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By Robert Brands

R&D, Marketing, Sales, Finance, IT – you’re familiar with the most common departments within a standard company, and have likely been involved with one or more. You know it can be a real challenge for unalike minds to understand where each other is coming from regarding any number of topics within a project. As an owner, you have to be the champion – the true driver of the process in order to create cross-divisional cohesion removing the silos.

First and foremost, never underestimate the importance of selecting associates who are passionate about your product (or service) and effort. Hiring employees who truly believe in your product and company possess an innate form of motivation, and are far less likely to derail your efforts if they aren’t being rewarded or recognized on a constant basis. Passionate associates always strive to give their top effort towards the cause. Choosing all employees this way will ensure that you’ve got a team that is ready and willing to cooperate.

1.       Assign specific tasks to a dedicated “owner.” Your associates will perform best when they feel as though they are essential members of the team. Not only is delegating crucial for organizational purposes, it has the welcome side effect of making each and every employee feel “special,” an invaluable reward all its own. This will also increase overall understanding and alignment by having defined innovation and mutual understanding of customer needs and wants, not just departmental needs. If you make each employee responsible for a specific task, each will feel like an equally vital part of the process, helping to create cohesion.

2.       Set specific goals: As the leader, it is up to you to create commonality and a common goal like “at least one new product per year.”

3.       Create common incentives: Create a common bond by having like objectives and incentive payouts for good results, like offering a new product sales bonus as a percentage of turnover.

Creating cohesion across all departments within your company is a challenge every business owner faces. But if you follow the aforementioned innovation rules, you are guaranteed to encourage mutual respect and cohesion among members from all divisions. For more additional tips on how to create the best possible team for your company, look for Robert’s Rules of Innovation.

Robert is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman published by Wiley. Helping to Evaluate, Improve and Deliver Innovation through 10 Imperatives that Create and Sustain “New” in Business or Organization.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Robert Brands

 No matter if it’s a test score, sports game result or a sales figure, what we measure is what goes down in history. After all, “what’s measured is treasured.”
It’s human nature to look back at past results as a basis for comparison and for improvement in the future. For this reason, it is absolutely essential to carefully observe and measure performance in the New Product Development process. In each of the different stages of the process, keep track of how much time is being spent so you know if you are ahead or behind schedule compared to past NPD cycles.

What gets measured is what gets done. Therefore, it’s necessary to set leading and lagging indicators for how the NPD process is going. Leading indicators such as the number of new ideas in the database, number of projects in the hopper, patents applied to, and amount of time and resources spent are all important information that give you insight on the NPD progress. Lagging indicators could include number of new products introduced, patents granted, new product sales in the first three years after launch, and how close your team is getting to the goal of introducing “at least one new product per year.”

By the way the traditional measurement of % of R&D spend is no guarantee for success!

Things will not always go as planned so now is the opportunity to make corrective actions. By measuring performance, you will be able to address your team on what’s working and what’s not for continuous improvement.

Success in product development is seen as one of the top indicators of the future performance of a company. To sustain Innovation, companies need to continuously improve their new product development capabilities. Quantitative and qualitative measurements of new product development will lend insights into a company’s strengths and weaknesses.

Measuring performance doesn’t stop after your product is launched. Now it’s time to measure the fruits of your labor. Some very important and telling information can be collected during the first three years after the launch of a product. In a survey of 200 companies that design and develop new products, they shared these key performance indicators.

1. Measure Research & Development spending as a percentage of your total sales.

2. Look at your total number of patents filed, pending, awarded and rejected.

3. Track your total R&D head count, hours or days spend.

4. Measure the current year percentage of sales due to new products released in the past year, past three years, and past five years.

5. Count the number of new products released.

These metrics should be examined after every New Product Development cycle so you are clear on your spendings and ROI for each product. Look at your ratio of new product sales compared to total sales. Now you have a basis for comparison and can set a target goal for the next new product. This management by objectives style uses ongoing monitoring and is an effective method for keeping the NPD team focused on achieving goals. By looking at opportunities in the New Product Development process to increase ROI, companies are able to improve performance and ultimately, increase shareholder value.

