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The Collaborative New Product

Development Process
- its development, use and impact on today's innovation efforts
Ingvild Sundby
Department of Product Design
Norwegian University of Science and Technology


This paper explores the development and use of the collaborative new product development (NPD)
methods which have emerged in companies around the world for the past 20 years. The methods, such as
Concurrent Engineering (CE) and Integrated Product Development (IPD), were introduced to achieve
shorter time-to-market by gathering all of the involved departments at the initial phases of the process.
This early collaboration is supposed to ensure better communication and planning, thus avoiding time-
consuming remodeling later. Today, the collaborative efforts are characterized by cross-functional teams,
strong customer focus and use of visualization tools. Results from implementation are promising, and
leading innovators like Procter & Gamble, BMW, Toyota and IBM have all in the recent years made use of
collaborative principles in their NPD processes. The paper ends with a discussion of what impact the
collaborative methods have had on today's innovation efforts.


Collaboration, Innovation process, Cross-functionality, Concurrent Engineering (CE), Integrated Product

Development (IPD), Dynamic Product Development (DPD), Design, Anthropology, User Experience.

start of a project in order to avoid time consuming

1. INTRODUCTION remodeling later in the process. The most known
methods include concurrent engineering (CE),
Methods for innovating faster and better in order to integrated product development (IPD), the Stage-
gain competitive advantage has been on the mind of Gate© model and dynamic product development
business leaders for hundreds of years – from the (DPD). Even though largely covering the same issues,
scientific management of Fredrick Taylor to the there is some dispute over how to best make use of
creative philosophies of IDEO. One of the most these methods in an innovation aspect.
important means for achieving success has been
viewed as being first to market, and this particular issue In this paper I will describe the background and
has been the subject for considerable study and principles of the different collaborative methods, and
discussion throughout the years. review some of their reported weaknesses and
strengths. At the end, I will discuss what impact the
One of the hindrances of faster developing time has introduction of these methods has had on the way
been identified as the “over-the-wall” issue stemming today’s companies innovate. The paper is based on
from the sequential process where departments receive several articles and books from the fields of
the result from the previous department’s work without engineering, business, design and innovation, and is to
having communicating before hand, resulting in time be regarded as a review and reflection of literature, and
consuming patching-up before commencing on their not as a detailed description on how to implement a
actual tasks. The efforts for dealing with this issue have collaborative NPD method in a business environment.
included collaborative new product development
(NPD) methods where all participants gather at the

