Blockbusters: The Five Keys to Developing Great New Products

Article excerpt

Blockbusters: The Five Keys to Developing Great New Products; Gay S Lynn and Richard R. Reilly; Harper-Business, New York NY,' 2002; 251

pp., $24.95.

Based on their 10-year research study of more than 700 new-product teams, two Stevens Institute of Technology professors offer a prescription for developing and launching "great, blockbuster products." Their study sought to distinguish world-class "best practices" from the moderately successful ones by investigating three groups of new product development teams: 215 failures, 296 moderate successes and 100 award-winners. From the latter, they ferreted out 49 blockbuster teams for further study and interviewing. This led to the identification, measurement and assessment of five critical practices that these teams implemented in the course of their new product development and that were relatively absent on the moderately successful and failed teams. Lynn and Reilly describe the five practices as follows:

1. "Commitment Not Contribution of Senior Management. Blockbuster teams had the full cooperation of the highest level of management. Senior managers were either intimately involved with virtually every aspect of the process, or they made it clear that they completely backed the project, and then gave the team the authority it needed to proceed.

2. Clear and Stable Vision. Blockbuster teams stayed on course by establishing "project pillars" early on-specific, immutable goals for the product that the team must deliver.

3. Improvisation. Blockbuster teams did not follow a structured, linear path to market. Instead they moved "Lickety Stick." That is, they were flexible, trying all kinds of different ideas and iterations in rapid succession (lickety) until they developed a prototype that clicked with their customers (stick).

4. Information Exchange. Blockbuster teams did not limit their information exchange to formal meetings. They shared knowledge in dozens of small ways-from coffee Matches to video conferencing to streaming in and out of a room covered in Post-it notes to hundreds of emails.

5. Collaboration Under Pressure. Blockbuster teams focused on goals and objectives as opposed to interpersonal differences. They built coherent teams yes, but they were not especially concerned about building friendships or even insisting that everyone like each other. …