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As originally asked by Megan Raisbeck.
‘Ugly babies’ are products which do not meet the needs of the market and are either pushed through by senior management or designers who are designing for themselves (rather than the customer).
The product champion may be given the role of rallying the troops (rest of the product development team) or even managing the project.
Why would there possibly be any resistance to accepting such claims from the medical device new product development team? Laziness, incompetence, burnt out…. maybe.
I can offer up a few ideas:
1. Regulatory affairs realizes that the FDA and “disruptive technologies” are an evil combination for speedy entry into the market, or entry at all.
2. What S&M call “breakthrough products” are often revealed to be a lack of knowledge of the market segment, the underlying core technology required, the history of the company itself and the experience of the product development team.
A newbie is always keen on the idea of a skunkworks project to bypass all of those naysayers and negatrons involved the formal process. Just push it through and get it on the market!
Some things to ponder on the weekend!
Eric R. Larson
Lots of recommendations here about using the right processes and procedures â and there are many out there. Personally, I think great product development is about the people involved â people at the top, people at the middle, and people at the bottom. And it is not about spotting an ugly baby, it is about spotting the future prom queen.
I think the answer canât be defined in a formal process â especially for break through products, and/or those involving disruptive technologies. These types of situations require a unique combination of skills in technology, design, finance, market awareness, leadership â and these skills can NOT be delegated to teams and committees, let alone described in job descriptions, product specifications, and standard operating procedures.
What is needed are product champions with unique sets of skills. While it is helpful to have a company CEO as product champion (think Akio Morita at Sony, Noland Archibald at Black & Decker, Leon Hirsch at US Surgical, Steve Jobs at Apple, et al) â this is not required. (I would even suggest that when the CEO is the product champion there are more examples of failures than successes. There are countless companies with a CEO that is clueless about product development). It is far more important that a company look for the skills that are needed at every level of the product development process.
I would encourage you to rephrase your question about NPD to the following: How do you identify a beautiful swan in a pond full of ugly ducklings? (and if your product development process only has one duckling/baby, this thread is probably not for you)
P.S. As far as product development processes, I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the ATM machine was first proposed. âWe are going to make a big hole in the side of your bank, and we are going to put a machine in it. This machine will stick outside, and it will allow anyone with an account at your bank to walk up and withdraw money anytime they want it. Oh yeah, and weâll also enable it so that anyone with an account at any bank can take out money, too. What do you think?â
Marketing research is more than focus groups, as some people alluded to. Ethnographic (observational) research, qualitative research like focus groups or in-depth interviews, and quantitative research like surveys all play a role at different stages. You can optimize your product design and messaging, but without quantitative you canât size the market and measure market potential. Itâs good to develop benchmark metrics for what a winning product score is among customers, and some good research companies have developed this normative data. Without good sampling, you may be getting feedback from the wrong audience. The customer is more than the end-user, and includes the purchase influencers and gate-keepers along the way. They should not be ignored when getting feedback.
Neale Anthony Gentile
Neale Anthony Gentile
Jumping into this thread late in the game, but an Ugly Baby can be saved 🙂
A leader that is blind to the feedback of its team members will eventually walk off a cliff with its ugly baby in hand.
In small medical device companies, the Marketing Director is most often a senior Sales person, and may still wear both hats. A reflex response from every Sales person I have ever met to the question “can you sell this?” is, “yes, I can sell anything”.
The resulting problem for many new product development efforts is obvious.
Megan’s original question about stopping the Ugly Baby is almost impossible at this point if senior management supports another common industry situation; never let product development meet the customer!
In theory, the new product development team should then never be held responsible for the Ugly Baby. Funny how little that theory helps when the customer finally sees the end result and layoffs notices arrive.
Never in my 20 yrs of medical product design experience have I ever seen a product that was marginal on functionality or safety make it to market. The idea of doing such a thing was never discussed. (other medical product designers may have had different experiences)
So if we can see it – what is the problem? Why does the UB live on?
The theme I see rising to the top is that there are many mediocre people (techs, marketing, VPs, owners, consultants and customers) who all maintain an agenda that often runs contrary to the real market acceptance ( note:not necessarily “perceived” need) for the baby.
Standing out in that crowd and “seeing” the ugly are the gifted few (10%,5%,2%?) who must also have the skills and leadership to formulate and communicate solutions to all those with diverse agendas. That not only takes skill, but also nerves of steel. The best out there lose employment and change jobs if not careful. Is it any surprise that example upon example of ugly babies can be given?
This theme is why visionary leadership can be the best predictor of success and why that perfect storm of leadership, concept, design, and acceptance is celebrated in companies like Apple, RIM, IBM, and HP.
Elementary Dear Prashant
Michael D. Riley, M.S.J.
As John points out, senior management can derail these efforts. This unfortunate truth derives, I believe, from management viewing the product from their own perspective (say, a pet project), instead of from the perspective of the customer. Viewing the product from the eyes of the customer through extensive research, along with frequent reviews, can go a long way towards derailing doomed projects.
Members of the development team should be reminded of this frequently. The culture needs to come from the top down.
Clearly, “spotting the ugly baby” is as intriguing a problem as the identifying an opportunity for a new product or business- an intersection of technology and human behaviour. Much of what we contribute in a new product/business development initiative is governed by both technical expertise and established processes. However, processes aid only efficiency and not innovation, and hence very likely to conceive an ugly baby. Essentially, in our strife to match our pace and results to the established processes, we often tend to twist theories. As Sherlock Holmes said, we create a disaster when we twist theories to match our observation, rather than mending results to suit theories.
Despite of whims and fancies of my peers, I would prefer to stick to science. I would experiment with my ideas and ask myself again and again “what was the rationale of my experiment, what were the fundamentals I used, what were the results I received, do they follow my hypothesis”. If my results build upon my hypothesis, I would inch forward but if they do not, I would go back and change my hypothesis, refine my fundamentals and start afresh.
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