I am glad you should ask that! O.K. I know you didn’t but I’ll answer it anyway. Drum roll please:
The “i” stands for “idea” (or “ideas”) and is always the starting point of new product development. Thus in the context of iNPD Center, it means ideas and new product development. And the process of coming up with ideas is called “ideation.” But wait, that’s not all!
To go from an idea to a successful product requires the integration of multiple business disciplines and processes – thus the “i” in this context stands for “integrated” new product development.
Though engineering and development is an essential discipline in successful NPD, it is not sufficient! If it were every bright engineering team would succeed by simply creating what looks cool without worry if the market wants it or not. How often though have we seen eloquent solutions looking for problems? Come now fess up, any of us who are inspired (another “i” see below!) by coming up with ideas, including non-engineering types, have done this.
Successful new products always solve a customer’s problem or fulfills a desire at a price point the customer believes is at a fair value and with sufficient margin for the company to be profitable. Put another way, successful NPD needs a market orientation to first know what the needs and requirements are and what the market values. And of course, then marketing and sales needs to communicate to the market the value proposition and close the deal.
Then there is operations and support. Operations needs to build/source, distribute/deliver the product and customer care needs to support the customer in using or consuming the product. And a whole lot more in-between, but you get the point. There are lots of functions and disciplines involved in NPD. To be successful, all these parts must be integrated.
But wait, there’s still more! How do you come up with good ideas to begin with? And how to you choose the ideas that have the highest probability of being successful?
Ideas come from all sorts of places. Sometimes they are the brainchild of engineering who ask the simple question “what if?” Or sometimes they come from market research or directly from the voice-of-the-customer. But no idea starts as a final conceived product, rather they all start as a seed ready to grow into a finished and commercially successful product. Depending on how good a company’s NPD process is, the seed will either evolve into a glorious apple tree (i.e. winning product), or become an ugly weed. Hopefully your integrated process will pull that weeds before they prow into a resource sucking monsters. Be that as it may, to grow the seed into a successful new product requires more “i’s” (or is it “eye’s?):
Insight – knowing what the market values and what it doesn’t value. Also having the insight to know what can technically be implemented (another i!).
Innovation – the ability to create a solution by seeing a new possibility – some of which comes from a company’s insight and:
Intuition – the ability to move forward without knowing all the facts but trusting that your gut is right and will guide you through the process. (Of course the market will ultimately determine if your intuition was right or not!)
Inspiration – the ability to want to create the best solution and stretch the boundaries of conventional wisdom. NPD is hard, and developing real innovative new products require an inspired leader and team. Just look at Apple as an example.
Imagination – the ability to dream and see the possibilities. Not everyone has the ability to dream up new ideas and turn them into definable products and business. You need a core team of product developers with great imagination.
And of course having a bit of “intelligence” goes a long way including market intelligence which feeds insight, and the institutional intelligence to execute which feeds successful implementation.
I am sure we can uncover more “i’s,” because there are lots of them involved with NPD, but these are just some of my ideas on what it takes to be successful at creating and launching successful new products.