Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Maximizing the Value of Industrial Design in New Product Development: Most Companies Could Benefit by Integrating Design into Their New-Product Development Processes, but Design and Traditional Processes Do Not Mesh Easily. Recognizing and Resolving the Cultural and Process Barriers between Design and Other Functional Areas Can Make a Significant Difference in the Effectiveness of Design in These Organizations

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Maximizing the Value of Industrial Design in New Product Development: Most Companies Could Benefit by Integrating Design into Their New-Product Development Processes, but Design and Traditional Processes Do Not Mesh Easily. Recognizing and Resolving the Cultural and Process Barriers between Design and Other Functional Areas Can Make a Significant Difference in the Effectiveness of Design in These Organizations

Article excerpt

Recent studies have shown that good design can lead to more successful products, stronger competitive advantage (Beverland 2005), and better financial performance (Hertenstein, Platt, and Veryzer 2005). But too many companies are missing these opportunities, because industrial design is not as consistently incorporated into new-product development (NPD) processes as it should be (Gemser and Leenders 2001).

Although design is often thought of as relating solely to the aesthetics of a product, it can contribute at more fundamental levels. As the CEO of LG Electronics has said, "Design is not the exterior of a product that we simply see and feel, it is a cultural code that forms and changes our lives" (Qtd in Jang et al. 2009, 46). Consumers buy products not only because of their appearance and function, but also because they have symbolic value. Design is capable of creating that emotional and symbolic value (Verganti 2009). In its widest sense, industrial design leads to products that consumers aspire to own and that evoke pride in ownership.

Companies can introduce--and benefit from--industrial design in two major ways (Verganti 2009). In companies that are leaders in design-driven approaches to product development, design plays a fundamental role in enabling radical innovation. Design is positioned at the center of the innovation strategy in these firms (Verganti 2008) and is less tied to specific steps in the NPD process. Although this approach to design is powerful, it takes time and commitment for design to take such an influential role in a firm.

But design can also be incorporated into NPD in more traditional firms as one of the various functional areas required as part of a structured NPD process. When effectively aligned and connected with other functions such as R&D and marketing, design can play a major role in promoting innovation (Heskett 2002). However, design and traditional NPD processes do not mesh easily. This paper explores the issues around incorporating design into structured approaches such as Stage-Gate[TM], which are well known in the NPD literature but much less so in design research and practice. The introduction of industrial design into NPD must address both cultural and process barriers between design and other functional areas. Resolving these issues can make a significant difference to the effectiveness of design in these organizations and therefore to their competitive position and financial performance.

Design and the NPD Process

The process of NPD consists of a number of key stages, including identifying customer requirements, developing a product concept, generating a detailed design, testing, and launching the product to market. At each of these stages, a number of functional areas are involved--R&D, marketing, and manufacturing, among others--and effective communication and collaboration is fundamental to the development of successful products. The most common way to manage the different stages and functions involved in NPD is the ubiquitous Stage-Gate[TM] methodology developed by Cooper and Kleinschmidt (1994), which specifies the responsibilities of each functional area at each step of the process. The main benefit of Stage-Gate[TM] is that it ensures that different perspectives are considered when key decisions are made, thus preventing oversights (for instance, failing to consider manufacturing at the concept stage can lead to production problems). Although several studies have emphasized the benefits of introducing StageGate[TM] (see, for example, Curtis and Ellis 1998), some authors have criticized it for being too linear and inflexible, inhibiting companies from achieving radical innovation (Chhatpar 2007; Petrie 2008).

Most companies would benefit from integrating industrial design into their NPD processes. But in order to access the full benefits of design, they need first to understand the barriers to the adoption of design thinking in a typical NPD organization. …

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