Don’t let process management kill innovation
For over a decade there has been research indicating that a Stage-Gate® process hampers more innovative new product development projects. For me a high point of these analyses was a 2005 presentation at the PDMA conference by Elko Kleinschmidt, Dr. Cooper’s primary academic co-author, and Ulrick de Brentani and Soren Salomo testing a model of innovation in Global NPD. The model showed a strong and significant negative direct effect between the structure in the NPD process and the innovativeness of the outcome.
A theoretical study by Benner and Tushman in the 2003 provided a nice framework for these results. The authors argued that process management techniques in general — not just S-G, but TQM, six-sigma, etc. — “are fundamentally inconsistent with all but incremental innovation and change.”
This result seems intuitively attractive: process management is largely focused on reducing variation in processes, significant innovation would seem to imply some variation to what a firm is doing.
Their solution was for firms to be ambidextrous and allow less structured review of more innovative process.
So maybe you should use your stages and gates, TQM, and/or six-sigma when you are developing diet cherry-vanila coke, but keep the process management techniques at arms length when you are trying for real innovativeness…