On the content of a product idea

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In an industrial company developing consumer products for the global marketplace, it is the management’s task to decide which product ideas shall be selected as a basis for developing new and innovative products. The company management has to allocate resources to a portfolio of product ideas for further development and to reject others. This is a risky task. If resources are allocated to wrong or wicket product ideas there will be no business for the company in the future. Allocating proper resources to the right product ideas is a first step towards a viable business, a task made difficult because many stakeholders, aspects and future events have to be predicted and taken into account. From a research viewpoint we see at least three ways to support a company with its task to select product ideas for further development: 1. To develop systematic procedures for better collecting and recording product ideas. 2. To develop methods and tools for stronger management of product idea portfolios. 3. To develop a product idea description, which enhances the creation of ideas. Hopefully strong ideas, but at least ideas, which has a rich and sound description, in the sense that it contains characteristics and aspects, which shall be defined and understood for selecting product ideas for further development and for carrying over the vision. In this paper we will focus on the third way, i.e. we will focus upon the product idea and its description. In our study of the design methodology literature, and the business and innovation oriented literature we have observed that many terms are used, e.g. need, problem, business opportunity, task, creative solution, innovation, the radical idea etc., but the terms have different meanings for different authors. We have for more than a decade organised a PhD summer school on design research methodology, and we have observed that the PhD students participating do not have a coherent and consistent terminology to describe and discuss these matters. When we see this situation in the research community we have reason to believe that the situation is not better in industrial practice. Thus, a proper support of company’s management and design team is to contribute to a coherent and subtle understanding of the nature and content of a product idea and creation of a productive mindset and skills. We see such a contribution not only as important, but also as of actual interest since much current debate within European industry is concerned with a highly prioritised enhancement of the development of innovative products in order to survive at the global marketplace. The aim of this paper is to identify the nature and content of a product idea, i.e. we will focus upon the questions: what is a rich and sound product idea description? What is the content of a product idea description? And seen from a method viewpoint: Which concepts are ideal for the early, fragile and abstract thoughts, and which concepts shall be used for elaborated, robust and rich proposals for product development? The method applied to answer our research questions is a study of the literature consisting of an analysis of the terminology used and an analysis of examples. For each piece of literature we identify its understanding of a product idea by analysing the key-terms and establish the relations between these terms. The result of our research is a contribution to a productive mindset for the company management, e.g. product manager and product development manager, and design team, i.e. project leader and design team members. The mindset consists of a terminology, i.e. a set of key-terms and the relations between these terms, a set of design principles, and a model of the elements of a product idea. Thus, the result of our research work shall not be seen as a trial to develop new theory regarding the product idea as such, but must be seen as a step towards consolidation and clarification of terminology and knowledge within the research area of product development and design methodology. The paper is structured as follows. In the section 2 we give an overview of literature that we identify essentially related to our topic. In sections 3 and 4 we go into a detailed study of our core references. In section 3 we focus upon the nature of designing and a design as it is described in the core references. In section 4 we focus upon the activity from product idea to product concept. In section 5 we propose a mindset for the development of a product idea. Finally, in section 6 we conclude.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings ICED 05, the 15th International Conference on Engineering Design
EditorsAndrew Samuel, William Lewis
Number of pages14
VolumeDS 35
Place of PublicationBarton, ACT, Australia
PublisherInstitution of Engineers, Australia
Publication date2005
ISBN (Print)0858257882, 978-085825788-7
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Event15th International Conference on Engineering Design - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 15 Aug 200518 Aug 2005
Conference number: 15


Conference15th International Conference on Engineering Design
Internet address
SeriesDesign Society
NumberDS 35

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