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Understanding Barriers to Product

Innovation at the R & D/Marketing
by A. F. Millman

"Marketing hardly ever tell us which products they want and when
they do, they always want them yesterday."
"We badly need a few new products to see us through the next five
"We've had product X for over two years — there's nothing can
touch it, yet nobody's out there trying to sell it."
"Customers are crying out for an improved version of product Y but
we can't see anyone working on it."
How often have you heard the above expressions of frustration?
Possibly they are so commonplace that you now accept them as a way
of life? When times are good it is easy to ignore the symptoms of
despondency — everyone is preoccupied with the present and the
future seems a long way off. When business becomes tight, horizons
shorten and the cumulative effect of irritations and general inade-
quacies of the system is to block or severely restrict innovation during
a period when it is needed most.
Of all the functional interfaces in the innovation process, the one
which is required to match product and market is the most vulnerable
to becoming a friction face. Clearly, it is the joint responsibility of R
& D and Marketing management, as guardians of the medium/long
term product offerings, to ensure that conflict is resolved before it
becomes a permanent feature of the company's modus operandi.

Problem Areas
The scope for contact between R & D and Marketing varies considerably within dif-
ferent companies and industries. Perhaps the ideal situation would be continuous
contact with no clearly defined interface and well developed channels of com-
munication. Unfortunately, few products and markets allow such stable relation-
ships to develop — they are continually in a state of flux, as are the organisations
and people who are required to operate in them.
Barriers to Product Innovation | 23

External environmental change is uncontrollable, yet it is a variable that must be

monitored, interpreted, and fed back into the organisation. Most organisations
claim to be aware of environmental influences but only a minority are sufficiently
pro-active so as to tailor their way of working to meet anticipated conditions. The
vast majority lag the market by months or even years — they react to, rather than
anticipate, customer needs; and it is hardly surprising that a whole host of cum-
munication problems are generated internally. Unlike the external business environ-
ment, the internal working climate is, in theory, controllable. If there is some truth
in the old adage that management's purpose is to get things done through people,
then it follows that those organisations which are prepared for change and can
motivate everyone to pull in the same direction, will have a distinct edge over com-
Lack of market orientation and breakdown in communications are the most fre-
quently cited reasons for British industry failing to complete the product innovation
cycle and achieve full commercial exploitation. It is not that we are short of poten-
tially sound product ideas nor that our technical skills are outdated. We have fallen
down in two vital areas: firstly, by concentrating too much attention on R & D
aspects and not injecting a marketing input early on, we have paid the penalty of
mis-timed product launches or offered products largely on their technical merit
rather than packaged in the form of a product concept which meets a known market
need; secondly, the multi-stage nature of the innovation process has been
misunderstood, resulting in boundaries becoming barriers as the product moves
from idea generation (or need identification), screening and concept evaluation
through techno-commercial analysis, product development, market testing and
finally, production and commercialisation. Occasionally, to speed up the process,
managers have been tempted to omit certain stages and reduce the number of inter-
stage reviews or step up the frequency of crash development programmes. Such
short-term thinking invariably leads to disillusionment with procedures and
threatens overall commitment.
A recent report from ACARD[1] highlighted institutional problems, specialisa-
tion and lack of communication as acting against innovation, and "neglect of
market considerations — either because of isolation of the R & D function from
manufacturing and marketing, or because new products are expected to create their
own market". In similar vein, a report from the US National Science Foundation[2]
suggested that most barriers to innovation are institutional in nature and some
criticism was aimed at the policies and operating practices of both government and
corporate organisations. A NEDO report[3] on the pharmaceutical industry con-
cluded that while the major companies relied heavily on research, there were few in-
stances of marketing representation on R & D committees and project teams. Final-
ly, Mansfield[4], digressing from his econometric analysis of technological innova-
tion, commented that: "The personality attributes, interests, training and other
characteristics of top and middle management play an important role in determining
how quickly a firm introduces innovation. The presence or absence of a few men in
the right places makes a critical difference."
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Organisational Design
In its simplest sense of the word an organisation is a collection of people possessing
various skills, values, attitudes and beliefs; required to work individually and in
groups; and to perform prescribed tasks. This normally involves the formation of a
management hierarchy vested with authority and responsibility to achieve a set of
aims and objectives. In order to do this effectively in a technological environment,
organisation design centres on optimising group size and the co-ordination re-
quirements of groups which are both specialised and interdependent. Before ex-
amining interaction between R & D groups and Marketing, it is worthwhile briefly
reviewing traditional organisation models and some of their managerial implications.

