During a recent webinar titled The Five Most Important Drivers of Success in Product Innovation – That Most People Get Wrong! with Dr. Robert Cooper, President of the Product Development Institute Inc., he fielded a number of audience questions. Bob Cooper is also the creator of the Stage-Gate® system, the widely used innovation and new product development process and methodology used by leading organizations around the world to drive new products to market. Based on his broad and deep knowledge, here are his answers to a number of the audience questions:

Audience: For the metric that one out of nine concepts are commercially successful, are these just concepts or are they fully vetted / funded projects? We track project success, but do not currently track concept success, and are wondering if we should be looking at both.

Bob Cooper: These are early stage concepts, more than ideas, but not fully defined products as one might find in a business case. That is, they are not yet projects in the development stage. See the attrition curve chart below from the book Winning at New Products (4th ed., p. 19); it’s a different source, so this chart shows a 7:1 ratio, rather than the 9:1 I stated in the webinar. If we started with raw ideas, it’s 60:1.

NPD Chart 2

Thus, the concepts cited in the webinar are somewhere around stage one of the idea-to-launch (I2L) gating model as shown in the webinar (slide 19) in the diagram below.

NPD Chart 2

Having said that, it’s very difficult to operationally define a concept or an idea. Most firms would start the clock at the equivalent of gate three, approve business case, and determine project performance from this point onwards. That is, from the point where the project is well defined, which means an approved business case. From a practical standpoint, I concur. However, there’s no harm in tracking the success (or attrition) of ideas and concepts, especially if you’re interested in measuring the performance of your ideation efforts, or best sources of ideas.

Read part two of Dr. Cooper’s responses to a number of the audience questions from the webinar titled The Five Most Important Drivers of Success in Product Innovation – That Most People Get Wrong!

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