Academic journal article Annals of Business Administrative Science

Product Development Research Cycle: A Historical Review 1960s-1980s

Academic journal article Annals of Business Administrative Science

Product Development Research Cycle: A Historical Review 1960s-1980s

Article excerpt

Abstract: Empirical researches of new product developments began in earnest in the 1960s with the "grand approach." These researches clarified general success factors through the comprehensive analysis of successful project profiles. In the 1970s, the "focus approach" came to fore where analysis focused on specific themes in product development. The latter half of the 1980s saw the focus shiftto the "process approach" where the relationship between management of product development process and performance was analyzed in detail. These trends suggest that one characteristic of product development research is a mainstream shifttoward the advent of new research approaches in approximate ten-year cycles.

Keywords: product development, empirical research, literature review, research approach

1. Introduction

Research development patterns vary according to the field researched. For example, the field of management strategy evolved with varying focuses in research with corporate strategy in the 1960s and 70s, business/competitive strategy in the 1980s and functional strategy in the latter half of the 1980s. Moreover, the field of organizational learning, using Cyert and March (1963) and Argyris and Schön (1978) as a common foundation, developed much like a tree diagram, including three major schools (organizational routine, unlearning and organizational change) during and after the 1980s (Ando, 2001).

In contrast, this paper reviews the field of product development management as new research approach that gains power along with changing times (from a grand approach to a focus approach and then to a process approach) (Figure 1).

While new product development management research is included in innovation study, it is usually separated into two categories (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1995; Kuwashima, 2001). One category has a foundation in economics with analysis at industry and national levels. This approach pays particular attention to technological advancement, the spread of technology, and competition among companies. The other category has a foundation in organizational theory with analysis on the organization or project level. This second approach pays particular attention to how new products are developed through the interrelationships of organizational process, organizational structure, technical characteristics, environment, and results.

This paper will focus on the latter approach-organizational theory based research. The first half of the new product development research history, 1960s to 1980s, will be studied. The three research approaches that gained prominence in this period (grand approach, focus approach, and process approach) provided an important foundation for the diversification of research approaches that took place during and after the 1990s (second half of the history of new product development management research).

2. Grand Approach

Empirical researches of product development began in earnest in the 1960s. It was conventional in the researches to comprehensively analyze profiles of successful projects in order to clarify general success factors (referred to as the "grand approach" in this paper).

Myers and Marquis (1969) can be named as one of the core researches of the grand approach. This research comprehensively analyzed the success factors of 567 innovations in 5 industries: railroad companies, suppliers to the railroad industry, computer manufacturers, suppliers to the computer industry, and suppliers to the housing industry. Myers and Marquis (1969) viewed innovation as an information processing system composed of three steps: idea generation [arrow right] problem solving [arrow right] implementation and use. With this perspective, their main focus was on sources of information that contributed to idea generation and problem solving throughout the innovation process. After analyzing 567 successful innovations, the idea generation step showed that 1) much of the information that contributed to idea generation mainly came from innovators' personal contacts with sources outside of that organization, and 2) in addition to personal contacts, it became clear that innovators' own research experiences were important in further promoting and expanding on these ideas. …

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