(a) R&D Groups

Vertical (functional) groups are active in specialised fields e.g., metallurgy,
chemistry, electronics. Such groups are normally permanent and each
member has a clear idea of his responsibilities, performance requirements
and promotion prospects. Because of the nature of the work, the manager is
required to possess specialist knowledge in addition to acquiring managerial
skills. His main task is to maintain a suitable balance between individual
members' needs for personal development within their profession and con-
centrating their efforts on the job in hand.
Horizontal (project) groups contain, or have access to, all of the resources
necessary for problem solving. Project management involves the selection of
a multidisciplinary team which may start off with a few key members, build
up to a peak and then taper off in number towards the end. Project groups
are, by definition, temporary, well known examples being a new product
launch, introduction of a computer system, design/construction of
petrochemical complex, etc. Project management requires different qualities
to those of continuous management. Often the manager will be required to
direct work outside his own particular expertise. No one would expect him to
be expert in all fields, but demonstrated competence in at least one technical
field is a distinct advantage in gaining the respect of his peers and subor-
dinates. The benefits of improved communication and co-operation amongst
specialists committed to the same objective under tight time constraints can
only be realised if they remain committed and there is some assurance that
when the project is terminated, others will follow.
Matrix organisations evolved as a compromise between functional and pro-
ject systems in an attempt to maintain the advantages of each. Projects re-
quiring only a small or sporadic input of expertise in a particular area can call
upon the part-time services of a specialist instead of duplicating the employ-
ment of full-time persons for each project. This means that some specialists
retain their reporting route to their functional manager whilst also having
responsibility to a project manager. In most cases, power and control is
devolved to the individuals and groups who have the technical skill to ac-
complish the task, no matter what their level in the organisation. Many of the
European aerospace and communications satellite companies have organised
Barriers to Product Innovation | 25

their design and development programmes along matrix lines.

Historically, R & D work has mainly been located within the confines of a single
organisation unit close to other functions geographically. However, there is now a
trend towards centralised R & D facilities, licensing know-how and sub-contracting
projects to external specialist organisations such as consultants, universities, com-
puter software houses and research associations. This has far-reaching implications
for R & D management — it means that a conscious decision has been taken to pur-
chase expertise in preference to building up in-house groups. Researchers are re-
quired to form temporary relationships with organisations quite different from their
own; and in accepting bought-in know-how, the risk of emergence of the "not in-
vented here" syndrome cannot be ignored. Some managers regard crossing cor-
porate boundaries in this way as very beneficial and there is more than adequate
evidence of success to be found in the high technology industries. It is said to make
R & D personnel more cost conscious and expose them to the inside operations of
other groups of professionals which might otherwise be inaccessible. Comparisons
have also been drawn with Marketing's relationship with customers and distributors
— in this instance, R & D being the recipient.

(b) Marketing Groups

Functional groups (sales, customer service, marketing research, advertis-
ing/promotion, sales administration, distribution, etc.) reporting to the
marketing manager are the most popular in medium/small companies and
those with only a few product lines and markets. A variation on this theme
for larger or multi-product/multi-market companies is to divide functions in-
to operational and service oriented groupings, thereby introducing a further
layer of management. This is claimed to alleviate immediate pressures on the
marketing manager and leave him free to concentrate on longer-term
strategic planning issues.
Product groups are similar to the project groups discussed in the previous
section on R & D organisation. The product manager's role is centred on
planning, co-ordination and control of all the activities associated with a par-
ticular product. In some cases it is possible to set profit centre criteria and
when the products are complex technically, there are advantages from having
specialist field sales engineers and technical service people.
Market groups are particularly suited to companies selling similar products
into a number of different markets. These rely on carefully identified market
segments and on the formulation of strategies to meet the differing needs and
purchasing behaviour of end-users.

