Product innovation and problem solving

  • Knut Holt


There are different views on the possibility of planning innovations. Some claim that innovation is too much of a chance occurrence to be planned. Others take the opposite view (Little 1997, Szanto 2001); they talk about “planned innovation”, “managed innovation” or “systematic innovation”. Turning to practice there is evidence supporting both views. As always, the answer is — “it depends”. It depends on the situation, where one is standing, and what perspective one has. According to C.W. Spherley- “the innovation cycle begins with the definition of a need, the creation/invention of alternative designs, the evaluation against the original specification, and finally, the selection of the most promising concept, followed by further iterations around all, or part of the cycle”. The quotation indicates that a systematic approach to innovation is possible. However, the last sentence shows that it is not a simple, strait forward process. Actually, there are several ways to successful product innovation. Many products are the result of chance occurrences. Interesting examples are different products such as champagne, plastics, penicillin, and polymer conductors (see p. 1–2). Other products are initiated by information about the users and their needs (the “need pull), or technological opportunities (the “technology push”) (see p. 18). Product innovations can more or less be planned, contingent on the situation. The major factor is the degree of change, which determines the type of problem, the problem solving approach, and the risk connected with the project, as shown in Fig. 100. In general, the more change, the less is it possible to formalize the planning, the more the process will have the character of a visionary, unstructured learning process, and the higher the risk. There is a great difference between the planning of minor improvements in an existing product and the planning of a basic innovation for an unknown market with no information about the users and their needs.


Product Innovation Solution Concept Minor Improvement Basic Innovation Cost Overrun 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Knut Holt
    • 1
  1. 1.TrondheimNorway

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