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Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

  • 1.  Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

    Posted 04-06-2021 09:34

    I recently came across the article, Accelerating Innovation: Some lessons from the Pandemic, written by Robert G. Cooper. In the article, Cooper outlines the following five approaches to accelerate development:

    1. Focused Project Teams: Often teams are spread too thin between multiple projects. Core teams should dedicate 60-70% of their time to a particular project.
    2. Fewer Projects, Better Projects: Force management teams to rank projects from 1 to N. Projects ranked higher on the list should receive more resources.
    3. Digital Tools to Accelerate Knowledge Generation: Digital tools can help assist with the speed of a project. Examples of common tools used include 3D printers, simulations, virtual and augmented realities, and artificial intelligence.
    4. Lean Development: To remove waste from a project timeline, leads should consider deleting unnecessary tasks, constantly view tasks, and ensure they are a value add.
    5. Agile Development: In the article, Cooper notes an agile development team is made up of individuals who are co-located physically and 100% dedicated.

    What are some of the lessons you learned about accelerating innovation during the pandemic?

     

    Cooper, R.G. (2021), Accelerating innovation: some lessons from the pandemic. J Prod Innov Manag. Accepted Author Manuscript. https://doi-org.huaryu.kl.oakland.edu/10.1111/jpim.12565

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    Megan Campbell
    Student
    Oakland University 



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    Megan Campbell
    Student
    Oakland University
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  • 2.  RE: Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

    Posted 04-07-2021 19:38
    Hi Megan,

    Thanks for sharing.  I found some of the topics discussed in this article especially exemplified in my current role as a finance analyst at Ford.  I work in Product Development on our electrical powertrain finance team.  I've heard many discussions regarding the number of internal combustion engine programs we still have on our plate to manage even though we are trying to pivot quickly to BEVs and how we are trying to focus and commonize the future programs that are being developed.  This combines the first two approaches to accelerated development mentioned in the article and your post.

    Additionally, this wasn't during the pandemic, but we went through an organizational restructuring a couple years ago, and one of the exercises that was implemented during that period was keep-stop-start discussions.  These discussions encouraged teams and individuals to make their roles more lean, only keeping tasks that were pure value-add, stopping tasks that were too specific and didn't add value to the team, improving current processes to make them more efficient, or maybe starting new processes that could combine certain tasks or replace outdated ones.

    I found myself agreeing with many of the the concepts outlined in Cooper's article.  One thing I did question though is the use of Agile Development during the pandemic.  One of the defining points of Agile Development is the team being co-located physically.  I wonder how this approach was affected or will be affected by the pandemic when many businesses are doing away with physical office space and going 100% online (Facebook for example).  Ford will be doing a hybrid work model where collaboration spaces will be available physically/in-person, but individual work will be done mostly at home.  Maybe Cooper's definition of co-location is broader than being together in-person (i.e. same state, region, or time-zone), but it's not specified.  I think many teams have proven they can be agile and productive even while working from home and not physically together.  It'll be interesting to see how teams adapt further in the future to increase agility and the continued impact the new work environment from the pandemic will have on product development in the years to come.

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    Leah Brown
    Finance Analyst
    Ford Motor Company
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  • 3.  RE: Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

    Posted 04-09-2021 21:31
    That was great summary, Megan! I have some thoughts to build upon the concept of work from home that Leah touched on. Within recent years, the advancement of technology has allowed for unprecedented ability to work from home. I think pandemic has forced employers to rethink how they do things. A lot of processes that were design in schools and in the workplace were designed during the beginning of the industrial revolution and haven't changed much since then. I believe that this stagnation was resulted in a lot of accumulated bureaucracy and red tape that is no longer necessary.

    With the vaccine recently being made available to more people, the end of this current pandemic may be near and offices may begin to refill. When they do I hope employers and management do not simply return to business as usual and instead build upon the lessons learned from accelerating innovation and working from home. Mary Barra recently said "I have no doubt that the automotive industry will change more in the next five to 10 years than it has in the last 50". I believe that she is right and that in order to stay competitive with implementing emerging new technology into products and processes will require the accelerated innovation that Cooper has outlined in his article. The race is on to develop the first autonomous EV that is safer than human drivers and also has enough range to finally kill the petroleum car once and for all. Automakers that fail to produce one at a viable price when they become commonplace may find themselves out of business. Once that hurdle is cleared, there will inevitably be another race to the next breakthrough technology so firms will have to stay vigilant in trimming the fat from their innovation processes as the red tape tries to accumulate again.

    Van Blanco
    MBA Student
    Oakland University 

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    Van Blanco
    Oakland University
    Rochester Hills
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  • 4.  RE: Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

    Posted 04-12-2021 13:41
    Hello Megan,

    Thank you for sharing this interesting article. I think that we all have learned many lessons when it came to this pandemic. This article really shows how the pandemic accelerated new‐product development was more important and how to develop new innovations to help support the newfound journey everyone is facing through this pandemic. Since the pandemic, many companies were forced to work from home and that caused a lot of issues; if people are working from home and it makes them more assessable to working more efficiently or not but with the new Millenials it makes me question and wonder how this will be more effective, but its something that we will be getting used too as it's saving the companies billions not having workers come into the building.

