At the recent Stage-Gate® International Summit 2013, the organizers conducted real-time benchmarking with the attendees between presentation sessions. The attendees were mostly senior leaders in the innovation / new product development areas of the companies they represented – a cross section of well-known, global companies that make significant innovation investments every year.
A subset of the benchmark result data was particularly interesting:
- The audience was asked whether their organization has a formal new product development process – almost 60% agreed that they did.
- However, when the audience was asked whether the new product development process is consistently used and understood, only 30% agreed.
That got me thinking about Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory1 about how innovation is adopted, as popularly depicted in the following graph:
Most people are familiar with this graph in a technology adoption context of when new innovations are adopted by different categories of adopters. While the diffusion of innovations theory is commonly applied to products, the same adoption cycle should apply to new or innovative processes as well.
But do companies really recognize the applicability of the adoption cycle for processes? It’s not just this survey from the SGI conference; there are many surveys and data that show a similar pattern of new processes being implemented, but widespread adoption lagging.
Another element of Everett Rogers’ theory1 that may illuminate the process adoption problem is the five stages of innovation adoption:
- Knowledge – someone is first exposed or becomes aware of an innovation but has limited information or understanding about it.
- Persuasion – the exposed person expresses interest and gets more information and details which helps them begin to form and opinion of the innovation.
- Decision – the person understands the innovation and the change it creates, which leads to making a decision on whether to adopt or reject the innovation.
- Implementation – the innovation is put to use with varying degrees of actual usage depending on applicability and benefits for each individual.
- Confirmation – the person evaluates the results of using the innovation and makes a final decision to continue using it.
It would appear that adopting new innovation processes is subject to the same adoption cycle applicable to innovation or technology adoption, and companies should consider process adoption as a project initiative to guide users through the five stages of innovation adoption. Focusing on the user adoption in addition to the usual organizational implementation of an innovation process, should improve results and benefits.
What approaches have you used to ensure that a new product development process is consistently used and understood?
1Everett ROGERS, 2003: The Diffusion of Innovations. Fifth Edition. The Free Press, New