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 1

I would also like to note that I have chosen to use the (ICT) and visualization techniques like rapid
terms “collaborative new product development”, prototyping.
“collaborative efforts” and “collaborative innovation”
when describing common features of the mentioned 2.2 Concurrent Engineering (CE)
methods. These are however not commonly
incorporated scientific terms, and are used for the The western introduction to the collaborative
cause of convenience in this paper. innovation process may be related to Ford's
development of the Ford Taurus in the early 80s which
2. THE COLLABORATIVE NPD METHODS included aspects like cross-functional teams and
geographical collocation. The process was inspired by
2.1 Background development methods in the Japanese car industry
which at the time was considered a serious threat to the
How the West thinks about organization and American industry. Fortunately for Ford, the result of
innovation is influenced by Fredrick Taylor’s work in the new process was a highly holistic product which
the beginning of the 20th century. Taylor's ideas on turned out to be the most sold car of its time in the US.
scientific management lead to a revolution in The project was however 6 months late, and the
production time. The traditional way of one craftsman manager got fired because of it. The next version
making all the features of a product himself, as well as underwent a lot more sequential based development
maybe marketing and selling, was abandoned in process with strict time control, and although finishing
advantage of separated divisions of labor which according to plan, the car was by far not the same sale-
reduced time to market and cut manufacturing cost success as its predecessor[4]. Consequently, one may
radically [1]. say that the first collaboration effort at Ford was a
mixed success.
At about the same time as Taylor wrote his then
innovative works, Thomas Edison set up his famous In 1987, The Defense Advanced Research Projects
lab in Menlo Park in New Jersey[2]. This factory of Agency (DARPA) followed up with an extensive survey
inventions characterized by a free flow of information on the matter, naming the process Concurrent
between scientists from different disciplines, produced Engineering and created a definition[5]:
400 patents in 6 years, and can be seen as an early
example of a successful cross-functional innovation Concurrent engineering is a systematic approach to the
process. It was however the Taylor way which prevailed integrated, concurrent design of products and their related
in the hundred years to come. Most companies today processes, including manufacturing and support. This
are divided in different departments dealing with approach is intended to cause the developers, from the
specialized tasks. outset, to consider all elements of the product life cycle from
conception through disposal, including quality, cost,
For some time though, weaknesses of division of labor schedule, and user requirements.
have become increasingly evident[3]. In a world where
everything happens so fast that change in production The DARPA-project resulted in wide implementation
procedures may occur within a few weeks, rigid of concurrent engineering in government departments,
bureaucracy and operations are more of hindrances like defense, aerospace and automobile. This initiated a
than boosters for growth. The expense of the time chain reaction among the industries suppliers and
consuming “over-the-wall” approach where one subcontractors, and led to a wide recognition of the
department does their work on a project and then method in the U.S. [6]. Since then, the term has
“throws it over the wall” to the next department in a undergone several interpretations, and understandings
fairly Tayloristic manner, is a problem that business of the method seems to vary quite a lot. In her book
leaders and researchers have become more and more “Implementing concurrent design in small companies”
aware of. The realization has lead to the development [7], Susan Carlson Skalak suggests the following
of new collaborative product development methods characteristics for describing the CE process:
characterized by cross-functionality, customer focus,
use of information- and communications technology • Customer focus and involvement
• Early and continual involvement of suppliers in the

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 2

design process Company Name Cost-related Savings
• Cross-functional, self-directed, empowered teams (Direct/Indirect)
• Incremental sharing and use of information Hewlett Packard: 42% reduction in manufacturing
• Life-cycle focus Instrument Division cost
• Systematic and integrated approach
• Concurrent (parallel) design teams Northrop Apprxm. 30% savings on bid on
a major ticket item/product
• Early use of X (DFX) tools
• Use of modern tools such as CAE, CAD, CAM, AT&T At least 40% reduction in the
finite element analysis etc cost of repair for new circuit
• Continuous improvement of all processes pack production
IBM 45% reduction in product direct
All of these ingredients may help reduce development assembly labor hours
time. Early customer participation can lead to less time McDonnell Douglas Apprxm. 60% in savings on bid
spent on support and service, thus making more room for reactor and missile projects
for new projects. Bringing in the suppliers will reveal
important aspects of the needed components, and the Deere and Company Apprxm. 30% reduction in
development cost for
use of visualization tools minimizes the time spent on
construction equipment
reaching a common understanding of the product
features. Boeing Ballistic Reduction in labor rates by $28
Systems Division per hour; reduction in cost by
The US Air Force conducted a study in 1987 showing 30% to 40%
that CE led to an average of 40% reduction in overall NCR 44% reduction in manufacturing
development time (figure 1). An interesting aspect of costs with respect to NCR's
the survey, is the extended time spent on planning - 2760 electronic cash register
about 10 times more than in a sequential one[8]. This is Cisco Systems Revenue increased from $27
a fairly logical outcome for a process which aim is to million in 1989 to $70 million in
make the later stages run as smooth and swift as 1990
possible. More time spent in the initial phases ensures
less confusion and remodeling later. Table 1: Savings in Cost Due to Concurrent Engineering in
Various U.S. Companies (from Dhillon, 2002).

