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A Team Approach to New Product Development
(Marketing Memo, December, 2003)

Cell phones with screens and other "new" products are really product extensions or modifications. Team effectiveness, market knowledge, and company support are three of the factors that contribute to successful development of new products and product extensions, according to an expert on product innovation (1) and a product manager whom we recently interviewed. (2)

TEAM EFFECTIVENESS

Varied backgrounds: The most effective new product teams have different backgrounds and have developed a variety of products for a variety of customers, says product innovation guru, Andrew Hargadon in Emerald Now.(1) For instance, the product manager whom we interviewed was part of a team that included experienced designers, engineers, market strategists and marketing communications people. They developed items found in most homes and businesses.

'Holistic' approach: Teams with varied backgrounds are more likely to think "in several boxes rather than 'outside the box.'" And, they are likely to take a "holistic," approach to new product development (NPD), Sarah Powell said in an interview of Hargadon.(1) They see the big picture.

A fresh look at a legacy product: The product manager's NPD team focused on why each segment used the product. They did not focus on just features and benefits. For example, regard cell phones in terms of their multiple purposes, not battery life: teenagers use them for chatting, sales people use them to manage the sales process, and truck drivers use them to navigate.

MARKET KNOWLEDGE

Market research: To gain insight, team members used the products in their own lives. Also, a market research firm observed customers using the product in their own environments. Then, the NPD team conducted quantitative research to bolster findings from the field studies.

Visibility: Upper management gave the project priority status. This helped motivate designers to temporarily put aside work on more glamorous product lines.

Resources: Management provided additional resources besides a large NPD team. Management authorized the NPD team to hire market research firms and web developers, and management gave the NPD contiguous offices with the hope that this would facilitate collaboration.

Rewards: Management rewarded team members for rapidly developing innovative new designs. Within a few months the team designed a sleeker, more fashionable version of a plain product, using different manufacturing processes, different materials, and a more colorful, more contemporary palette.

Winett Associates provides market research and writing services.

(1) "Spotlight on Andrew Hargadon," Emerald Now, November, 2003.

(2) Interview of Product Manager, consumer and other products, October, 2003.

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