Superimposed on all the preceding marketing organisations may be the need for
decentralised operating divisions; regional representation, including export; com-
plex systems of account management related to one or more large customers and in-
termediaries; and sometimes the desire to consider whole industries and government
26 | European Journal of Marketing 16,5

Is Integration Possible?
Standing back from the mêlée, it would seem there is no single best organisational
design and no easy way to achieve integration. Few companies opt for revolutionary
change, most being prepared to modify their existing system through minor
reorganisation and loosening boundary constraints. Under these conditions, infor-
mal communication flows must be allowed to develop and where possible, co-
ordination and liaison skills visibly raised to the status level of functional skills.
It is often instructive to look back a few years and examine what has been said
about organisational design, particularly with respect to closer integration of the R
& D and Marketing functions: Lawrence and Lorsch[5] predicted that "one of the
critical organisational innovations will be the establishment of management posi-
tions, and even formal departments, charged with the task of achieving integration.
Moreover the integrative function will be on a par with such traditional functions as
production, sales, research and others." They presented a profile of the behavioural
characteristics of effective integrators with emphasis on competence and knowledge
rather than positional authority. This approach was thought to assist resolution of
interdepartmental conflict and disputes in R & D intensive companies where there is
high functional differentiation and strain on existing organisational forms.
Hayhurst and Wills[6] offered the concept of a Marketing Development Manager:
a co-ordinating role separated from operational activities and embracing
market/product planning, marketing research and the administration/control of
product development. Economic feasibility was said to be restricted to
medium/large companies, and they conceded that a split of this type may be
"creating a new, unfamiliar problem of integration in order to overcome a lesser
problem — that of persuading marketing executives to spend somewhat more time
thinking about the future in the course of an already integrated activity." Never-
theless, the notion of top-level integrators is a very appealing one, especially for pro-
ject oriented companies involved in sub-contract work and industrial consortia.
Some senior executives have adopted the title Marketing Development Manager but
the biggest growth area has been in the number of middle level personnel with nar-
rower roles, carrying titles such as Liaison Executive and Project Co-ordinator.
Whatever the benefits of new titles and organisational designs on paper, ultimate
success is still bound up in the management of change in human relationships due to
accompanying technological and external environmental change. Argyris[7] sug-
gested that "administrative and information technology available to deal with com-
plexity" and "new requirements for organisation survival", were part of a revolu-
tion in organisational design. He saw the new organisational forms as basically
sound but "because of the methods used to introduce them and because of those us-
ed to maintain them, many of the unintended self-defeating consequences of the
older structures are reappearing."

Multidisciplinary Groups
An increasingly common occurence in companies attempting to break down barriers
between various functional units is the formation of ad hoc multidisciplinary teams.
These are based on the principle that specialists debating the same subject or pro-
blem stimulates interaction, and synergistic use of human resources leads to
Barriers to Product Innovation | 27

improved solutions.
Ideally, the make-up of groups and degree of structuring should reflect the range
of problems to be covered. For example, in certain circumstances such as creativity
sessions, it is desirable to impose minimal structuring on the group so that it can
spontaneously generate a pool of ideas for subsequent evaluation. The author's ex-
perience in this particular area indicates that providing members are carefully
selected for their willingness and ability to contribute to creativity and problem-
solving exercises, brainstorming techniques can be handled by most capable
managers. However, as the scope of the group extends further in the direction of
problem solving, other more sophisticated techniques, e.g., synectics, due to their
reliance on interpersonal relationships, problem redefinition and analogies, may re-
quire the assistance of trained leaders.
Some managers encourage the formation of multidisciplinary peer groups to
tackle cross-functional problems and the early exploration stages of product
development. The degree of autonomy allowed to these groups in deciding their way
of working and their expected life are important factors influencing efficiency.
Davis[8] described his observations on interactional patterns in egalitarian group
situations and found that members of freely interacting ad hoc groups rarely arrange
an optimal interpersonal structure to process efficiently the information demanded
by the problem. Firstly, he noted that group performance was seldom at the level of
its best member, and most often dropped below the base line describing optimal per-
formance. And secondly, below optimal performance resulted even when the task
and circumstances permitted allocation of sub-problems, but there was some benefit
from interaction directed towards establishing an affable atmosphere and a kind of
"social survival" value. This behaviour is often found in temporary groups,
especially those which are poorly briefed and lacking the cohesiveness of permanent
groups. According to Janis[9], where there is no clear-cut disagreement, consensual
validation replaces critical thinking resulting in an "illusion of unanimity". Davis,
however, holds out some future for the peer group approach in his comment: "A
group that remains in existence long enough to discover members' talents could
eventually organise far more satisfactory use of resources — namely, an intellectual
hierarchy that is correlated with members' skills".
This now raises the question of formal and de facto leadership and what happens
to ideas that have sufficient merit to warrant setting up a feasibility study or more
extensive project. Various writers have put forward ideas on project leadership,
sometimes under the guise of new venture groups, business teams or short-lived task
forces. For example, Schon[10] coined the name "product champion" and more
recently, Burns[11] introduced the notion of "natural knowledge leaders", who
could be coached in interpersonal relations and communications techniques.
Slocum[12] advocated that once the product concept has been clarified, the team
leader should be appointed from the members of the "exploration" group. Certain-
ly, the best start for a project group is the selection of a leader showing en-
trepreneurial skill coupled with some technical talent valued by the group — to in-
still a degree of legitimacy to his appointment.
Not all multidisciplinary groups are peer groups. In practice we find formal
groups made up of senior/middle managers, Marketing and R & D specialists and
28 | European Journal of Marketing 16,5