    This article touches on the lean development which removes the waste from the product line and I think this is an interesting way of thinking and seeing it because in the world that we live in and living in a state that is built on automotive it shows that many lean developments are starting to become more important because we are starting to see things in a different view compared to what they were before. After reviewing the article I agree with all the statements that were placed in the article they all bring great points to the world of the pandemic and the innovations that are coming to light. I am curious to see what kind of new innovative ideas are going to come about. I work for an automotive supplier and they are working on new innovative ideas to say on different things starting with the people, association, and industrious properties. So I think that each company is going to advance it's just figuring out when and how. but the core that is in this article is going to spread light to companies all over.


    Alexandra Jernigan
    MBA Student
    Oakland University




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    alexandra Jernigan
    Master Student
    Okaland University
    3132474396
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  • 5.  RE: Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

    Posted 04-12-2021 23:06
    Hi Megan,

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    This article is like a mirror image of ongoing activities at my job. I also work in product development.
    As part of accelerated innovation at my job, many project timings had been reduced, for example, programs that traditionally require 4 years development time had been accelerated to only 2 years or sometimes less. New processes and new titles were created to facilitate speed program launch.

    At the end of the article, Robert Cooper asked three questions below that got me thinking.
    1. Does accelerated innovation really work – does it yield benefits, specifically which benefits and how much?
    2. What are the hidden costs of accelerated innovation?
    3. Which proposed methods work the best, why, and under which conditions?
    The hidden cost reminds me of ongoing trend at my job. I have seen many employees including me working overtime and putting many hours to keep up with the accelerated plan. In many cases, company continue to hire more people to fill newly created and vacant positions. Some employ continues to change roles so that they can have time for themselves and their family. There are numerous hidden costs here that company may not realize.
    In my opinion, as good as accelerated innovation may look, company must always evaluate the pros and cons vis-à-vis their operations and workforce to see if accelerated innovation will be beneficial to their operation.

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    Sam Odeyinka
    Oakland University
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  • 6.  RE: Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

    Posted 04-16-2021 12:52
    Hello Megan,

    Thank you for sharing this article. Before it was mentioned, I was immediately thinking of the accelerated innovation that has been implemented by pharmaceutical and biotech companies in order to develop the vaccine. I found it interesting that the CEO of the company BioNTech when the news of the new COVID-19 virus was released on that Friday in January 2020, the CEO of the company announced he was going to develop 2 teams to work on vaccine development 7 days a week only a few days later on the Monday after.

    The other example of accelerated development  that I thought of is in the recent push for automotive manufacturers to develop the first fully autonomous vehicle and the push to go all-electric in the U.S. Government pressure and EV friendly tax credits to incentivize these companies have certainly accelerated innovation, since automotive companies realized if they are not producing EVs, then they risk losing significant market share. When Cooper mentioned that there is inconclusive evidence that "the first to market wins" I found myself agreeing with this statement. Tesla for example, has first mover advantage in the EV market, however GM has been making impressive moves with their EV strategy such as vertically integrating their battery supply with their Ultium partnership with LG Chem to provide them with a cost advantage. GM announced today the opening of a second Ultium plant, which will be a $2.3 billion facility, which will further assist them in their strategy to mass-produce EVs. The first to market always captures higher revenue and market share initially, but the followers such as GM in this case, have a great opportunity to learn from the first-mover's mistakes and improve the product and/or technology.

    The COVID-19 pandemic certainly caused other additional accelerated innovation, besides the obvious shift to work from home, where companies such as Zoom certainly capitalized with their market timing, many restaurant chains and retail businesses found themselves in a 'adapt or die" situation. Due to extensive shutdowns across the U.S. and worldwide, many restaurants had to act quickly and come up with a strategy to partner with food delivery companies such as GrubHub, or to incentivize customers to come into their restaurants for carry-out services. Due to high food cost and waste, many sit-down restaurants depend on higher margin alcohol sales to keep their businesses afloat, and to offset not being able to serve alcohol to customers dining in their restaurants, For example, there is a small family-owned business Mexican restaurant by my house that my family and I eat at pretty frequently, that was serving margarita kits to-go to customers who were coming into their establishment for carry-out service. This type of innovation helped restaurants such as this example move inventory, instead of wasting more product.

    The main lessons that I learned here in regard to accelerating innovation during the pandemic, is that if you are a leader of a company, you must think proactively, not reactively. During the pandemic, people as a whole, have learned how adaptable we all are. For example, when I began the MBA program at Oakland University, if somebody would have told me that I would be working from home with my wife and our now 10-year old son would be attending school virtually on Zoom, I would have told them they were crazy. Now our son is back for in-person school, but we continue to both work from home, and I have actually became much more efficient with my time, since I spent a lot of time on the road travelling locally. Now I am able to meet many of my clients through Zoom, which has saved me an extraordinary amount of time.

    Regards,

    Steve T. McKeogh
    MBA Student
    Oakland University


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    Steve McKeogh
    Student
    Oakland University
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  • 7.  RE: Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

    Posted 04-17-2021 15:18
    Hey Megan,

    Thank you for sharing this article. I am an assistant product manager at an an automotive company and have been supporting the launch of a future electric vehicle over the past six months. Needless to say, I was able to relate a lot of the concepts in this article to my current role - our program moves fast!

