Discontinuous Innovation and the New Product Development Process Robert W. Veryzer, Jr.
Although many new-products professionals may harbor hopes of developing “the next big thing” in their respective industries, most product development efforts focus on incremental innovations. Accordingly, most research on the new-product ,development (NPD) process focuses on the development of evolutionary products. For new-products professionals seeking insights into the means for achieving breakthrough innovations, a fundamental question remains unanswered: Does the NPD process for discontinuous products difSer from the process for incremental, or continuous, products? To provide a better understanding of managerial practices associated with discontinuous innovation, Robert Veryzer presents findings from an in-depth study of eight discontinuous product development projects. The study explores the key factors that affect the discontinuous NPD process, as well as the methods that the firms in this study use for assessing the radically new products they have in development. From the findings in this study, he develops a descriptive model of the discontinuous product development process, and he o#ers insights into the requirements for effective management of discontinuous innovation projects. Although half the firms in the study use a formal process for evaluating radically innovative products, the participants in the study generally do not employ a formal, highly structured process for managing discontinuous NPD efforts. However, these firms do follow a consistent, logical process in the development of radical innovations, and their process diflers significantly from incremental NPD processes. The processes used by the firms in this study are more exploratory and less customer driven than the typical, incremental NPD process. The impetus for all the projects in this study comes from the convergence of developing technologies; various contextual or environmental factors (for example, government regulations), and a product champion or visionary. Starting from these drivers, the discontinuous NPD process focuses on formulating a product application for the emerging technologies. In all cases, these firms developed prototypes at an earlier stage than the typical, incremental NPD process. To aid in the formulation of a new product application from emerging technologies, prototype construction in these discontinuous NPD projects precedes opportunity analysis, assessment of market attractiveness, market research, and financial analysis. 0 1998 Elsevier Science Inc. J PROD INNOV MANAG 1998;15:304-321
0 1998 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. 655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010 0737-6782/98/$19.00 PI1 SO737-6782(97)0~105-7
THE JOURNAL OF
PRODUCT INNOVATION MANAGEMENT VOLs 15 NO, 4 JULY 19%
DISCONTINUOUS NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
J PROD INNOV MANAG 1998;15:304-321
adical or discontinuous new products play an important role in building competitive advantage and can contribute significantly to a firm’s growth and profitability [2,5,27,43]. Considerable knowledge has been accumulated about the incremental or continuous innovation process. While much of the effort to improve new product development has focused on the process as it relates to product improvements, upgrades, and line extensions, there has been very little research focused on “really new” or “radical new” products. It is not clear whether the best practices associated with continuous products also apply to discontinuous products or if some of the practices are actually counterproductive in this context [33,38]. An understanding of the differences between the discontinuous and continuous (incremental) new product development processes is essential if the development of discontinuous products is to be managed effectively. An appreciation of the unique challenges inherent in managing discontinuous innovation and the key success...
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