other co-opted members, delegated responsibility for screening and reviewing pro-
duct ideas worthy of further development. It should be noted that every time a pro-
duct is reviewed andmovedon to the next stage in the innovation process, there is a
potential discontinuity and additional people become involved. Here we are faced
with a dilemma: Should members of new product groups, so vital to the company's
future, be staffed by people on their individual skills or solely on position in the
hierarchy? In an imperfect organisation with senior and middle management posi-
tions inherited from previous regimes, it is often necessary to invite people who are
known "fence builders" and accept an off-optimum set of conditions. Not to invite
them might create an even bigger barrier to innovation later on.
Performance of the group is further influenced by members' relative positions in
the hierarchy and the requirements of decision making. Among the complex
behavioural patterns in groups of this type are inhibitions due to pecking orders bas-
ed on authority; worry-minimisation and risk-taking (or avoidance) because deci-
sions are spread over several members; and the ever-present danger that the group
will be used to ensure ideas carrying a "political" element receive approval. There
are many examples of products demanding more than their fair share of resource
just because a top executive has attached his name to them. Similar irrationalities
also exist in peer groups, especially when product deletions are under discussion. R
& D and Marketing personnel alike often show marked reluctance to drop products
which have served the company well for many years and on which they as in-
dividuals have built their reputations. Sound quantitative market research is normal-
ly the only effective way to support product deletions.
A counter force to the top executive who pulls rank or puts indirect pressure on
managers to ensure an obstruction-free passage for his pet project, is the positive ac-
tion of the sponsor. He is not necessarily, as might be thought, the provider of
finance; but a senior executive who takes on the role of product/project protector.
Since new ideas are initially unstable and have to survive much scrutiny and criticism
before they take off, he is given the job of seeing they are not condemned to death
before receiving a fair hearing.
Mulkay[13] presented an interesting sociological view of innovation, suggesting
that the top and bottom of hierarchies are the most fertile areas for innovation. He
maintained that top research people with established reputations have very little to
gain from conformity and, within reason, some will permit themselves to indulge in
the occasional risky venture. At the bottom end, young researchers have nothing to
lose and everything to gain by challenging anomalies and pursuing a wild notion.
Serious error is more likely to receive sympathetic understanding than rejection and
can be explained away by the impetuousness of youth! Mulkay saw the middle-of-
the-range researchers as having little incentive to risk failure and they continue their
plodding way as they have always done. A similar, though more caustic, attack on
conformity was instigated by Raudsepp[14] who blamed despondency and faulty in-
terpretation of the democratic method inherent in group activity. He offered
guidance on creating constructive non-conformity, including: exposure of research
engineers to varied assignments, reward for extra effort and excellence, return to in-
dividualism and de-emphasis on committee decisions. It appears there is strong sup-
port for the multidisciplinary approach in providing a forum for ideas but when it
Barriers to Product Innovation | 29

