure will dampen creativity, but in my experience, structure can actually free the creative spirit. By applying structure that adapts to the needs, size, and culture of an organization, a leader can draw both creativity and innovation out of its team members. Here are some tips for attaining that winning combination.

* Hold ideation sessions with a group of diverse and highly charged creative people in your organization – and be sure to keep any restraints off. Do not ignore or override any input from the team. Practical, real world filters can always be added later on, but you want to capitalize on all ideas early in the process.

* Keep track of meeting decisions and next steps. Delegate responsibility and encourage ownership.

* Use your motivational skills by creating clear and unwavering deadline pressure, while reinforcing and praising their incremental progress. Apply “Trust with verification”

* Give team members some incentive for their contributions and achievements. This does not necessarily have to be money – often recognition is a key driver for creative players in your organization; make them the initiative Champion, offer recognition among peers.

* Create an environment where mistakes are tolerated and free of punitive measures. Remember, the creative process is a ratio, so more attempts at success naturally equate to more failures along the way. Managing failure as a learning experience lets your creatives feel safe and empowered to do their best work.

* Provide regular feedback and keep the lines of communication open throughout the NPD process.

Last but not least consider some defined “Free Time” with unlimited creativity but accountability to report the outcome aligned with the company Vision, Mission and Strategy. For more tips on fostering innovation and creativity, see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival.” The ten imperatives are a useful guide for successfully starting, nurturing, and profiting from a culture of sustained innovation in the workplace.

Innovation Democratization: How to Get the Most Out of Your Team

One of the first steps of achieving Innovation in the new product development process is to assemble a team. While the organization’s leader may be tempted to call in “the usual suspects”, people with a history of success in that field, it is important at this point to include fresh faces in the group. Dr. Harlan Weisman, chief science and technology officer of Medical Devices & Diagnostics at Johnson & Johnson suggests connecting people who wouldn’t normally work together* – people from different business groups, backgrounds, and skill sets. Creating a diverse environment of both men and women from different geographic regions, ethnic groups, age groups, and from a variety of functions will offer greater insight. This type of crowdsourcing opens the arena for new ideas within the organization.

After all, the path to Innovation is not always linear. It needs different perspectives working together to achieve the end goal. In fact, the greater the Innovation, the more necessary it is to include fresh perspectives. A team of “usual suspects”, experts in their field driven by past successes, may be able to take a product or service to the next level and create an incremental benefit. However, to create true ground-breaking “disruptive technology”, the process must start from a blank slate.

Once the Innovation champion assembles a team of diverse people from all levels and business backgrounds, it is key to establish trust. Only an environment that allows openness and risk-taking can produce favorable results. With the right amount of patience and shepherding, the Innovation leader can break down barriers and guide the conversation to allow for everybody’s input.

Here are some tips for the Innovation leader:

  1. Trust people before they earn your precious trust; and not make your trust contingent upon proving loyalty to your ideas alone.
  2. Devise a way to create a “safe haven” environment to coax the best out of the quieter members of the group; there will be those who have great ideas but will be reticent about piping up.
  3. Open dialogues and collaborative relationships with local business groups, suppliers, customers, and universities.

Democratization cuts across traditional methods and produces an environment ripe for Innovation. For more tips, *see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival.”

Innovation: You Know You Want It, Now How to Implement It?

“Successful innovation is turning ideas into money,” as Innovation expert Nic Hunt so distinctly and accurately describes. Innovation is the ability to convert ideas into value for your company, customers and shareholders. Successful innovation is not a one time deal, but a process that delivers sustained, long term profitability. Any company can develop one or two innovations over the course of time, but having a focused vision will deliver sustainable innovation – producing profitable results for your company time and time again.

Implementing innovation depends on a disciplined strategy customized to the needs, size and culture of an organization. First determine what type of innovation you hope to achieve with your organization. Innovation can be incremental, which features a new process or way of doing business, or it can be transformative, which debuts an entirely new way to deliver value. Transformative innovations are few and far in between. These true game changers open up new businesses and markets. Organizations tend to use 80% of their resources on incremental enhancements, according to a 2003 study by the London School of Business. However, be warned that companies that focus entirely on incremental innovations have difficulty keeping up with new competitors that enter the field.

Understanding what your organization needs is very important in the New Product Development process. Know your innovation status and areas for improvement by completing a short audit at based on Robert’s Rules of Innovations.

Once you solidify the goals of your organization, it’s time to assemble your NPD team and begin the innovation process. Be sure to complete a few relatively easy wins with your team earlier on in the process. This will not only build equity for your  program, but also gain attention from the high-ups in the organization right away.

Each organization must create their own clearly defined stages and steps of the NPD process. Here are some tips and insights for best practices.

  •           Do we go/no go? Set specific criteria for ideas that should be continued or dropped. Stick to the agreed upon criteria so poor projects can be sent back to the idea-hopper early on.
  •          Lean, mean and scalable. During the NPD process, keep the system nimble and use flexible discretion over which activities are executed. You may want to develop multiple versions of your road map scaled to suit different types and risk levels of projects.
  •         The rear-view mirror review. Organizations are doing launch post-mortems, with performance metrics in place, to measure project performance, establish team accountability, and build in improvements for the future. An examination of your last innovation process can gain some valuable key learnings. Foster a culture of continuous improvement in the innovation process.

For more tips and guidelines on developing the right implementation strategy, see  Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival.


New Product Development Requires Fresh Perspective on ‘Creative’ and ‘Structure’

What exactly is new product development? Does the “product” actually have to be a product? Or can it be a process? Does the idea have to come from the C Suite? Or can it be a suggestion from the factory floor, the retail showroom, the Idea Box or a customer tip?

How do you treat ideas once they land in your organization’s “idea hopper”, and how wide is your idea funnel?

Answer these questions, and you’ve placed your finger on the pulse of how your organization embraces new product development.

NPD best blossoms in that place where creativity commingles with structure – where fresh thinking is fostered in a nursery of structured liberation. Think of ideas as if they were offspring: They should be free to roam and explore, but they need fences – structure – in their lives to ensure safe maturation in a controlled environment.

The same is true for NPD – regardless of whether products are widgets for sale or processes envisioned to improve the organization. A formalized new product development process will guide your organization towards Innovation through steps and “sub-steps” to help you make a Go / No-Go decision. Continue reading “New Product Development Requires Fresh Perspective on ‘Creative’ and ‘Structure’” »