Robert is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman published by Wiley. Helping to Evaluate, Improve and Deliver Innovation through 10 Imperatives that Create and Sustain “New” in Business or Organization.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Robert F. Brands

South Pole Innovation

One hundred years ago, two men set out on a Race to the South Pole.

Both Englishman Robert Falcon Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen were experienced explorers. They knew the polar conditions of Antarctica. They knew with reward came inherent risk.

Their shared tale is one about best practices versus innovation. One relied on mere innovation to master a frozen continent. The other innovated best practices he’d learned through years of intensive research.

One traveled to the South Pole, planted his nation’s flag as the first, and returned safely. The other reached the pole, saw he’d been beaten, and paid the ultimate price for his poorly planned expedition.

Amundsen blended modern innovation with time-tested best practices common among people who lived in extremes. Scott relied mostly on what he thought was innovation, but in fact was a poor reinvention of the wheel. This is an important lesson for any business, venture, man or mission.

Amundsen meticulously researched Antarctica. He spent a year living with Eskimos. He knew Arctic conditions, and modeled his outerwear selection on the furs common among the people. He knew that dogs and sleds were the best means of travel atop deep snow and ice. But Amundsen improved upon modern sleds by making them longer and narrower so as to spread their weight across a greater length. To pull them, he brought 53 dogs.

Scott rushed his Terra Nova expedition’s planning. He thought 19 ponies, 33 dogs ( as back up) and three motor sledges would suffice. He and his crew of 24 dressed in woolen clothing. His was a rushed expedition.

Amundsen also knew the region. From prior exploration, he knew that the Bay of Wales, or Ross Ice Shelf, hadn’t moved in 80 years. It would provide the best protection for his ship and base camp from unrelenting winds. He built and provisioned three larger base camps – so as not to have to carry food with them the entire journey and markers with food at every degree South.

There Amundsen’s camps and ample provisions kept his team and remaining dogs alive, Scott endured a different fate. His wools absorbed perspiration, which froze in the sub-zero temperatures. His horses’ hooves broke through snow and thin ice; the animals didn’t have the stamina for such conditions. Weak and starving, they were shot en route.

In the end, Amundsen made it to the South Pole and returned to his base camp. In January, 1912, Scott’s team arrived at the South Pole – one month after Amundsen. (See “Race for the South Pole by Roland Huntford for a side by side unedited Journal  entries)

Having planned for horses to make the return trip in short order, Scott and his men were insufficiently provisioned to make the return trek by foot. Ultimately, they perished in the white-out of a driving blizzard within miles from the final base camp.

What Amundsen knew – and Scott paid the ultimate price for not realizing – is that following well-modeled best practices are an imperative of smart innovation. Once best practices are learned, you then can innovate atop that. In any venture – whether a new business or exploration of seemingly uncharted terrain – innovation is key. Innovation drives growth and becomes the foundation for success. But it’s vital that innovation is laid atop best practices.

In the end, Roald Amundsen’s name is planted – along with Norway’s flag – as the innovating pioneer who first reached the South Pole. Robert Scott’s name, sadly, stands as an abject lesson in how haste and poor planning can prove fatal to man and mission alike.

Robert is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman published by Wiley. Helping to Evaluate, Improve and Deliver Innovation through 10 Imperatives that Create and Sustain “New” in Business or Organization.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Robert Brands

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.

A carefully designed business process will take you through all the steps of new product development including idea generation, concept development, prototype development, and scale-up to launching and tracking. And remember that good “products” don’t all necessarily have to result in revenues; they can enhance processes, that in turn, can boost profitability.

Finally, is your organization prepared to measure the results – not of the NP, but of the process itself? Do you have a system in place to gather, measure and share both the success and the stumbling blocks? Are you prepared to ask yourself, how did the process work?

The truth is, future success can be closely tied into past accomplishments – if you’re willing to ask the right questions, create the right environment, and learn along the way.

Robert is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation”: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman published by Wiley. Helping to Evaluate, Improve and Deliver Innovation through 10 Imperatives that Create and Sustain “New” in Business or Organization.

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