comes to decision making and maintaining momentum, leadership and en-

trepreneurship are important requirements. As Clarke[15] succinctly put it: "Suc-
cessful innovation is founded, not in a committee process, but on the motivations
and energies of entrepreneurs. The marketing input must inform the judgement of
the entrepreneurs, not replace it."
Contrasting Roles
Recurring themes in the literature on the management of innovation are the twin
barriers of culture and professionalism. Shibutani[16] reminds us that: "Variations
in outlook arise through differential contact and association; the maintenance of
social distance — through segregation, conflict, or simply reading different
literature — leads to the formation of different cultures". No one would realistically
propose in this day and age that industrial researchers work in a rarified atmosphere
but there are many instances where the notion of marketing is so foreign to their ex-
perience that mistrust and fear of loss of control can cancel out any attempt to in-
fluence R & D programmes. As Clarke[15] pointed out: "Marketing represents
another way of thinking — another discipline... .less exact and more qualitative
than the researchers' own; it can embody such exotic concepts as social behaviour
and attitudes. And to cap such difficulties, the marketing work will probably be car-
ried out by someone else, outside the researcher's own organisation, who talks
another jargon and who is continually complicating the whole thrust of his technical
A number of observers have suggested that research engineers and scientists are
largely concerned with the furtherance of knowledge and opportunities for creative
work. In some cases this is thought to outweigh any material and social benefits
senior management may wish to offer as reward. Raudsepp's studies[17]-indicated
the exception "when intrinsic satisfactions are missing or reduced, involvement with
salary and other contextual or climate factors of a job receive increasingly greater
emphasis". This overwhelming attachment to the work itself has undoubtedly led to
a degree of introversion, coupled with strengthening of the researcher's loyalty to his
immediate work group and profession in preference to the organisation which
employs him. Twiss[18] reinforces this view in his statement: "The technologist
regards himself primarily as a professional rather than a businessman. His training
and natural inclinations enable him to relate with similar professionals in other com-
panies more easily than with other managers in his own organisation." Similar
behaviour is not unknown in large project work where managers consider their basic
skills in handling projects to carry more personal status than any association with a
current employer. They liken their role to that of consultant, and move from project
to project within a range of employers and industries.
Salaman's[19] simple definition of the professionalisation process is useful in
understanding how reference groups are formed within the bounds of R & D culture:
"The member of a profession undergoes a lengthy period of training and socialisa-
tion during which he picks up a value system and world view, a perspective. He
begins to see himself in terms of these standards and in terms of his professional ti-
tle, and to value this identification. As a result of this he is oriented towards the
other members of the profession as his significant others: it is their esteem he strives
30 | European Journal of Marketing 16,5

for, and their judgement he values." Nevertheless, a researcher's identification with

a particular profession does not preclude his loyalty being weaned away from time
to time by a unique set of circumstances surrounding a product or company. For ex-
ample, there is some attraction in working for a company that is market leader
technically; and who is to say the design and development engineers working on the
Spitfire aircraft, the first JCB excavator or an advanced IBM computer system had
not more than a mild affection for their product?
Extending the discussion on professional and occupational differentiation is im-
portant because as groups strive to increase their prestige, the element of competi-
tion tends to promote internal cohesion and social barriers between them. Firstly,
the type and level of work will dictate which reference groups carry the highest status
and those which are on the ascendancy. Secondly, we are witnessing the emergence
of new professions — some in the scientific and technological fields but most in the
marketing and general management support functions. Many of these have elected
to stand alone, while others find positions as sub-groups under the umbrella of one
of the long-established professional institutions and societies. Thirdly, in recogni-
tion that at some point in time specialists assume managerial roles, attempts have
been made by the British Institute of Management to draw together a wide cross-
section of senior managers — the ultimate aim being creation of management as a
The British Institute of Management, Institute of Marketing, Institute of Sales
Management, Market Research Society, etc., are all relatively young organisations;
and like their older counterparts in science and engineering, they currently have little
influence over their membership. It is interesting to note, however, that in the wider
context of professional activity, the regulation of professions offering personal ser-
vices, such as medicine and law, has evolved a cachet of respectability and exclusivi-
ty unmatched in society. Whether it is desirable for professionals employed in in-
dustry to follow the same path is open to debate. Some professional institutions see
greater control as a prerequisite of improved status, others struggle to separate
members' professional requirements from those lumped under the heading of condi-
tions of service and normally negotiated by trade unions. Whatever advantages
membership of a professional institution may bring, it does seem that general
managers and marketing specialists in industry have closer identification with their
employer than found among R&D groups. This is usually attributed to their job in
representing the company and its products in the presence of customers and contacts
in the outside business world.
Marketing personnel also tend to be drawn from diverse backgrounds. Some will
have progressed through the sales route and grafted on product knowledge; others
may be technical people wishing to become more commercially oriented; and in re-
cent years, marketing has attracted business graduates, management scientists,
psychologists, social scientists, mathematicians, statisticians, etc. Marketing seems
to be a more fragmented profession than most but its growing pains are largely
related to its adaptation to the challenge from the market place as well as from
within. Viewed from the organisational and human relations angle, the roles of
Marketing and R & D management have a number of similarities. On the one hand
groups must be permitted to maintain their individual identity and on the other, this
Barriers to Product Innovation | 31

