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Predevelopment: An Innovation Advantage—A Natura Case Study

By: Sabrina Clepf, Vânia Passarini Takahashi, Flávio Bueno Camargo Junior and Patrícia Maria Berardo Gonçalves Maia Campos
Posted: October 26, 2012, from the November 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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There are several definitions and process models for the early phases of the product development. In “Predevelopment activities determine new product success” (Industrial Marketing Management, 1988), R.G. Cooper divided predevelopment into four stages: idea generation, initial screening, preliminary evaluation and concept evaluation—with emphasis on the importance of both market-related and technical activities.

Some experts suggest that predevelopment includes product strategy formulation and communication, opportunity identification and assessment, idea generation, product definition, project planning and executive reviews.

The most robust predevelopment model probably is a theoretical model called the New Concept Development Model (NCD Model), which provides a common terminology for the predevelopment phase. The model consists of three sections, the uncontrollable influencing factors, the engine and the five key elements. The influencing factors are relatively uncontrollable by the corporation and consist of organizational capabilities, the outside world (distribution channels, law, government policy, customers, competitors, political and economic climate) and the enabling science (internal and external) that may be involved. The controllable engine is the leadership, culture and business strategy of the organization that drives the five key elements. The controllable five key elements are opportunity identification, opportunity analysis, idea generation and enrichment, idea selection and concept definition.

Opportunity Identification

In this phase, the organization identifies opportunities that it might want to pursue. Business and technological opportunities are considered so that resources will be allocated to new areas of market growth, operating effectiveness and efficiency.

Road mapping, technology trend analysis and forecasting, competitive intelligence analysis, customer trend analysis, market research and scenario planning are the main methods utilized in opportunity identification.

Opportunity Analysis

In this phase, an opportunity is assessed to confirm that it is worth pursuing. Supplementary information is needed for specific business and technology opportunities. It involves early and regular assessments of market and uncertain technology. Many of the same tools used in opportunity identification are used in this element as well.

Idea Generation and Enrichment

Idea generation and enrichment may be a formal process, including brainstorming sessions and idea banks, prompting the organization to generate new or modified ideas for the identified opportunity. Alternatively, a new idea may also be generated outside the boundary of any formal process—such as an experiment that goes wrong.

Idea generation and enrichment may supply opportunity identification, demonstrating that the NCD elements often work in a nonlinear form. Some of the most effective tools and techniques include an organizational culture that encourages employees to generate their own ideas, varies incentives, creates an online idea bank, establishes a formal role for someone to coordinate ideas from generation through assessment, and provides a mechanism to handle ideas outside the organization.

Idea Selection

In general, idea selection requires an iterative series of activities that are likely to include multiple passages through opportunity identification, opportunity analysis, and idea generation and enrichment—frequently with new insights from the influencing factors and new directives from the engine. This task should be done in a formal way and rapid feedback should be provided to the idea generators.

Concept Definition

To initiate product development, the innovator must make a compelling case for investment in the business or technology proposition. This document may contain objectives, concepts matched to corporate strategies, potential of opportunity, market or customer needs and benefits, and a business plan that specifies a specific win-win value proposition for value chain participants.

The NCD Model, with its common language and terminology, is considered the main contribution to this survey, and it was applied and tested in the Natura case study.

Development Process