Despite huge reductions in developing time, the

method has been criticized for not being very useful
for radical innovation purposes. Some claim that even
though bringing together engineers of different
disciplines, the method rarely include non-
technicians[9]. This is reflected in the mentioned
examples which mostly consist of incremental internal
improvements to manufacturing facilities and labor
hours. Whether the process is truly cross-functional
might therefore be questionable. It is however
Figure 1: Time difference between sequential engineering (SE)
important to point out that this issue is somewhat
and concurrent engineering (CE) (from Skalak, 2002).
disputed – some literature does in fact describe the
CE-team as highly multidisciplined (like the mentioned
Hewlett Packard, Northrop, AT&T and IBM have all
customer involvement in Skalak’s list), with personnel
reported very positive results from using CE as a way
from several different departments - including
to reduce cost of manufacturing and repair (table 1).
marketing and design[10]. This inconsistent use of
terms might be due to the relatively young age of
collaborative NPD research.

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 3

2.2 Integrated Product Development (IPD) different industries. Today, most big companies making
software and electronic devices, like IBM, Sun, HP and
An other concept of collaborative new product Sony, have usability labs where they bring in users at an
development is Integrated Product Development early stage[14].
(IPD). The method was introduced in the mid 80s as a
reaction to the mainly engineering-based CE- 2.2.2 The Need for a Design Platform
methodology. In addition to engineers from different
disciplines, people from other branches like marketing As seen in figure 2, the work of the involved groups in
and design were also included in the process[11]. the IPD process is based on the rather vague term
“need”. The uncertainty of whose need this is, and who
The Product Development and Management it is who identifies this need, is subject for criticism.
Association (PDMA) defines IPD as the following[12]: Bjørn Baggerud et. Al. argue in the article “Design
Strategy – A Starting Point for Integrated Product
A philosophy that systematically employs an integrated team Development”[15] that the basis of each new product
effort from multiple functional disciplines to develop development should be a lot clearer formulated for
effectively and efficiently new products that satisfy customer everyone involved, consequently reducing the time
needs. consuming exploration of all aspects of the market,
manufacturability and usability every time the company
As CE, the IPD process is identified as being parallel develops a new addition to their product portfolio. A
and activity based, as opposed to sequential and thorough design platform at the basis of each new
functional based, meaning that the people involved are NPD process, developed by designers, researchers,
more or less the same while the tasks at hand differ manufacturer engineers and users together, might thus
throughout the process. A rather well-known reduce the time to market even further (Figure 3). This
illustration is used at several technical universities for universal basis can then be reused several times, only
describing the parallel work of marketing, design, going through minor iterations based on experiences
production and administration in an IPD process from the different development processes.
(Figure 2) [13]:

Figure 2: The IPD process (Fredy Olsson (1985) in Ottoson,


2.2.1 User focus Figure 3: A better defined basis will reduce time-to-market
further according to Baggerud et Al. (from Baggerud, 2006).
In relation with the increased cross-functional focus,
the introduction of real users in the development How much a company can rely on such a foundation is
process has also become more common. These efforts connected with the degree of radicality in the
are characterized as “Human-centered design” which innovation. Makers of a newspaper for instance, will
involves user involvement and testing at an early stage. only have to change the contents from day to day,
Even though this today well-developed field might not while a company with a disruptive new technology
be directly linked to the origin of the collaborative probably have to assess numeral additional aspects
efforts, the user focus in these methods probably have before starting the actual development. What a
helped increase awareness of usability issues in several company includes in such a basis, is thus related to the