must be diluted from time to time so as to encourage inter-group working towards a

common goal — a delicate balance between integration and segmentation.
Marketing, Selling and Marketing Research
A popular misconception concerning marketing is that it is synonymous with per-
sonal selling, when in fact the latter is merely one part of the former. This is not, of
course, assisted by departments which are in all respects sales but are called
marketing because it is fashionable and prestigious to do so. True marketing is
something much more. It encompasses selling and sales administration, product and
market planning, advertising and promotion, marketing research, customer service,
distribution etc. This is not to denigrate the role of personal selling in industrial
marketing. In addition to "Clinching" orders, the salesman is the company's
presenter and interpreter, a source of feedback from the market and an important
person during the launch of new products.
Miller and Rice[20] described the salesman's transient and long-term relationship
with customers and the problems associated with remoteness from his company. To
some customers he is the company and is expected to take criticism for late delivery,
product quality and many other factors outside his control. For long periods, his on-
ly link with the company may be the impersonal telephone and since he spends most
of his time with customers or in transit, there is little opportunity to share frustra-
tions with colleagues. Sometimes he is more friendly with customers, other contacts,
or even competitor's representatives for whom he may have "potentially a closer af-
finity than anyone else, because they share the same kind of role with the same
customer; and sometimes, albeit guiltily, they meet in cafes and public houses to ex-
change their experiences".
The foregoing comments raise the vital question of which people from Marketing
should be encouraged to participate in multidisciplinary groups? Salesmen, because
of their closeness to the customer, are often considered to be prime candidates but
there are difficulties to be overcome, not the least of which are logistics and training.
Company-based salesmen can fairly easily fit group meetings into their call schedule
but regionally-based salesmen incur additional travelling time and inconvenience. In
both cases, the perceived value of group interaction will be compared with lost call
time and there may be other factors to be ironed out such as lost commission. There
will always be certain salesmen who possess a natural inclination for group work,
whereas others need extensive training to accept a broader role. It is important to
make everyone aware of the criteria for selection as this aspect can be highly
demotivating. For example, are the chosen few being groomed for greater things?
In a mixed channel situation, is too much emphasis placed on the views of
company-based salesmen due to their accessibility to marketing management? How
typical is a regional salesman's view of the total market? If seconding salesmen to
multidisciplinary groups is successful then it will carry kudos and perhaps be much
sought after. The risk is that mediocrity will almost certainly result in membership
being viewed as a chore.
Inviting sales managers and technical service managers to represent Marketing is
on the face of it, a more fruitful course of action. They can give an overview and are
normally sufficiently close to customers to present an accurate picture of the
32 | European Journal of Marketing 16,5

