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Building a creative high-performance R&D culture: customer insight, risk tolerance, entrepreneurship, alignment, technology excellence, innovation, creative collaboration, and execution are the building blocks.

Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have...... it's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.--Steve Jobs

R&D culture can be the engine for sustained product innovation--a key driver of continual growth in many successful corporations. Today there is a general imperative to generate growth through innovation (1,2). This is evident from all the organizations, conferences, consultants and books focused on the subject (1,3,4). Even with these resources, however, many organizations still struggle to generate consistent results in new product development (NPD). Finding and implementing new opportunities is difficult and complex, yet, some organizations excel not just once, but on an on-going basis.

Because innovation means many different things to people, any in-depth discussion of the topic requires a definition of the term. In this case, discussion will be limited to product innovation, which is defined as commercializing products that produce customer and shareholder value through differentiated technology that is strategically aligned with the business. This product innovation model is illustrated in Figure 1.

Customer insight, business alignment, technology, and execution are at the core of building an effective innovation initiative. The R&D culture of innovation excellence is built on these elements plus risk tolerance and creative collaboration (virtual organizations). These elements form the acronym CREATIVE: Customer-focused, Risk-tolerant, Entrepreneurial, Aligned with strategy, Technology and scientific excellence, Innovative, Virtual organizations (or creative collaboration), Execution (or Excellence in project management) (5).

Many R&D organizations have excelled by successfully focusing on single factors, such as creativity, execution or customer focus. The CREATIVE R&D culture framework depicted in Figure 2 (6) has been originated and utilized by the author at various levels of R&D management in multiple industries. The application of this framework has generated sustained innovation, resulting most recently in significant and sustained improvement in new product sales over a five-year period. What follows is a detailed explanation of each CREATIVE element and tips for how to implement the holistic framework.

Customer Focus

We can believe that we know where the world should go. But unless we're in touch with our customers, our model of the world can diverge from reality.--Steve Ballmer

When R&D team members overcome isolation from customers and consumers they can gain profound insight into how their technologies can be incorporated into new products that bring value to customers. Without true customer insight, an invention is just that--an invention, not an innovation. There are many examples of outstanding technologies that failed in the marketplace, and of products that failed to even reach the marketplace, due to poor relevance to customer needs. Traditional R&D management and organizations have tended to seclude R&D professionals away from customers and have often been reluctant to push for customer contact. However, unless they are encouraged to see through the eyes of customers and end-users, R&D professionals are often unable to see practical applications for their technologies (7).


If the customer insight side of the innovation equation is ignored in favor of the R&D organization's excitement over a new technology, the department can end up with "a technology in search of a market." This occurs when R&D professionals "fall in love with" technologies for their own sake, as opposed to creating and developing technologies to meet customer needs. This can lead to a perception that the R&D organization is out of touch with the customers and the business needs of the organization.

R&D professionals should avoid the "build it and they will come" attitude. Although no one can dispute the value of visionaries, few R&D team members can afford the approach of Buckminster Fuller, who said, "I just invent, then wait until man comes around to needing what I've invented." A search of numerous R&D management books indicates that many of them offer little discussion of the customer. Writings on innovation and NPD, on the other hand, are filled with discussion of how to search for effective solutions through the eyes of the customer (8).

Customer needs can be divided between articulated, unarticulated (9) and future needs. Figure 3 illustrates how these needs are a part of the innovation model (6). Articulated needs are those that customers can recognize and easily describe, based on their current requirements and understanding of available technologies. These types of insights generally result in incremental or continuous innovation. Unarticulated needs are sometimes referred to as latent needs. R&D project team members must have unfiltered access to customers in order to identify unarticulated needs. Future needs are discerned through a deep understanding of how alternative futures create needs for new technologies. Unarticulated and future needs are often the source of discontinuous innovations or breakthrough opportunities.

It is important to take a balanced approach to the evaluation of customer insight. Excessive emphasis on articulated needs may tend to drive the organization toward too many incremental projects. On the other hand, excessive emphasis on unarticulated needs may drive the balance of projects toward too many high-risk, long-term projects. A balanced approach is needed to generate a diversified portfolio of projects appropriate for the corporation and the market.


Highly effective R&D organizations have close ties to customers philosophically and in practice. The first step in creating customer focus among the R&D team is simply to have R&D professionals directly observe customers in their own environment. This is where abstract, imagined customer needs can become concrete and real for the team. Observing customers' actual challenges allows team members the opportunity to extrapolate technological solutions for these problems.

The R&D team is ideally suited for discovering unarticulated needs. If the marketing department takes on the sole responsibility for gathering customer insight it can become a crutch that keeps R&D team members isolated from customers. Uncovering an unarticulated need through a customer visit could lead to a fundamental change in the priority of customer needs. If customers do not realize that there is a solution to one of their problems, they may prioritize needs differently. This challenge can be the basis of discontinuous innovation and breakthroughs.

