As the New Product Development (NPD) process is not linear, as portrayed by many of the models, it follows, that idea generation, the ‘first task’ in the process is rarely a true beginning, set on a blank page.
Before the ‘first task’, new product strategy and objectives have been set, all within the context of a organisation’s strategic plan, which itself is based upon its operating, competitive and market environment. So, idea generation will be inevitably imbued with opportunities and constraints that define what can realistically be achieved. A simple example is that, without an active and resourced idea generating department, radical ideas will rarely develop, nor will a organisation have the know-how to realise any ideas which do come to the fore. Furthermore, the results of strategic tasks of environmental scanning and market intelligence gathering should provide a fertile source of new ideas which underpins the ‘idea generation’ process.
As well as having no ‘discrete beginning’, idea generation does not stop as the NPD process unfolds.The NPD process is highly iterative. New ideas, better ideas reformulated may appear out of every stage. They do not conveniently appear in the idea generation stage only.
Ideas are not always of the same degree of newness, nor do they always apply to the product itself. Newness may refer to technologies and therefore to the product, but it may also refer to markets. Another form of newness for an idea relates to the new business model – the pursuit of a totally different approach to business. So, the newness is not always a product idea. Another example is how developments in manufacturing leads, eventually, to new products. The new ideas in irradiation for food preservation led to new food products, which is challenging the traditional ways of preserving food, with sugar, salt or refrigeration. The more emphasis is put on the negative effects of sugar and salt, the greater this potential challenge will be.
Ideas’ do not always have to be ‘generated’. The whole process of selling corporate and new product strategies sets out ideas for development. Technologists and scientists working in research laboratories are working with ideas constantly, designers are at the creative -idea generation – heart of the organisation, sales and marketing personnel are in constant contact with new ideas both from competitors and from customers. This means that, far from being ‘generated’, as if they do not already exist, many ideas really have to be managed.
Generating new ideas involves two central themes:
- locating sources of new ideas, and
- activating those sources.