market. Whether they can divorce themselves from the short-term operational
nature of their work will depend on the extent of formal marketing procedures and
how these are perceived to influence their selling task. In general, managers who
regularly provide information and have a hand in market/product development and
planning, will have favourable attitudes towards any activity which will secure their
long-term future. It also follows that they will be more committed to accepting the
later, less palatable, aspects of planning — namely implementation and control. The
same argument applies to R & D managers who have project deadlines to meet; and
salesmen who may be required to push particular products, introduce new products,
drop old ones and investigate new markets. People who have participated in the
planning and development process and committed themselves to it, are working to
the same set of rules.
An essential prerequisite of planning is marketing research, and it is in this area
that all functions can make a useful contribution. Any relevant source of informa-
tion which helps clarify the likely course of future events should not be ignored. In
particular, the nature of industrial markets makes advances in technology and con-
sideration of derived demand (knowing your customer's customer) of crucial impor-
tance. This implies recognition that marketing personnel are not the only people
with an antenna in the outside environment. In the words of Skinner[21]: "It
sometimes happens that the significance of an invention is appreciated by engineers
or chemists long before its effect is felt in the market. Close liaison with technical ex-
perts can therefore assist the marketing manager to predict the advent of alternative
products and to distinguish serious threats from false alarms."
Having recognised the need for marketing research, the next tasks are problem
definition, formulation of objectives and a pilot study, leading to a systematic data
collection programme. It can be seen that the marketing research process has aims
very closely allied to the early stages of the innovation process. Moreover, it focuses
on information for decision making; covering company strengths and weaknesses,
internal and external opinions on market opportunities, competitors' activities, etc.
Marketing research is one of the few objective ways of placing identified market
needs alongside internally generated product proposals. The research report pro-
vides a basis for co-operation — shared knowledge — and eliminates the risky and
expensive alternative of speculative product development, then searching for a

The question of training is at the heart of group effectiveness. Extract an individual
from his day-to-day routine and place him unprepared into a totally unfamiliar
situation and any number of reactions will result. In short, selection of group
members cannot be left to chance or at best, to some intuitive feeling that a par-
ticular person will survive. To eliminate shock and generally ease transition into the
broader role in which a participant might find himself, companies are at last
recognising the need for appropriate training courses. Through exposure to a variety
of experiential learning situations it is possible to train individuals to diagnose self-
behaviour, relate this to their effect on others and develop a range of interpersonal
skills of value in group work.
Barriers to Product Innovation | 33

There is a tendency in some companies to assume that team building and other
group development training is a below-Board level activity and that Directors are
sufficiently well rounded so as to make it unnecessary for them to be drawn into the
trainer's net. Clearly the Board's role as a supervisor of the company's affairs and
establisher of objectives and strategies, implies an obligation to recognise that in-
novation in its various forms demands commitment from all corners of the organisa-
tion, including the Board itself. It is reasonable to suggest that many of the barriers
to be dismantled at functional interfaces are also present at Board level. Team
building in this area would, therefore, seem essential because good work done at
other levels can be negated by poor decisions on the part of top executives.

As companies move further along the route towards market orientation, the
perspectives of R & D and Marketing must widen, and substantially overlap. Person-
nel from each function must be brought closer together through the formation of
groups and allocation of tasks; and by providing a climate conducive to social in-
teraction. Above all, the basis for interaction should be meaningful, and not con-
trived just because interaction of some kind is thought beneficial.
The multi-(and inter-) disciplinary group approach remains the most popular way
of breaching social barriers and cross-fertilising ideas. Properly managed, members
can retain their identities as specialists and contribute a great deal to new product
synergy. Many companies are also rediscovering the value of dyadic problem-
solving exercises and encouraging joint visits to customers, conferences and exhibi-
Throughout the innovation time period, many events can threaten group commit-
ment and delay commercialisation. This is partly to be expected, since companies
which have chosen to invest in R & D and bring themselves closer to the market have
shunned the pastoral life. A rough passage for new products is not inevitable but it
does mean that greater attention must be paid to information flows and managing
Managerial decision-making is carried out against a background of imperfect
knowledge of technology, markets and human behaviour. Enlightened managers
recognise that our understanding of barriers to innovation is equally imperfect, re-
quiring a combined preventative and curative approach. Preventative measures in-
clude applying realistic policies, procedures and criteria for new product develop-
ment; and ensuring that techno-commercial evaluation is supported by the best
available information. Curative measures are necessary to handle contingencies and
resolve any conflict that is almost certain to arise due to working in an uncertain en-
vironment. Each implies the training and appointment of people sufficiently capable
of diagnosing situations from both the business and human relations angle.
And finally, behavioural and communications blockages are not as freely discuss-
ed as they might be. If companies spending vast amounts of money on R & D and
Marketing were to allocate more resources to maintaining their organisations, then
most of the frustrations mentioned at the begining of this paper might be alleviated.
34 | European Journal of Marketing 16,5

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