More R&D or just more processes?

Innovation is Changing Pre-Product Development R&D [Machine Design – September 5, 2013], discusses the some of the changes that are occurring in advanced research and development stemming from industry’s decade-long focus on innovation.

Our 2008 North American study on Organic Innovation indicated that industry leaders and early adopters were actively focusing on improving pre-product development activities. Our 2013 study more deeply investigated these findings.  We focused on the types, purposes, usage, and changing importance of research, advanced development, and product development processes.  Two-hundred companies from the USA, Canada, and Mexico participated in numbers that represent the relative R&D spending of the North American countries.  The findings discussed here emanate from participant responses on their approaches to Organic Innovation, one of the five topic areas in our research.

The 2013 findings affirm a ten year trend.  Most companies now have multiple, approaching “numerous,” specifically-purposed processes.  Design engineers, program managers, and organizational leaders are likely seeing an increase in the processes used to guide research and/or product development on a wide scale. There is a new wave of them the past five to ten years years.  This is spurred by the need for western companies to improve their overall innovation levels, and their consistency of execution to these higher levels, to improve their global competitive position. These new processes are starting to enter the second quartile of industry penetration. Processes that precede product development are increasing notably. The number of variations and flavors of “mainstream” product development processes are also increasing, but at a lesser rate.

For pre-product development processes, the change is pronounced. Over the past five years, there has been a tripling in formal Basic Research processes and a near quadrupling of formal Applied Research processes. Advanced Development processes have risen 30%. A number of companies have “combination processes” used across several categories and those numbers have also risen.

The change is not as pronounced for Product Development processes. In 2008, 76% of companies had one or two processes to guide development projects. Forty percent of companies used one process and 36% used two. This year, companies running with a single process decreased to 35% as companies added more processes. Most notably, the number of North American companies using four or more processes nearly doubled.

More R&D or just more processes? [Machine Design – December 12, 2013], shares additional findings from the 2013 initiative and offers insight as to what is happening on a macro scale to industry’s next generation set of product development and innovation processes.

Innovation is Changing Pre-Product Development R&D

Innovation-Enabling Tools & Software for Individuals and Product Pipelines, August 15, 2013, discusses the decade-long growth of the innovation body of knowledge that has lead to new software and other tools that are achieving penetration across industries in this early market.

The nature of innovation tools and software is quite the opposite of the deterministic practices that have been the rage since the mid-80s. You may expect that there is hesitancy and resistance. You may be right. But, gradually, corporations are realizing that “innovation in the pipeline” cannot solely mean “execution.” A typical product pipeline will contain perhaps a hundred sets of “design tools” across the value creation process. An inventory of those tools in most companies today will find them to be nearly 100% deterministic.

For the moment, compartmentalization of innovation tools and software is the general management style. Most are used in pre-pipeline creation activities, very early in the pipeline, or after launch to add value or to revive a commercialized product.  And, usually only in special circumstances as a last resort.

The body of knowledge of value engineering is pretty mature and the capabilities provided by most innovation tools today are quite incremental, except for the most complex and expensive ones. The same applies for early product design and development.  Triz-based tools have caught attention though as they have lead to the creation and/or redesign of many consumer products, such as the non-cylindrical water bottle.

Relatively speaking, pre-product development stands to be the area that will benefit the most from the initial generation of innovation tools and software. There are currently less formalized tool sets at this stage of product creation.

Applied Research and Advanced Development organizations are growing as CEOs shave off small percentages from Product Development and allocate them earlier in the quest for innovation. Industry leaders started this in the late 1990s and kept it under their hats. Many more are doing it now. As such, the definition and formalization of “advanced” organizations is a hot management topic.

Perhaps the thorniest issue is to determine the “advanced strategy.” The availability of a separated resource pool of highly technical folks is very tempting to leaders that control resources.  Product roadmaps get intermixed with technology roadmaps.  Throw in a little short term convenience, a few problems that need an expert, and a perception of underloading because the output is different.  The result is pre-product developers that are juggling activities of very different durations, across the spectrum of raw creation to emergency problem solving.

Innovation is Changing Pre-Product Development R&D [Machine Design – September 5, 2013], discusses the growth and maturation of Advanced Development organizations and then offers a definition and thoughts on an appropriate strategy and staffing for advanced capabilities.

Innovation-Enabling Tools and Software for Individuals and Product Pipelines

The Makers Movement Spurs Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, July 18, 2013, discusses a competitive landscape that might induce some established companies to redouble their efforts regarding systematic innovation.

The triad of global competitors and Makers and small onshore companies that nowadays have access to most of the same innovation enablers as the big corporations have, together are raising the bar for what large companies must do to be regarded as innovators.

