Learning Is the Critical Success Factor in Developing Truly New Products

By Lynn, Gary S.; Mazzuca, Mario et al. | Research-Technology Management, May/June 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Learning Is the Critical Success Factor in Developing Truly New Products


Lynn, Gary S., Mazzuca, Mario, Morone, Joseph G., Paulson, Albert S., Research-Technology Management


At Corning, GE, Motorola, and Searle, it was a learning-driven strategy that led to major innovation success.

OVERVIEW: Successful new product development is tough, especially for truly new products. How can a company successfully develop and commercialize such products? An examination of four radically new innovations-Corning's optical fibers, GE's computed axial tomography, Motorola's cellular telephones, and Searle's (now Monsanto's) NutraSweet-reveals that in each case a learning-driven strategy was critical to success. Leaders who wish to improve their company's ability to develop the kind of products that can create entirely new industries are urged to create conditions under which teams can learn from past experience, even failures.

Innovate quicker and better than your competitor and you can secure a competitive advantage in the marketplace; lag or stumble and your company can be relegated to playing catch-up for years. What can companies do to improve their ability to innovate, and to do so successfully?

Over the past 20 years, many studies have been completed to determine the critical drivers of innovation success. Four innovation strategies varying in their orientation have emerged from this research: 1) customer-driven, 2) process-driven, 3) pioneer-driven, and 4) learning-driven. This article explores which of these strategies is most appropriate for the complex and challenging form of innovation called really new, or radical, innovation development and commercialization.

Four Innovation Strategies

In a customer-driven strategy, the focus is on uncovering customer needs and wants and then meeting those needs. Philip Condit, president of The Boeing Company, summarizes his company's customer-driven strategy in the development of the 777: ". . . we defined this airplane by aggressively listening to the airline customer" (1). Customer-driven strategies are rooted in marketing and marketing research. Formal and informal surveys are used to identify market segments and uncover demand drivers, market gaps and customer dissatisfactions. Buzz words such as "voice of the customer," and "market focused," describe this approach (2). In a customer-driven strategy, the innovation effort is typically initiated by a customer request (3). The meeting between Coming people and Thomas Edison in 1879, to discuss his requirements for a glass light bulb, is a classic example of a customer-driven strategy. A few months following that meeting, Corning's shop was producing bulbs to Edison's specifications (4). In a process-driven strategy, the innovation effort follows a systematic process beginning with idea generation, screening/evaluation, development, testing, and launch. Many studies have demonstrated the importance of having a rigorous, systematic new product development (NPD) process, one in which all the phases are completed and each phase is completed proficiently. Cooper studied 103 projects from 21 firms and found that how well each NPD process activity was performed affected the probability of overall new product success (2). His findings have been replicated by many others (e.g., 5,6, 7,8).

In a pioneer-driven strategy, being first to market is key. However, company executives frequently struggle over which order entry strategy to choose-pioneer or follower? Many scholars assert that a pioneer strategy is better because a firm can capture a larger market share and achieve greater long-term profits (e.g., 9). A pioneering strategy can yield competitive advantages that last throughout a product's life (10). This entry order can also have a critical impact on long-term market share as well (11). Gruenwald states that the most amazing new product and the best marketing plan do little against a competitor who is first to the market (12). There is, however, evidence that suggests that a pioneering strategy may not always be better because the follower can correct faults in the pioneer's product and enter the market later but with a better product (13).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Learning Is the Critical Success Factor in Developing Truly New Products
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?