At Apple we come at everything asking, "How easy is this going to be for the user? How great it is going to be for the user?"… Everybody says, "Oh, the user is the most important thing," but nobody else really does it.
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever heard of IDEO (pronounced " eye-dee-oh")? IDEO is an award-winning global design firm. IDEO describes itself as follows:
We identify new ways to serve and support people by uncovering latent needs, behaviors, and desires.
We envision new companies and brands, and we design the products, services, spaces, and interactive experiences that bring them to life.
We help organizations build creative culture and the internal systems required to sustain innovation and launch new ventures.
What makes IDEO successful? Simply stated, IDEO sees the world differently. More importantly, IDEO helps its clients see the world differently. Again, let's let IDEO share its own secret to success:
Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren't trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.
Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking provides an integrated third way.
The question that IDEO's design-thinking approach raises for you is, "Can you combine observation with creativity to find solutions others overlook?" This is a skill worth building—one that few managers bother to invest in.