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 4

particular industry, the company strategy and the CE and IPD, and creators of DPD, like the Swedish
chosen production process. researcher Stig Ottoson, consider them therefore as
being too rigid for innovation purposes. This rigidity
2.2.3 The Stage-Gate© Model can lead to a result which isn't meeting current market
demands since these might have changed after the first
Some IPD-processes include an external steering group stages are finished. DPD, they claim, is thus a better
which comes in between each stage and reviews the way for ensuring market success[20].
progress. This is to ensure that the development team
stays on track and reaches the planned goals on time. A natural concern is of course to what extent such late
Dependent on the assessment, the project might be iterations will slow down time-to-market, and thus
taken to the next step, or have to go through further reducing the competitive advantage. The possibility of
development at the current stage. One of the most changing the terms of the production basis long after
known methods within this philosophy is the Stage- the planning phase is over, stands also in stark
Gate© method which the creators claim is used in 73% opposition to the thorough initial stage of concurrent
of North American companies in 2006[16]. The engineering as well as Baggerud’s arguments of having
method is also implemented in the telecom company a consistent design platform forming the basis of any
Telenor in Norway[17]. development project. The conflicting views introduce
important questions regarding the interface between
the development phase and the production phase.
When should the collaborative efforts of the
development team be succeeded by streamlined
production execution? A possible answer to this
requires considerations which exceed the scope of this
Figure 4: The Stage Gate Model (from Cooper, 1995) paper. Still, having some sort of well-founded platform
regarding the innovation strategy can hardly be
Some criticism of the method has surfaced, claiming considered as too rigid for any company – even if it
that the steering group assessment halts the project for should contain the possibility of fundamental concept
an unnecessarily long time, making the process abrupt changes close up to market launch.
and discontinuous [18]. A closer integration of
management in the process might be a solution for
avoiding such situations. 4. A COMPARISON OF THE METHODS

Based on the descriptions of the different collaborative

2.3 Dynamic Product Development (DPD)
methods, a summarized comparison of the principles is
One of the very last contributions to new product in place (Table 2):
development methods is Dynamic Product
Development. We see that for the most parts, the methods are quite
similar, with cross-functional teams, customer focus
The term was coined in 1997 when a project was and use of visualization tools. The issue of steering
conducted at Halmstad University in Sweden with the groups was introduced mainly with the Stage-Gate©
aim of developing the IPD process further [19].. As Model and is thus not much mentioned as a tool for
the methods of CE and IPD, the DPD-principles the CE process. The biggest difference between CE
include strong customer focus and the use of and the two other is probably the technological focus
visualization tools. One difference though, is the use of and the lack of extensive use of customer
an internal concept group working as the steering representatives in the process. DPD differs from the
group in order to avoid delays resulting from external two others by allowing change after the planning stage
interference. Furthermore, the method is highly is over. As mentioned before, there is some difference
iterative (hence the term 'dynamic') and allows for in literature describing the characteristics of the
fundamental concept changes at later stages in the different methods. The table should therefore not be
development process. Concept changes after the seen as a final and complete description of the
planning phase are not normally considered a part of

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 5

methods, but more as a guide to some of the identified employees support the process, which also is reported
issues. as decisive for project success [22].
Other success factors include specific project goals and
CE IPD DPD a common understanding of the principles of a
Members R&D R&D, R&D,
collaborative method within the team. Some research
personnel of marketing, marketing, has revealed cases where marketing has consulted
different design, design, R&D only after the product specification had been
backgrounds customer customer finalized “in order to avoid any arguments from R&D
about how to do it”[23]– possibly causing serious
Customer Yes, some Yes, active Yes, active
focus participation participation participation process delay and flaws in the final outcome.
(debated) Comprehensive and continuous training in
collaborative methods is regarded as necessary means
Process Activity Activity Activity for preventing such situations.
based based based
Tasks Internal NPD NPD In addition to the social and cultural factors, mentions
improvement of access to communication tools occur frequently as
Steering - Yes, external Yes, internal important ingredients for an effective project
group execution. This seems especially needed if the team
consists of members located in different parts of the
Visualization CAD CAD CAD,
Tools drawing world, which nowadays is not uncommon. In order to
secure free flowing collaboration between the
Iterations Yes, but not Yes, but not Yes, all the members, proper communication systems need to be
after after way until implemented. All participants should be well
planning planning product
stage stage launch
acquainted with the tools, either from previous use or
training in connection with the project at hand[24].
An issue to be noted though, is the need for always
Table 2: A comparison of the methods meeting face to face in the initial stages of any
collaborative process. Modern communication tools,
This paper will not discuss in detail which of the however advanced, cannot alone ensure the necessary
methods is “the best” in an innovation context, as this trust between group members for conducting a
is highly related to the particular company in question. successful project[25].
However, aspects like organization culture, technology
resources, financial objectives, innovation radicality and 4. CASE STUDIES
composition of disciplines within the company should
most probably be taken into consideration when Variations of collaborative product development
developing a collaborative innovation strategy. processes are currently used in several different
industries. Few companies describe their innovation
process explicatively as CE, IPD or DPD, but the core
3.1 Success Factors principles of the collaborative methods seem to be
widely employed in today’s innovation efforts. Here are
Whichever the strategy a company chooses to go with, a few examples of how big companies have made
there seems to be certain common success factors for collaboration a key issue in their modern innovation
the collaborative NPD process. For instance, literature processes.
on the various methods repeatedly mentions
management support and trust as an important factor 4.1 Procter & Gamble
for ensuring successful implementation[21]. Otherwise,
the team might be needlessly delayed when waiting for In 2000 when Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest
management decisions before being able to commence. consumer packaged goods company, hadn’t managed
A suggested solution is to include a management to introduce a single new product line in 17 years as
representative in the team. Management well as facing a serious stock collapse, radical measures
encouragement seems also to be important for making were needed [26]. The new CEO A.G. Lafley’s solution

