As the Editor-in-Chief Of The Journal Of Product Innovation Management, I can provide a unique perspective on the future of academic research in the field of new product development (NPD). Looking back over the last couple of years of published articles, and examining trends in current submissions, it is clear that several “hot topics” are emerging. These present a compelling view of the future topics in innovation as seen by the leading academics in the area.
One notable new direction is open innovation, which first appeared in JPIM in 2006 in an article by Zeynep Emden, Cornelia Droge and Roger Calantone. Open innovation has been defined by Henry Chesbrough as using “purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation.” Open innovation is seen as a new business organization paradigm in which firms seek a mix of internal and external information sources to achieve joint value maximization, and has supplanted the traditional closed-innovation model in many global firms.
There is also interest in identifying and working with lead users. These are customers that not only are early adopters, but also have a good idea of the specifications of the next generation of products and may even have begun prototype development themselves, for example a leading research hospital requiring specialized testing equipment. The innovating firm must first identify these customers (no small task), and also capture their insights effectively. New research, much of it by Eric von Hippel, Nik Franke, Martin Schreier, and co-authors, has examined how best to harness the insights of lead users.
So many managers see radical innovation as the key to long-term growth and success. Yet achieving even one successful, radical product (truly groundbreaking or new-to-the-world) is notoriously difficult and risky. Some firms, like Apple or Sony, seem to be able to develop radical products, and to do it in repeated fashion. An emerging stream of research examines how firms can organize for improved radical innovation, and what the strategic implications are. Gina O’Connor, Richard Martino, and their colleagues are leaders in this research stream.
Increased globalisation has also left its mark on NPD. Firms are increasingly taking advantage of their global scope to product new products more efficiently. This has led to the emergence and management of global teams (which pose their own set of coordination and cultural problems), strategic decisions in global branding, and other challenging issues. Roger Calantone and David Griffith recently co-edited a special issue of JPIM on the subject of global NPD.
Space precludes me from mentioning too many more, but very briefly, we are beginning to see more articles on technological innovation by entrepreneurs (see recent JPIM special issues by Michael Song and Robert Litan), innovation for the poorest, bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) countries, decision making in NPD, and others. We could add more to this list, but these research agendas should keep new product academics busy as we strive to tackle the critical emerging areas in NPD.