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  • 1.  Should we consider design and technical newness towards product innovativeness?

    Posted 04-06-2021 09:34
    I came across the article titled – "What about design Newness? Investigating the relevance of a neglected dimension of product innovativeness" in Journal of Product Innovation Management, which focuses on why the design newness should be considered as a dimension of product innovativeness.

    Product design has become increasingly important in today's fast-paced, globally competitive environment.  As product design is a critical factor in organizational success because it sets the characteristics, feature, and performance of the service that customer demands. The interesting part of the article is how the author is trying to relate the examples of few companies that follow a design-driven approach and use their products visual appearance as the main key for differentiating it from the rest. Using this it helps to capture the originality and uniqueness of that product which helps in building a product category by itself.

    For example, when two car models are compared visually (current and previous year model), it becomes quite easy for a person to distinguish the style change like the grill, tail lamps etc.  But when it comes to purchase decisions, can design newness affect customer needs and expectation? Also, when a product contains new ideas then it is essential that the product needs to be visually different (Dyson products). On the other side looking at the technical newness which deals with providing different features that makes the product stand for itself. A novel technology can serve as an effective product positioning and differentiating from competitors.  The experiment conducted by the author on the different car segments helps us to identify the design newness and technical newness of that segment to see if it has an incremental deviation or radical deviation from other segments. I would assume that both design and technical newness are important drivers for car sales. However, the design newness has positive impact right after the introduction phase and technical newness drives sales with lagged effect and decreases towards the end of the product life cycle.  With growing population and car manufactures moving towards electric and autonomous vehicles, how can we make sure design newness and technological newness are aligned with sustainability goals? Are we going to sacrifice one over the other to achieve it?

    Aravind Ramakrishnan
    Post Graduate Student
    Oakland University, Michigan

  • 2.  RE: Should we consider design and technical newness towards product innovativeness?

    Posted 04-07-2021 09:51

    A few points are worth mentioning when considering this article.  First, and foremost, are considerations for the buying behaviours between durable and non-durable goods. Cars do not tend to be an impulse buy, and I'd argue that a large proportion of buyers have multiple selection criteria - beyond just "new" design or technology. Whereas non-durable goods are much more susceptible to impulse buying which, in my estimate, are better influenced by design and technical newness. Thus, I'm arguing that the article is only sub-market focused/useful.

    Next the authors use Europe, where the CO2 emission value has an enormously significant affect on buyers' choices. This wasn't a control variable! But this also highlights the fact that buying decisions can be notably different between regions (MPG tends to be further down the criteria list for most ICE buyers in North America). How were both scenarios (high priority buying criteria, and regional differences) considered, and compensated for, in the study(?).  This bridges to your sustainability question.

    Third/forth - it seems to me that they should have removed "bad" new designs or technologies from their data. There are plenty of examples where a new design or technology was poorly researched, and subsequently received, in the market. These were faults in execution by automotive companies, and it would have been simple to control for (automotive reviews are quick to damn 'bad' introductions).   

    Finally, pricing (cost delta influence) of the new technology or design features (not just the 'base' vehicle costs that were used as a control variable in the study). The majority of the time new technology is an option for a car, and some of those options have a hefty price tag for them. Same goes for design enhancements (rear wings, special colours or materials, trim additions, etc.). How are these very common scenarios reflected in the study?  If anything, this would be the easiest data (base vs. new tech/design options) to prove their thesis. No doubt the automotive industry understands this intimately.

    Nevertheless the finding - that innovation generates higher sales - is sound (in the aggregate), and reinforced by the abundance of studies that have done a good job of proving the relation. 

    Bruce Santos
    Project Leader
    Product Design Experts

  • 3.  RE: Should we consider design and technical newness towards product innovativeness?

    Posted 04-07-2021 12:33
    This is an interesting thread about "newness." I would pose this question, "Why does it matter how 'newness' is defined?" And similarly, "what's the benefit of defining it at all?"

    I believe the reason is that it helps companies to measure the innovativeness of their products. 3M began took this position when they created the "vitality index", which was roughly defined as the sales of new products as a percentage of total sales. And there's that pesky word again, "newness!" 

    • If we take a blue one and paint it green, is that new? 
    • What if Toyota takes its Camry chassis and builds the next year's Camry, is that new?
    • Or... what if Toyota takes that same Camry chassis, and builds a pick-up truck, is that new? 

    I cannot see any value to a definition of "newness", other than for measurements such as these. But this begs the question, "how useful was the vitality index in the first place?"

    According to Dan Adams, when using the vitality index as an innovation metric, there are three shortcomings: 1) not predictive (it's a lagging metric), 2) not prescriptive, and 3) not precise (easy to manipulate). (Click here for additional insight from Mr. Adams on this point)

    Anyone who has worked in corporate America will recognize the huge issue with #3, not precise and easy to manipulate. All metrics have a strange way of driving behavior, often not as intended. So you can bet that every business leader will in fact, take the most liberal interpretation of "new" and use it to their advantage.

    My conclusion is this: defining "new" isn't necessary because it isn't useful. Instead, find more meaningful measures for the innovativeness of a firm. 

    Scott Burleson
    The AIM Institute