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Newton told us that, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” And in the realm of New Product Development, Robert Cooper and Scott Edgett are giants of our field. It should be required reading of every product manager and leader to at a minimum understand how their process works. And truly, “understand how the process works” should just be the starting point.
In a recent article, 12 Steps to a Powerful New Product Development Process, I made the case, as Step #1 in fact, that “An executive should own the process.” This isn’t to say that a C-level person must be the one tinkering with it. Conducting reviews, etc. However, in reality, most are far too removed from it. This isn’t ideal. Executive-level oversight and familiarity, by itself, will elevate the process.
Though, it may not be realistic that this oversight goes all the way to the C-suite, we should elevate it as high as we dare.
Why isn’t this the case more often? Perhaps it’s in the name. We call it the “new product development process”. But what if we renamed it to the “profit-generating process?” Suddenly, this might sound more interesting not only to leadership, but to the boards of directors, investors, etc. And truly, it is the profit-generating process! New products fuel organic growth. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why the humble NPD process is too often underappreciated.
However, as innovation and NPD practitioners, we will need to do our part in a “bottom-up” effort to improve our company’s ability to grow. Therefore, we should begin by making sure that we ourselves are familiar with what “good” looks like.
A great place to begin is the PDMA Body of Knowledge. Section 3.3 explores the basics, including Cooper and Edgett’s process. Next, you’ll find a wealth of resources at Cooper and Edgett’s firm, Stage-Gate® International. In particular, not only do they have great resources about new product development processes, but additionally on portfolio management as well. Cooper’s book, Winning at New Products, should be required reading for all product managers and developers.
Of course, this is just one topic among many for which the practitioner should know. To ensure that you have a balanced education across all the key topics, please consider pursuing your NPDP Certification through PDMA. This will provide an introduction to the top thought-leaders in new product development, such as Cooper and Edgett.
About the Author
William “Scott” Burleson is the author of The Statue in the Stone: Decoding Customer Motivation with the 48 Laws of Jobs-to-be-Done Philosophy.
He has a diverse professional background within manufacturing engineering, product management, voice-of-the-customer training and SaaS development. Notable career stops include product manager for John Deere’s compact tractors, innovation leader for Actuant corporation, and Director of the Strategyn Institute. At Strategyn, he worked alongside the world's best jobs-to-be-done practitioners. Strategyn, founded by pioneer Tony Ulwick, is ground zero for Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI).
Today, as Senior Vice President for The AIM Institute, Burleson leads product development for Blueprinter® software, teaches workshops on innovation using the New Product Blueprinting process, and advises corporate leaders and practitioners on growth via JTBD principles.
He has a MS in Management and a BS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University.