When I reflect on the conference theme of LPPDE North America 2017 in San Jose: Accelerating Innovation, an apparently counter intuitive insight comes to my mind. To accelerate innovation you need to slow down. Wow! How can that be done? When I work slower I cannot be faster to market, can I?
Many product development efforts start with the background of a previous project that suffered from loads of problems towards the end. The product was not right yet, the team had to solve many issues, and these just seemed to return in the next iteration. So, the new project-on-the-block is told to make speed. In order to be able to quickly get to the realization phase, we have to hurry to get the design done. So the design part of the project is made shorter: the number of forced decisions that lack a knowledge base increases, less breakthrough functions are added, and so on. As a result, also in this project many problems surface towards the end. The vicious cycle keeps turning.
How do we break this? How can you really accelerate?
First slow down...
- Take the time to decide what the best execution of your great idea is. Build knowledge on what customers like and dislike. Learn from previous and competitor products. Learn what the critical parameters to get right in the new product are.
- Take the time to build the knowledge that you need to make solid decisions. Invest time to understand how new functions or parts work or are supposed to work. Explicitly feed the effort with existing knowledge that you can reuse or build further upon.
This first phase will cost time, but it is the time a huge ship needs to get up to speed: it takes a while, but after that it will be hard to slow it down! The knowledge that you have built in the early phase pays back in a better product, because you better know what is vital for it to win in the market. The knowledge you created, your product’s function, its modules and its parts paved your way to launch. Less issues surface and when they're present they lay in a bed of knowledge, so they are easier to solve.
In the Lean Product Development toolbox there are many methods and tools that are shaped around this principle. Set-Based Concurrent Engineering. Rapid Learning Cycles. Lean Scheduling. Knowledge Based Development. All of those tell you in essence the same thing: to accelerate innovation you need to slow down.