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 6

was the Connect & Develop method which included “…engineers do a better job when they work with designers,
goals like acquiring 50% of all innovations from and designers do a better job when they work with engineers.”
outside the company, and ensuring broader focus on
design-thinking as a way to innovate. The result is At BMW, every new development process starts with
several measures very much resembling a collaborative 200-300 staffers from different departments teaming
design process. After 2000, designers are placed in up at the company’s Research and Innovation center in
every business unit, and a series of 10 week cross- Münich, Germany for up to three years[36]. The center
functional workshops have been implemented for the is designed with teamwork in mind, enabling easy
purpose of creating new brands [27]. One of the results interaction and communication between R&D and
of the company’s cross-pollinating efforts is their Crest marketing, and between line workers and management.
Whitestrips from their oral care unit. Traditionally only According to brand chief designer Adrian van
including dental experts, this process also gathered Hooydonk, these close cross-functional collaborations
people with knowledge of safe bleaching from the is decisive for speeding up the development process
company’s laundry division. Today, the product grosses and making better cars[37].
over $200 million per year[28]. Other examples of
similar collaborative efforts include the new Mr. Clean On the other side of the world, Toyota calls its version
Autodry[29] and the Allessi-inspired Swiffer version of collaborative product development process Oobeya,
[30]. which basically means «big open office». Every month
2 years before the car goes into production, everyone
Because the company is distributed all over the world, involved in the process, designers, engineers, marketers
the organization has implemented a communication and managers, meets to discuss their concerns and
system called “AskMe”where anyone can post their solutions. This has lead to increased communication
problems and receive answers from anyone anywhere and holistic understanding, reportedly saving the
in the organization. The application is necessary for company billions in more logical distribution and
integrating all different levels within the organization, production systems[38]. In relation to this, it is
both organizationally and geographically[31]. important to note that the Asian innovation process
has been characterized by collaborative efforts long
Also, as a way to introduce cross-functionality on a before the introduction of concurrent engineering in
higher level, the company launched a Board of Western companies – a fact that has been attributed to
Designers in 2003, consisting of design chiefs from the traditional Japanese respect for groups and
other design driven companies. The board meets every community[39].
four months to assess new product line concepts and
to provide advice for new design strategic measures 4.3 IBM
At IBM, the company with the highest number of US
The measures implemented since 2000 seems to have patents in the world[40], integrated product
worked. In 2004, the company reported a 17 percent development has been implemented fully since 1998
rise in volume and a 19 percent rise in sales[33]- which [41]. The success of the implementation is attributed to
is quite impressive for a company of a 22 billion dollar executive support, broad communication, customer
size. The company relates its recent success entirely to focus, cross-functionality, and benchmarking key
the new innovation efforts [34]. targets against the industry. The company seems to see
collaborative efforts as an important ingredient in its
4.2 BMW and Toyota future innovation processes. Senior Vice President
Ginni Rometty stated at a press-conference in March
The car industry has traditionally been especially 2006 [42]:
vulnerable to the difference between rational engineer
thinking and creative designer traits, but as the head “At its core, the nature of innovation is changing.
designer of BMW Chris Bangle states in an interview It's global, multi-disciplinary, and collaborative.”
with BusinessWeek Magazine[35]:

