Sponsored by Cambridge Consultants: Bright brains to solve difficult problems

Alan Richardson, ceo, Cambridge Consultants
After 50 years of product development, we've learnt a thing or two about how you can bring a truly innovative idea to market. As the world has become more sophisticated, so have the needs of clients. Bright brains to solve difficult problems is – in today's competitive world – no longer enough. Clients need their product development to fulfil the market need within a narrow market time window. Very often radical innovation is required to maintain or develop market share. What have we learned about how to achieve this?

1. Getting the buy-in of senior stakeholders from the beginning – technology, marketing, production, quality
2. Radical innovation usually starts with incomplete fragments – it will always look riskier than incremental innovation unless time is allowed to augment with other insights that complete the idea and time is given to gather the feasibility evidence
3. A short cut to radical innovation in a market can be by technology transfer from other fields e.g. we recently developed a sensing technology in security and were able to transfer it to medical diagnostics
4. Risks need to be identified, managed in an appropriate sequence with contingencies in mind for the highest risks in the development programme
5. Things that used to be done in sequence now need to be done in parallel so, for instance, design for manufacture and test need to be considered from the outset
6. The requirement needs to be informed by deep market knowledge and technology insight. The former will mean customers will want to buy it and the latter that it is feasible to provide what the specification says economically
7. Great system design is crucial – it yields appropriate stable interfaces and appropriately challenging sub-systems with controlled technology risks and fallbacks. Bad system design looks almost as good on paper but buries the risk in sub-systems which border on the impossible and unstable interfaces.

After we had developed a product in less than a year for a client, they revealed to us that if they had done it themselves it would have taken "something between three years and never". By applying the above learnings, time to market can be slashed.

Cambridge Consultants

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