Take a look at Figure 5-1, which depicts product adoption behavior. Where would you place yourself? Have you ever camped out overnight to get your hands on the latest iPhone, Playstation, or (fill in the blank)? If so, you are likely an innovator. Do you prefer to wait for other people to test new products so that the maker—e.g., Apple, General Motors, or Sony—can get the bugs out before you buy? If so, you fit with the late majority. Do you wait for a friend or family member to give you the product as a gift. If this describes you, you are a laggard. Stan Fawcett, one of the coauthors, upgraded his disposable razor to the Mach 3 when Gillette sent him a free sample in the mail. Successful companies know they need to build a portfolio of customers to thrive. Early adopters create buzz; mainstream customers generate sustained revenue.

Figure 5-1: The Adoption Life Cycle

Looking inside a company, whose job is it to bring the new products to market that you want to buy? The answer: Everyone's! New product development (NPD) is a process that cuts across almost every function within the firm from marketing to R&D to manufacturing to purchasing to finance. Everyone of these functions touches the process. Every one of these functions brings a unique perspective—and unique skills. Complementary skills are required, but they can cause problems. You've got to figure out how to get the different functions to work together. Otherwise, you end up with classic swing shown in Figure 5-2.

Figure 5-2: New Product Development Gone Awry

When the NPD process works well, your company builds a new product pipeline that consistently brings new products to market. These new products keep your company relevant and fund future operations. That's why new product development is the lifeblood of every company. As a manager who touches the new-product development process, what does this mean for you? You need to understand what the NPD process looks like and how what you do affects it. Then you can go to work to keep it running smoothly, bringing the fresh ideas to market that keep customers coming back.