    A few things that stuck out to me in the article:
    1) Focused Project Teams - too many many development projects in the pipeline. As mentioned in the article, it is important to realize the resources for the project. I have sat in many meetings where a new idea is suggested for the program and the team assess the feasibility based on the resources allocated to the program. This is extremely important so people are not spread too thin across different projects.
    2) Digital Tools to Accelerate Knowledge Generation - It is amazing what technology is capable of these days. Our program team runs all sorts of simulations to understand the ins-and-outs of the vehicle whether it be safety simulations, off-road simulations, acceleration simulations... you name it. This helps get the product to the market sooner because we can rely on data results from the numerous simulations as opposed to performing the scenario with the actual vehicle.
    3)  Lean Development - Remove waste and to make the idea-to-launch system more efficient. This has been really important as the team removes unneeded tasks, drops unnecessary meetings, and deletes work that adds no value.
    4) Acceleration is Not a Panacea - Not all the promised benefits of accelerated development exist. A theory that was called out in the article is that faster to market means higher profits and higher market share. As competition grows in the electric vehicle segment, it is important to stay disciplined and not cut corners just for speed-to-market advantages.

    Thanks again for sharing this article!

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    Ryan Robbins
    Student
    Oakland University
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  • 8.  RE: Pandemic Lessons Learned about Accelerating Innovation

    Posted 04-17-2021 18:46
    Edited by Dan Graf 04-17-2021 18:46

    Hi Megan,

    I really appreciate you finding and sharing this article on the forum – it was truly inspirational! From a macro level, this article was very insightful and could provide numerous job industries (i.e., pharmaceutical, automotive, and information technology) with different ways to look at how innovation can be accelerated. The specific examples from the various companies were also great tools to show just how the lesson could be applied to real life business decisions. As I sat here reading the article, several examples came to mind on how this could be applied to processes/decisions within my organization (tier 1 automotive supplier).

    Instead of commenting on all the five lessons, I wanted to focus on the various areas that were the most influential. I am delighted to say that my organization is already partaking in some of these accelerated strategies as well. On page 9 of the article (under lesson 3: Digital Tools to Accelerate Knowledge Generation), the author (Robert G. Cooper) discussed 3D printing and rapid prototyping. Prior to the pandemic, my organization was notorious for procuring prototype tooling so we could test/trial our prototype modules. Although the prototype tooling had a drastically shorter lead time – when compared to production tooling – it was still very expensive. The shift I have seen over the last year is [us using] using rapid prototyping for parts in our modules. Although this method is still very expensive, it is still drastically cheaper then kicking off the prototype tools. Regarding lead times, there is no comparison here. From purchase order to product in hand, we can have several of our products in house within 3-10 days (vs. the 8-10 weeks on prototype tooling). With respect to this lesson, I would agree that this method can have a huge advantage on both costs and timing.    

    Another topic within lesson three that I found interesting was the comment made about digital testing technologies. This discussion element really got me thinking about my own organization. For example, there are only so many climatic wind tunnels within the United States and my organization owns a high percentage of them. We currently simulate years of 'certain conditions' to understand just how the environment will affect our products. If we are already doing this on a larger vehicle scale, why not investigate developing (or utilizing) digital technologies that can test some of our products at a lower component level? Throughout my many projects I generally hear the same capacity constraints – limited test stand availability and the timing is "x" weeks long. The insight here – perhaps there are alternative testing strategies that have been developed within the last year that my organization can implement within our own processes.

    In section 4: Lean Development, I enjoyed the discussion surrounding removing unwanted tasks. If certain elements are not deemed to be critical (and are non-value add), simply removing these items could improve timing. There was also a specific example that I could also relate to as well. Right now, several of my projects are having pressures from the OEM's to reduce timing. Many of these discussions have similar bottlenecks – timing associated with production tooling. Perhaps what my organization can do here is pilot a few projects where we pull ahead some of the tool sourcing (perhaps ordering the steel and implementing minimal design cuts) so it can reduce timing within the overall lead time.  If we pull ahead some of the sourcing decisions (with lower risk), we could shave off weeks in the timing that we communicate to our customers.

    Although accelerating innovation is attractive, there are also many risks. As the article touched on in the very beginning, merely working harder/faster is not a suitable solution. This can lead to very expensive changes / expedites and drastically affect the ROS on a project. Instead, organizations need to re-think how they are doing certain tasks and look throughout their entire value chain. At the end of your article you asked about lessons that we learned regarding accelerating innovation during the pandemic. This is a very important question and can be beneficial for companies to evaluate. The specific lesson my organization learned- be very transparent and collaborative with your customer. When discussions emerge around improving timing, don't just agree and then tell them at the 11th hour that it cannot be achieved. Be collaborative with your customer and let them decide which door they want to go through. Just make sure that the doors you provide are achievable…

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    Daniel Graf
    MBA Student
    Oakland University
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    Daniel Graf
    Master's Student
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