Developing New Products and Services

A central theme of this book is that there is, or should be, a constant struggle going on in every organization, business, and system. The struggle is fueled by the dynamic tension that exists between delivering Midas feature-rich versions of products and services using extravagant engineering and delivering low-cost Hermes versions of products and services using frugal engineering (see Figure 1). Midas versions are high-end products for nonprice-sensitive consumers. Hermes versions are for price-sensitive consumers. The results of this dynamic tension between Midas versioning and Hermes versioning are Atlas products and services. Atlas products and services are designed for mainstream consumers. Atlas products and services incorporate the product design features that will attract the broadest customer base and will also be profitable. The driving force behind the development of Midas, Atlas, and Hermes versions is driven by the implicit creative genius that everyone possess and most businesses should possess as they engage in continuous learning-about and learn-by-doing activities

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Search and the Role of Learning- About in Developing Ideas for New Products and Services

In addition to generating new knowledge, conducting R&D leads to smarter organizations because the knowledge these organizations already have helped understand new information when it becomes available. The best way to conduct R&D and to improve the organizational innovation and creativity is to learn-by-doing and to engage in search activity. In this section, we will discuss searching for ideas first and we will discuss learning-by-doing later.

Learning-about, or the search process, involves reading magazines, books, and technical articles, attending schools, observing the competition, one-on-one discussion, interacting with customers, and attending symposia and conferences. It involves acquiring knowledge and integrating and synthesizing that knowledge. This is the first step in developing individual and organizational knowledge structures. Learning-about in its basic form is search and synthesis. It is too expensive in terms of time and resources for organizations to build every product and service that is conceived. Many companies therefore learn-about an idea by reading, interacting with experts, and also by attending symposia and conferences related to an emerging technology. The goal is to gain insight and understand the potential of an emerging technology or a new idea.

It is our thesis that book learning, lectures, and even homework are usually beneficial. This is essentially the learning-about process. Search plays a key part in the learning-about process. This is particularly true when an organization searches outside the organization for ideas related to product innovation. Search can be classified in terms of the breadth and depth of the search.
[28] The breadth of the search refers to the number of outside sources used and consulted. The depth of search refers to the intensity of the relationship between the searcher and the external sources. Table 1.1, “External Sources of Information” lists potential sources of external information that can be used by entrepreneurs and product developers when engaging in an innovative activity.

As illustrated in Figure 1.9, “Breadth and Depth of Search and Innovative Activity” (adapted from Laursen and Salter [29]), it appears that the breadth of search is important for incremental improvements innovation and that both breadth and depth of search are important for new and radical innovation. In terms of the breadth of the search, it appears that the sweet spot is about eleven sources plus or minus two sources (see Figure 1.10, “Breadth of Search and Innovative Performance”, adapted from Laursen and Salter [30]). This is a rather useful finding upon further reflection. When searching for new information, it is often difficult to determine how much information to gather and the number of sources for collecting information in order to avoid information overload. The point is that you have to seek out a variety of sources of information in order to improve the chances of introducing a successful innovation.

Table 1.1. External Sources of Information

Sources of information from the market

Suppliers of equipment, materials, components, or software

Clients or customers



Commercial laboratories/R&D enterprises

Sources of information from institutions

Universities or other higher education institutes

Government research organizations

Other public sectors, e.g., business links and government offices

Private research institutes

Sources of information from the profession

Professional conferences and meetings

Trade associations

Technical/trade press and computer databases

Fairs and exhibitions

Sources from specialized places

Technical standards

Health and safety standards and regulations

Environmental standards and regulations

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Developing New Products and Services by the Saylor Foundation: Available on

The Role of R&D Process in Innovation

The objectives of R&D are to develop existing and new core competencies, to further existing and new products, and to develop existing and new business processes through invention and innovation. [23] The R&D process is the engine that drives product and process differentiation. Innovation is typically defined as the ideas, the products, the services, or processes that are perceived as being new and different and they have been implemented or even commercialized.

Research and development are usually thrown together as one concept, but in reality they are somewhat distinct processes. [24] Research is typically considered to be science-oriented whereas development is the mechanism for translating the science into commercial products and services. Basic science can be thought of as the engine for pushing new discoveries and ideas into society. This is in contrast to the concept of market pull. Market pull is essentially the process of translating the basic science into products and services in order to satisfy customer needs, wants, and demands. The interaction between science push and market pull creates a very powerful feedback loop that spurs on the development and diffusion of new products and services. [25]

As noted earlier, the diffusion and awareness of technologies typically follows an S-curve. In the early stages of the S-curve, there are very few people aware of the technology. Market research is not important at this stage because there are few untapped wants because of the lack of awareness. As a technology matures and begins to take off, there is a propagation of awareness with increased insight of the possibilities of a technology. [26] It is at this stage that market research becomes viable. It is also at this stage that many similar products begin to emerge because of the surfacing of a kind of group aha because of the interconnectedness of businesses and research groups. This group aha occurs because market research by producers and product development laboratories leads to the same conclusions about consumer wants. Once consumers begin to use products and have had the opportunity to experience a product, they also begin to identify areas of deficiencies in the product and areas where a feature might be added. And this is where market research is very effective because market researchers are very adept at identifying changes in consumer wants.

As the market matures, the demand for the products also begins to decline with the emergence of substitute products and technological obsolescence. It is then necessary to re-prime the pump and reload science. This is done by working with new science and new technologies in order to identify new opportunities for developing products and services. The figure below “Push, Pull, and Reload” illustrates the concepts of science push and market pull and how they relate to diffusion and awareness.

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Some individuals believe that there is a limit on the ability of innovative activities to bring new products to the market. This suggests that differentiation cannot go on forever. This line of reasoning is similar to the idea attributed to someone in the U.S. patent office that: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” There is good news, however, from the patent office. Research has shown that companies can keep innovating and still contribute to the bottom line because it appears that, in general, there are no diminishing returns to scale for R&D expenditures. [27] In essence, continued investment in R&D yields rewards, revenues, and profits. Even though a particular technology may have a performance limit, advances in R&D and in basic science along with customer pull will start the process anew. Moore’s law continues to work for Intel because they continuously re-prime the pump. They have gone from focusing on the clock rate of their CPU, which is constrained by thermodynamic considerations, to exploring multiple CPU cores and restructuring the overall microarchitecture of their chips.

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Developing New Products and Services by the Saylor Foundation: Available on

Product and Technology Life Cycles

Life cycles are a very useful way to understand how products and technology evolve over time. They are very useful in tracking product and process differentiation. They can be used to understand the evolution, growth, and decline of ideas and phenomena in the physical world, the plant and animal kingdom, and technology. The most commonly used life cycles in business are the technology life cycles and the product life cycles. They are used to track the diffusion of technologies and products.

Diffusion is the acceptance, adoption, and awareness of a technology or a product by individuals. The technology and product life cycles are essentially the same, except the product life cycle is focused on selling products while the technology life cycle is focused on innovation. The technology and product life cycles consists of four phases that follow the classic S-curve and they consist of awareness of the technology, technological growth, technological maturity, and a decline of interest in the technology

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Developing New Products and Services by the Saylor Foundation: Available on