Various tools have been designed that provide more sophisticated customer insight to R&D staff and all cross-functional project team members (8,10,11). Regardless of whether the marketing group or project teams spearhead the customer insight activities, it is important for key R&D representatives to be involved in order to hear the concerns, problems and comments of the customers first-hand. This can help resolve potential conflicts in feature sets and help to prioritize product requirements early in any discovery or development process.

Many organizations are described as either market (or customer) driven or technology driven. The best innovation comes through a real balance of the two, as suggested by the innovation model in Figure 1. Creating this balance is not an easy task when faced with some of the biases within some R&D organizations. By building the philosophy of customer focus into the R&D organization, the more balanced perspective can be established. While tools are an important part of gathering effective customer input, R&D leadership needs to make customer focus an important and expected part of the R&D culture. Effective collaboration with the company's marketing and sales teams at multiple levels will help reinforce the importance of customer insight for R&D staff.

Risk Tolerance

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.--Wayne Gretzky

When R&D team members learn to effectively use intuition and overcome their tendency to trust only absolute certainty, they can make decisions fast enough to keep up with the demands of the current business climate and create true innovation and competitive advantage. The term "risk" is used differently by various corporate stake holders. The R&D discussion of risk does not relate to personal or product safety, but rather to the risk of failure that can hinder rapid decisionmaking. For scientists and engineers, this specifically relates to the question of whether enough data exist to make rapid decisions that can move projects more quickly to completion.

Because actions speak louder than words, creating a risk-tolerant R&D organization can be a difficult task. Repercussions from past failure can be traumatic and long lasting, persisting even after changes in leadership have removed the initial source of negative consequences. The risk tolerance of an organization is not only the result of the personality of individuals but also of organizational behavior both past and present, particularly that of middle and senior management (12). Cultural attitudes toward risk tolerance can be difficult to modify, and any change must start with communication of risk tolerance by R&D leadership.


Project-related risk also concerns the balancing of corporate financial risks vs. speed-to-market. The typical tradeoffs for any activity, but particularly for new product projects, almost always involve time-cost-quality impacts (10). A discussion of risks helps determine the appropriate course of action and tradeoffs to make in particular circumstances of the project framework. Appropriate risk-taking may involve adjusting project cost to gain a time advantage and suggesting a value for parallel activities on high-priority projects and activities.

At times, team members misunderstand the relative value of costs. For example, rapid third-party testing of prototypes may seem expensive, but compared to the overall costs of potential project delays, it may actually be a bargain. Decision-making and cycle time reduction may involve sacrificing perceived quality, which in most organizations translates to significant apparent risk.

Fast decision-making is more important than ever in NPD and sometimes requires decisions to be based on less information. In the competitive environment of new product development, the speed imperative does not allow collection of enough information for R&D professionals to always feel comfortable. Thus, the higher-risk environment requires many scientists and engineers to operate outside their normal comfort zone. R&D leadership is responsible for creating the environment to encourage this transition.

R&D professionals may tend to be risk-averse when it comes to data interpretation, but risk-tolerant when it comes to project selection and termination. They generally value a challenge when it comes to the project choice and there may be a tendency to take on projects that have high technical risk. This can also result in a hesitancy to discontinue or kill projects with low practicality. Engineers and scientists are taught, perhaps unintentionally, that anything is possible with enough time and money. Based on a desire for challenge, R&D professionals may advocate that certain projects are technically feasible when the time and cost to achieve success are not within the expectations of business partners. This leads to another aspect of true risk avoidance: failure to admit mistakes and "pull the plug" on projects when appropriate.

Product development is full of risks and thus many projects are bound to fail (13). In R&D, the mantra should be that it is OK to fail but we should fail fast and learn from that failure. History is full of inventors that have turned mistakes into successes (14). In fact, serendipity has been the source of many great innovations (15). It's OK to make mistakes, but not the same mistakes over and over. Discovering dead ends faster is one of the benefits of understanding the positive attributes of failure for the R&D team. The high-performance R&D culture learns from failures, to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated, and regularly "turns lemons into lemonade." Nurturing this attitude can be difficult, since it is important to communicate learning without penalizing or creating a sense that the organization is not risk tolerant.


In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.--Lawrence Summers

If R&D staff members can learn to think like business owners and understand "the big picture," they will gain accountability for and drive greater innovation results. One of the criticisms commonly heard about R&D professionals is that that they lack business perspective. This criticism is perhaps another consequence of lab and cubicle isolation. It also has to do with a subtle expectation that R&D professionals should be left alone to do their science or engineering. In addition, there is often a self-perpetuating cultural gap between scientists and engineers and other parts of the business. This attitude comes not only from functions other than R&D but is at times reinforced by R&D management and professionals in their desire to just do the science (or engineering) and let others make the business decisions.

