Generating new product ideas


New product ideas may emanate from customers, dealers, in-company sources, including the market research group and external research organizations. Consumer’s problems are the most fertile ground for the generation of new products ideas. This is equally true of both industrial and consumer products. In a variety, ranging from shampoos to computers, customers generate clues leading to new product ideas. And, innovation-oriented companies are cashing in on this avenue. Several companies follow user-stimulus strategies and announce attractive rewards for good new pro-duct ideas.

Company workforce, market research staff, R&D staff and salesmen are also sources of new product ideas. There are companies that encourage ‘skunk work’ where small ‘unauthorized’ teams of executives /workers spend the company’s time and money to work on crazy pro-duct ideas of their own.

Market research groups are a particularly useful source. They conduct frequent studies on the consumers, products, competition, etc. These studies often reveal product gaps — gaps between existing supply of products and the ideal product-concept of the consumers All product gaps, however, cannot lead to- commercially viable new products. Firms choose the promising ones among the identified gaps and frame viable new product concepts.

Creativity techniques like brainstorming and synectics are also used for product idea generation. In brainstorming, a small group of people is encouraged to come up with ideas on a specified problem. In synectics, the real problem is initially kept away from the group and only a broader framework is given too them. The group is encouraged to think in all possible dimensions and slowly the problem is made clearer to them, allowing them to refine their ideas.

The Walkman story shows that new product idea can come from any corner of the environment; the company has to keep eyes and ears open to exploit them. The story also reveals that it needs new product champions like Morita to nurture a new product idea and translate it into a reality.
Idea Screening

From the stage of generation, the new product idea travels to the stage of screening. In this stage, the various new product ideas are under rigorous screening by evaluation committees. Answers are sought to question like:
Is there a felt need for the new product?
Is it an improvement over the existing product?
Is it close to our current lines of business? Or does it take us to a totally new line of business?
Can the existing production and marketing organizations handle the product? Or does it need extra expertise I production and marketing front?.