Magazine

Table: Survival Of The Fleetest


Companies on the cutting edge are trying new techniques to help them break their old product-development habits. Here's how they do it:

FIND NEW WAYS TO SPOT HITS

Focus groups and market research aren't enough. So companies are trying new methods to bridge the gap between what technology has come up with and what consumers will want to buy.

Example: Retailer Best Buy has cultivated venture capitalists to find out what startups have in the works.

LAUNCH WITH AGILE TEAMS

Large companies should begin new initiatives with small teams and build ``fences'' around them -- so they won't get tangled in red tape. Entrepreneurial outfits are agile by nature.

Example: Restaurant franchiser Raving Brands gets new concepts going with a half-dozen people.

BREAK YOUR UNWRITTEN RULES

It's the invisible ties that often slow down innovation. And breaking through those bonds is tough. Try brainstorming off-site or with outsiders who are able to provoke fresh thinking.

Example: Jackson Enterprises, facing a glut of wine, came up with two new wine concepts: Both were hits.

OUTSOURCE TASKS TO SPECIALISTS

Design and manufacturing outsourcers don't just do things more cheaply; they do them better and faster. Using standard technologies and components, they cut development time in half.

Example: Cell-phone designer Cellon tweaks standard designs for individual clients.

WHEN YOU HAVE IT RIGHT, REPEAT

Once a new product or business has succeeded in the market, don't reinvent the wheel. Look for ways to use the same technology or business model again and again in additional markets.

Example: Virgin launched a mobile service in Britain, then used the template in three more countries.


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