Savvy entrepreneurs, social and clinical psychologists, hard science scientists and engineers, software development companies, and a host of other individuals and firms who all have an angle on what it takes to be innovative, have been busy creating innovation-enabling tools and software for more than a decade now. Some 300 different techniques, some in the form of software, are now available at prices just about everyone can afford. Some are proving themselves to be better than the rest. Industry is beginning to recognize the ones that add the most value.

Innovation-Enabling Tools and Software for Individuals and Product Pipelines [Machine Design – August 15, 2013], discusses the rapid growth of the innovation body of knowledge along with some of the tools and software applications that have achieved the most industry penetration during this early market phase.

Organic R&D-Product Development, Open Innovation, Intellectual Property & CXO Corporate Metrics Practices

The name of this post is the title of a primary research project that GGI has been quietly, or maybe not so quietly, conducting. There are 31 questions. It takes 30-35 minutes according to our beta test of thirty companies. We are not seeking anything confidential, all beta companies agreed. To be sure though, your responses will be 100% confidential.

Until the writing of this blog, there have been no web postings except in the research portal on GGI’s web site. We have been conducting the research by phone or in person; and there was a limited email sent out by us. To best randomize our sample, enabling even more confidence in Margin of Error calculations, several companies have also graciously sponsored controlled samples to companies in their network.

Since 1998 GGI has done statistically valid primary research every few years. Our 2008 research on “CXO Corporate Metrics Practices” is still the best information available for R&D-Product Development on the web, look for Business Week or Industry Week TOP 10 R&D Metrics. McKinsey, BCG, Booz, Kearney, ADL, Accenture and others do research metrics, but GGI has a fifteen-year body-of-knowledge on R&D and Product Development metrics that is hard to beat. Several of these consultancies have purchased our several thousand dollar research report over the years, the same report you will receive to show our appreciation for a half hour of your time. The report will come in pdf format with a “corporate license” to post it on your company intranet for all employees to reference.

Each research effort since 1998 contains five sections. The first four sections investigate strategic and tactical “things” we see leading companies testing out that are not yet generally adopted by industry. The goal is to try to see what is going to become mainstream in the coming years. We have a pretty good batting average if you look at prior GGI research topics. Without asking anything confidential, we are going to inquire about:

1) R&D Operating Environment
2) Organic Innovation
3) Open Innovation
4) Intellectual Property

The last section is always to determine the R&D-Product Development Metrics that have the greatest current industry usage and penetration. We research only the metrics, “corporate metrics,” that are of possible interest to the CEO to maximize the company’s investment in R&D, Engineering, and Product Development-Commercialization. There are 101 metrics in this questionnaire. Simply check off the ones that your company uses.

5) CXO Corporate Metrics Practices


Not everyone can participate. We apologize. We are going to qualify the appropriateness of your company before distributing the research questionnaire and/or URL to you. The company must develop new products; and have staff and operations in the US, Canada, or Mexico. It must have $20 million in revenues at minimum; there is no upper revenue limit. It matters not if the parent or headquarters of the company is US or outside the US. Product development in North America is the focus. Finally, the address and domain name of your correspondence with us must be the same as your company, no gmail or other generic domains please. Confidentiality cannot be otherwise assured. These are easy hurdles for most we hope are reading this blog.

If you are interested, or know a colleague that might be, please contact us through the link we have set up for folks that might wish to “opt in” to this research project.

My company qualifies, I’d like to opt in.

We are nearing the end of our research effort and ask that you submit a completed questionnaire by September 30, 2013 please.

The Maker Movement Spurs Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Revolution In Innovation-Enabling Tools, April 18, 2012, discussed the emerging market in innovation tools and software.  The collective demand for “innovation” from corporations has lead to many new market segments to provide services of one form or another.  It has also lead to arms-length providers of off-the-shelf tools and shrink wrapped software providers.  The most sophisticated software tools require service assistance to install and configure them, as one would expect.

GGI first researched these emerging tools privately in 2001 and 2002.  Two companies that we would all agree are leaders with longevity, were also early market adopters of these emerging tool sets.  One company made tractors.  The other company made diagnostic instruments.  Over the past decade, GGI has researched the subject several times on our own account.

By 2004, we found about one-third of first-to-market companies had gone out of business.  Their offerings however shaped more useful solutions now offered by new entrants with better business models.  Clearly, this tools and shrink-wrapped software segment had all the attributes of an emerging market.

In 2008, we statistically researched the industry penetration of some 67 tools out of about 300 we identified.  These 67 were determined to be “generally available,” meaning any professional that went looking (with a bit of zest) for tools and software touted to facilitate innovation could find them.

In 2013, we are not seeing that corporations are institutionalizing innovation into the principles and practices of research and product development in the same manner or rate that lean and six sigma tools have been institutionalized.  The activities and procedures required in invention and innovation-related company processes are overwhelmingly deterministic.

The Maker Movement Spurs Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship [Machine Design – July 18, 2013], discusses a competitive landscape that might induce some established companies to redouble their efforts regarding systematic innovation.