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 7

How the company tends to deal with these excepted success stories from P&G and IBM, different cultural
changes remains to be seen, but for now the aspects should be taken into consideration.
implementation of new initiatives like “jam-sessions”
gathering thousands of IBM employees worldwide for
common brainstorming online, may signal increased 5. SKEPTICISM TOWARDS COLLABORATIVE
focus on collaborative efforts. This notion is EFFORTS
strengthened by the fact that the company has set aside
$100 million dollars for development of ideas There exist also skeptic sentiments towards the
originating from these online collaborations [43]. collaborative NPD process. The human factor designer
Donald Norman argues in his book Emotional Design
4.4 Apple that the design method of collaboration and iteration
might lead to successful products, but not “great” ones
Interestingly, Apple, identified as the most innovative [47]:
company in the world by BusinessWeek Magazine [44],
does not seem to have any formal implementation of a “I still maintain that an
collaborative cross-disciplined system. In fact, most of iterative, human-centered approach works well for
their market success is in most cases attributed to one behavioral design, but it is not necessarily
individual; CEO Steve Jobs [45]. This quite un- appropriate for either the visceral or the reflective ide.
collaborative trait is however not quite representative When it comes to these levels, the iterative method is
for the company's actual innovation efforts. For design by compromise, by committee, and by
instance, the core design team is in fact said to be consensus. This guarantees a result that is safe and
working closely with engineers, marketers and outside effective, but invariably dull.
suppliers throughout the development process [46]. (...) If you want a successful
The reason why the company hasn’t implemented any product, test and revise. If you want a great product,
formal efforts is probably due to the relatively small one that can change the world, let it be driven by
size of its development team which unlike most other someone with a clear vision. The latter presents more
large corporations’ development staff works in the very financial risk, but is the only path to greatness.”
same room. In that way, Apple ensures close
collaboration without strenuous efforts. The concern of collaboration sometimes leading to
mediocre products as a result of consensus has also
The example from Apple might also be the reason why been expressed by Western businesses when
it is harder to find case studies of collaborative efforts collaborating with Japanese industry. “Consensus-
from smaller companies. As a result of the geographical management” is a term often used when describing the
and organizational distance in larger companies, Japanese new product development style [48]. The
keeping natural collaboration intact might be a country’s success as innovator seems however to prove
challenge, thus making efforts to conquer these issues a some of these concerns wrong. The chief designer of
lot more visible. Further research about when a Rover, Richard Woolley, who has worked several years
company should start considering such a program in the Japanese car industry, describes the cultural
would probably be of great use in this context. differences as follows [49]:

An other notable issue regarding the case examples, is “The Japanese work superbly well as a team. You
the high representation rate of American companies. can’t beat them. They are all going in the same
Studies about collaborative innovation efforts in other direction and you get the impression that Honda,
parts of the world is also hard to come by. This might Nissan, Toyota are like unstoppable machines…
be due to a recent trend in the American innovation whereas we all tend to pull in different directions
environment, but it is important to note, that as with and tend to think of different ways of doing
the Toyota and BMW examples, the collaborative way things, which is a great strength but also a great
of working is not exclusive to the US. However; when weakness.”
choosing to implement a collaborative innovation
process in a non-American company based on the Even though the Japanese seem to manage the
collaborative culture quite well, it is important to stress

