Home Phone

Fast, Flexible Innovation – a case study

Fast, Flexible Innovation – redesigning the New Product Development Process for a Global Drinks Vending Machine company.

The Challenge – The aim of this assignment was to develop a vision and a strategy to turn the R&D and Quality areas into a highly flexible organisation capable of delivering the innovation required to meet challenging strategic growth targets. The vision was to create a cohesive NPD process capable of opening up new markets and fuelling double digit growth and to have >15% of all sales from innovations launched in the last 3 years.

The Objectives – The assignment had three specific objectives:

  • To increase the effectiveness of the innovation process = more ideas; faster implementation and increased % sales from NPD and EPD
  • To challenge and change habitual behaviours in order to encourage more creativity and entrepreneurship throughout the NPD process
  • To develop the ability of the organisation to manage NPD projects to time and budget.

The Principles we applied – From the start we applied 5 principles to the assignment and worked with these in mind throughout. We set out to make this project:

  • Inclusive – we needed to engage a lot of people and access the ideas they had for improvement
  • Challenging – we wanted to set stretching targets to stimulate fresh thinking
  • Strategically Focused – there was an undeniable reason for doing this project the existing NPD process would not deliver the strategic intent
  • Team Orientated – we wanted to keep the collaborative team ethos that existed within the process but we needed to speed up and increase the performance of the NPD process
  • Enjoyable to work with – the project would be fun to work on and would develop those that took part, leaving behind new experiences and new skills that will help the business to be self-sustaining in the future.
  • Creative – we would source ideas from outside as well as from within the company to help us steal with pride any idea that worked well.

Our Approach – We looked at opportunities and issues through four different lenses:

  •  The Process Lens – how to creatively challenge and increase the effectiveness of the innovation and NPD process.
  • The Paradigm Lens – the culture, mind-set and unwritten rules and assumptions that govern how we behave and constrain our ability to innovate effectively.
  •  Food 4 thought – we looked outside at other organisations and asked how we can import ideas from the way they innovate. We visited several innovative companies to learn how they nurtured innovation and took ideas into market including, Apple; Lockheed Martin; Maclaren, Innocent, First Direct to name but a few.
  • Study review – we studied papers, articles, blogs and books that stimulated new ideas and thoughts on how to innovate effectively.

 The Big Ideas – The team produced a number of significant recommendations on how they can re-invent the NPD process and make it fit for the future they included:

  • Create a visible, strategically driven Innovation Pipeline and increase the priority given to innovation across the whole business – the ‘Wonder Wall’ concept was born
  • Generate a consistent stream of ideas and concepts from across the business that are filtered by a new Ideas Engine Room that fuels the innovation pipeline
  • Introduce formal ‘Concept Statements’ and ‘Development Briefs’ to act as Gate Papers for the whole process and inject discipline and consistency without bureaucracy
  • Innovation Project Managers will focus solely on delivery. They will be trained in the process and people skills required to succeed and will use the best process for their project.
  • R&D Line Managers remain responsible for technical leadership and become accountable for the trade-off between time spent on innovation and time spent on product support and applied research and the processes in their direct area of control
  • Breaking free from consensus decision making and speed up the decision making process throughout the whole innovation process
  • Creating an innovative working environment –the iPoD became an ideas greenhouse
  • Expect and accept failure and rigorously learn from it
  • Professionally manage risks and develop robust contingency and prevention plans
  • Continue to look outwards and import and export ideas with our partners wherever we can
  • Develop ‘service’ as well as ‘product’ innovation to complement our market offering and enhance our market position.

The Results – The innovation pipeline focused on fewer, bigger and better innovations that produced over $30m in sales in the three years following the assignment. This ensured the business met its strategic target of double digit growth. The people throughout the NPD process had more fun as the process became more robust, agile and effective. The key stakeholders were better informed and NPD projects better managed as new team based project management techniques were implemented around all NPD projects.The business began to embrace ‘Open Innovation’ sharing ideas with outside partners the once closed, specialised R&D community became more open and the innovation process benefited as a result.