Many organizations today seek to improve their innovation project efforts to bring fresh ideas to their most valued customers. Creativity is the engine that drive new product development (NPD) with opportunities to increase revenues and market share. Companies today rely on ideas to generate new product commercialization.
But, what is creativity? Can organizations create cultures that stimulate good ideas? Or do corporate cultures just stifle innovation?
A creative culture thrives at the intersection of searching, collaboration, and experimentation. Each of these characteristics must be nurtured by managers, team leaders, and project directors in order to cultivate a culture of creativity. Let’s take a look at each creative trait in turn.
Organizations that are successful in innovation and NPD know their customers. Technology and marketing capabilities are important, but developing the greatest insights of your customer needs, wants, and desires leads to the highest rates of success.
Customer insights don’t come from simply analyzing survey data in your office. Instead, new product development practitioners learn how people interact with product solutions through observation. We must shadow consumers to understand their challenges and how they use products today. The most successful new products are designed to meet customer needs that are visible but unarticulated. Thus, highly effective innovators build creativity by searching and exploring the customer’s environment.
Once an appropriate customer problem is identified, the NPD team must work to find the most creative and value-added solution that will address that need. The most impactful new products are designed and developed by cross-functional teams collaborating across business lines. Collaboration means working with people different than ourselves.
For example, most products today exist within an ecosystem of auxiliary and complementary products and services. A software tool requires compatible hardware and business models to deliver upgrades throughout its life cycle. Diverse departments must interact to create a holistic product solution addressing customer and end-user needs as well as corporate HR, IT, finance, and legal requirements.
Moreover, collaboration among diverse team members leads to better product solutions at a lower cost and with quicker time to market. Creativity increases when a group of people with varied experiences work together to design a common outcome. Collaboration among unlikely partners and team members yields interesting approaches to addressing customer needs.
Finally, a culture of creativity is enhanced by an ability to experiment and not fear failure. I recently read about a study in which engineering students are challenged to build structures to protect an egg as it is dropped from ever increasing heights. Two groups of students were given the same materials and same amount of time to devise a solution. However, the first group was given only one egg while the second group was given a dozen eggs. The first group of students used their development time collaborating and designing the best protective structure they could imagine. The second group tried stuff – they experimented. Yes, they cracked a lot of eggs but, ultimately, the second group of students were able to double the dropping distance (about 6 feet) as compared to the first group (about 3 feet). We did a similar exercise during my presentation on “Wagile for NPD” at the Houston PMI Conference (brief clip here).
Hands-on learning clearly enhances creativity and problem-solving. Combined with a diverse team of developers, a culture of creativity is built upon rapid experimentation to learn what customers really need and to ensure you’re solving the right problem.
A Culture of Creativity
Organizations can stifle creativity with overly bureaucratic policies and procedures. Functional reporting systems and divisional silos can prevent diverse NPD team members from communicating with one another and with the customer. A culture of creativity is supported by organizational practices that drive gathering of customer insights by searching for the customer need, even when the end-user cannot state his/her challenge.
Collaboration among diverse team members allows varied experiences and tacit knowledge to come together and allows the team to identify unique solutions. This diversity of experiences generates new product concepts around a full ecosystem of services and auxiliaries that increase the revenue of a product line. Finally, NPD teams must be free to conduct rapid experimentation without organization retribution if they fail. Cracking a lot of eggs led to the most successful engineering solution and highly effective innovation organizations recognize the value of learning from failure.
To Learn More
To learn more about innovation processes, please check out our self-study and other NPDP Workshops. In particular, the Agile NPD course builds on the idea of fast failure. Check out our on-line tutorial on Design Thinking, also, to learn more about rapid experimentation. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 281-280-8717. At Simple-PDH.com where we want to help you gain and maintain your professional certifications. You can study, learn, and earn – it’s simple!
Speaking on Design Thinking
- 7 September 2018 at Texas Association of Change Management Professionals Conference
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