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 8

the significance of trust within a team so that significance as a tool for ensuring the advocated
disagreements are dealt with through constructive complete user experience.
dialogue as opposed to mediocre consensus. As
Norman states, a collaborative process works fine for One of the perhaps greatest examples of a product in
securing good products, but might also lead to results full accordance with the new goals of NPD, is the iPod
which are “invariably dull”. In other words, being able from Apple. When launching the mp3-player in 2001,
to disagree might be one of the most important factors business analysts focused on the measurable features
for ensuring a successful result on the basis of the like storage room and battery life. Some didn't think
collaborative NPD process. the player would be a success due to the relatively high
price. Cnet News reported the following at the launch
Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD Intelect, said
How has the collaborative innovation process that the iPod will likely stand out for its large storage
influenced the way companies innovate today? capacity but predicted that the device may have
trouble digging out a niche in the market.
Since the early experiments with Concurrent
Engineering, some fundamental views of the business We all know how wrong this statement turned out to
world have changed. From the intense focus on be. Despite being late, expensive and not very radical in
tangible goals of cost- and time reduction, we see an a technological sense, the disruptive new user
increasing concern for the intangible values like the one experience resulting from a clever mix of design,
of the complete user experience – that is how a person marketing and technology, was the attribute which
thinks a product defines her and makes her feel when created the success. Accordingly, one can say that the
using it. These are factors which more and more are iPod-story shows the importance of multidisciplinary
regarded as decisive for buying decisions. collaborations in the modern innovation process.

The new views of business thinkers such as 6.1 New Disciplines of Innovation
management-guru Tom Peters strengthen the notion of
a change in corporate values. In his book Re-Imagine Two disciplines which are experiencing growing respect
[50], Peters argues strongly that businesses need to in the business community because of their knowledge
stop worrying about measurable goals like cost and of user experience are the designers and the
time, and instead start focusing on experience and anthropologists. According to design thinkers, a better
added value. Furthermore, Peters vividly advocates the use of design knowledge will by focusing on users,
new “Cross-Functional World” which he describes as creativity and experience in a broader sense, bring a
seamless, cooperative, communicative and company's innovation efforts to a higher level [52].
multidisciplinary as opposed to the divided, Corporate measures like the board of designers at
competitive, rigid and specialized world of yesterday. P&G, seem to show that their arguments have started
to be taken seriously.
Even though originally having the sole aim of reducing
time-to-market, one might wonder if not the As for anthropologists, their know-how of observing
collaborative methods through their cross-functionality users in their natural habitat, and so figuring out their
have contributed to the new sentiments. After all, it real needs, is more and more regarded as a valuable
was not until the concurrent engineering efforts in the tool for making more complete products and
80s that close collaboration between different increasing brand loyalty[53].
disciplines started to occur as a formal tool in
American NPD processes, thus paving the way for One of the leading thought leaders on innovation
non-business-related world views and opinions. As today, the design consultancy IDEO, uses both
today's businesses seem to focus more and more on designers and anthropologists actively in their
intangible goals, as opposed to the old aims of reduced development processes as their knowledge is regarded
time and cost, the cross-functional aspect of the as decisive for making products with a complete user
collaborative methods appears to be given new experience. The company has earned more design

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 9

awards than any other of its kind, and its portfolio a few business schools, have also introduced some
contains revolutionary products like the first mouse for interdisciplinary classes in the curriculum, thus hoping
Apple and the first laptop computer in the world. Their to gain better communication and understanding
work studio is characterized by a cross-functional mix between the disciplines in the future [56, 57].
of several different disciplines, and set up a lot like
Thomas Edison's factory once was- keeping 6.3 The Chicken or the Egg?
communication flowing free among the staff [54].
When exploring the link between the rise of the
The company stresses the importance of people with collaborative method and the increased focus on the
other interests than their specialized field (called «T- intangible knowledges of disciplines like anthropology
shaped-people»). This secures an environment with and design, a natural question is of course which came
empathy for other professions, experiences and view first; the enhanced focus on intangibles values, and
points, and thus a better environment for new ideas. then the introduction of new disciplines, or the
On these accounts, one can probably describe IDEO introduction of new disciplines as a result of the
as a company with an implicit cross-functional identity. collaborative process thus paving the way for increased
Their philosophies have spread widely because of their focus on intangible values. Most likely, it is a
many projects with American corporations, and the combination of both, where the two factors strengthen
company is today regarded as one of the most and gain support from each other. Nevertheless;
innovative consultancies in the world – possibly being without the early collaborative movement of the 80s,
one of the strongest catalysts for the new collaborative the non-business disciplines would most probably have
attitude. a lot harder time breaking into the innovation
processes today. At the same time; without a complete
6.2 Challenges multidisciplinary and collaborative team, today's aim
for the complete user experience is probably almost
Even though we see a growing focus on cross- impossible to reach.
functionality, it is important to note that the vast
majority of companies don’t seem to have implemented 7. CONCLUSION
such efforts in their innovation process. The reason is
probably the perceived culture differences between Although there are evidently disputed differences
disciplines - leading to collaboration-difficulties between the new collaborative NPD processes, the
between the groups. In her article “Innovation – trend of cross-functionality seems to be an established
What's design got to do with it?”[55], Bettina von feature in many of today's innovation efforts. The
Stamm describes the differences between designers and initial aim of reducing time-to-market is still intact, but
managers: has also been supplemented by goals like making better
products in accordance with real user needs. Examples
“Where managers tend to focus on profits and like the one of iPod, strengthens the notion of the
returns, designers focus on product and service importance of the complete user experience, making a
quality; while managers are in for survival, designers product's success not only related to the tangible
prefer reform; where managers think linearly, factors of time- and cost. This is why the collaborative
designers think laterally; managers are serialists, efforts, by its opening up to other disciplines, can be a
problemoriented, and cautious, designers are holistic, powerful tool when aiming for successful products in
solutions-led, and experimental. In short, while today's market place.
managers are adaptive, designers are innovative.”
As seen from this paper, there are certain aspects
These radical differences represents a true challenge regarding the collaborative methods which might
when trying to bridge the gap between the professions. benefit from further research:
However, examples like the cross-functionality in the
case studies, the statements from Peters and the • What criteria should decide a company's
experiences of IDEO, may signal the beginning of a collaborative innovation strategy?
broader use of non-business professions in the
common innovation process. Many design schools and

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 10

• What cultural aspects might influence a • How should the world of business and the
collaborative innovation process? world of other disciplines go about to create
better understanding and collaboration with
• When should the collaborative efforts of the each other?
development team be succeeded by
streamlined production execution? In addition to these issues, there is a need for
establishing distinct criteria for the different
• When and at what size should a company collaborative methods of CE, IPD and DPD, so that a
implement tools to ease the collaboration company more easily can decide on which suits their
efforts? needs the best. The current confusion surrounding
these criteria is probably a reflection of a field in
constant growth and development.


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The Collaborative New Product Development Process 11

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[25] T. Kelley, The Ten Faces of Innovation, Doubleday, 2005.

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[35] B. Breen, “BMW: Driven by Design”, Fast Company, Issue 62, p.123, August 2002.

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[49] Ibid, p. 23.

[50] T. Peters, Re-Imagine, London, UK: Dorling Kindersly Limited, 2003.

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The Collaborative New Product Development Process 13

[55] B. von Stamm, ”Innovation – What’s Design Got to Do with It?”, Design Management Review, Vol. 15, Iss. 1, p.10-
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1: From S. Skalak 2002, Implementing Concurrent Engineering in Small Companies. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker Inc,
2002, p.6.

2: From F. Olsson (1985) in S. Ottoson, Handbook in innovation management – Dynamic Business and Product Development,
Tervix AB, 2006, p.166.

3: From B. Baggerud, R. Nesbakken, A.Liem: ”Design Strategy – A Starting Point for Integrated Product
Development”, presented at NordDesign, Reykjavik, Iceland, August 16-18, 2006, p. 3.

4: From R. G. Cooper: “How to launch a new product successfully” CMA Management Magazine, vol. 69, no.8, pp.
20-23, Oct 1995, p. 20.

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 14

The Collaborative New Product Development Process 15