The lack of business perspective among R&D professionals is a generally neglected topic in management books, and a subtle but definite stereotype exists that the typical R&D group is reluctant to dispute. A common distinction is made between "the business side" and "the R&D side." This mindset can be a significant barrier to generating a true CREATIVE innovation atmosphere and can subtly strengthen the attitude that innovation is solely about creative ideas and novel technology. Ironically, while many R&D managers receive management and business training, there is a reluctance to offer R&D staff similar business and leadership education.

Although R&D team members may enjoy dealing with numbers, they don't always want to understand the numbers that drive the business. Perhaps this myopia is due to leaders who don't make them aware of how their current R&D activities align and link to the business and its objectives. By learning and using financial terms, particularly those related to the evaluation of new product opportunities, R&D professionals can earn the credibility to enter the debate about business strategy and can become effective business partners, strategically aligned with organizational objectives.

An important way to generate credibility among business partners is for R&D team members and leaders to endorse incremental innovations that support short-term business needs. R&D professionals generally prefer working on the longer-term or more substantial innovations. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are able to understand the need to balance short-term needs with long-term opportunities.

Understanding the big picture and connecting the results with business strategies builds ownership among R&D team members. By generating and publicizing progress toward measurable new product goals, R&D leaders can demonstrate the importance of these performance metrics to the R&D team as well as to other parts of the corporation. New product sales, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of base business, are arguably the best surrogate measure of innovation results. However, since these are long-range measurements, patience and understanding are required to evaluate the impact of the CREATIVE R&D culture.

Being responsible and accountable for results can be difficult for some R&D organizations. It is easy to blame marketing or corporate decisions for poor new product performance. By entering into the debate over project selection with credibility, the R&D organization takes responsibility for its performance. While some projects or activities may lack good, well-disciplined marketing direction, R&D innovators can take responsibility for obtaining market and customer feedback or demand that appropriate due diligence be obtained before initiation of programs. An entrepreneurial approach does not allow for lack of responsibility or accountability for new product performance. Risk tolerance should not be an excuse for a lack of suitable discipline or diligence around business decisions.

A valuable method for building ownership is to ask R&D staff members to look at decisions as if they owned the company. Similarly, R&D leaders and teams could view the department as if it needed to compete against outside suppliers of new products and technology. This approach can be a good method for instilling a sense of competition and a culture of continual improvement. Comparing results to those of small companies that introduce innovations rapidly provides motivation and a model for fast cycle time.

While all R&D professionals may not want to be drivers of innovation, virtually all are involved with projects that bring innovation to the marketplace. Without enough exposure to business needs and an understanding of the big picture, R&D professionals will not support these innovations with passion. Without some passion and sense of ownership, the drive to perform those support functions suffers.

Aligned with Strategy

In the end, effective execution of strategic alignment is a leader's top priority and ensures that goals are met and success achieved.--Gerard A. Abraham (Thermo Electron Corp., 16)

R&D teams can gain credibility and support from other functions and drive innovation more effectively if they act in alignment with business strategies. An extension of the lack of business perspective in the R&D organization is lack of alignment, which is created largely by isolation and independence. An indication of this perceived lack of alignment is the often-posed question, "Why is R&D working on that project (which has little linkage to the stated business strategies of the corporation or business unit)?" These apparent inconsistencies create friction and distrust among other corporate departments. Organizational isolation, often referred to as the "silo effect," is one of the primary causes.

When an R&D organization has strong links with corporate and business-unit vision, mission, goals, and strategic plans, the opportunity for successful innovation increases exponentially. Strategic alignment between R&D and the marketing and operations functions is particularly valuable in driving the innovation process. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of alignment among these three groups for new product strategies.

Business-unit organizations have often been formed in an attempt to overcome this lack of alignment. Some marketing leaders believe that if they had control of the R&D organization they would improve new product performance. But business-unit organizational structures are no guarantee of R&D alignment. Although marketing professionals might provide some general management and business information, they are less likely to have the skill set to manage, motivate and reward research and technical talent. Resorting to organizational structure to achieve the goal of alignment can create bureaucratic and motivational problems.

Organizational alignment can be accomplished either through organizational structure such as business units or by developing interdepartmental relationships. While relationship-based alignment can be especially strong, its success depends on the individual personalities, the quality of senior management alignment and on other cultural factors. R&D leadership needs to encourage the teamwork that leads to a truly effective alignment and must be willing to participate in virtually all elements listed in the model shown in Figure 4. Establishing alignment is primarily a leadership function, but these tools include both management and leadership aspects.

Organizational alignment doesn't mean that there is complete agreement with all R&D activities throughout the company. Innovation does require flee-thinking at certain times. However, the R&D organization needs to be working toward the same focused business goals rather than toward undefined scientific objectives. Individual maverick innovators can be tolerated when they are not overly distracting and they produce results that are aligned with overall business objectives. While some freedom is desirable to allow exploration that leads to innovation, it can be an excuse for lack of alignment and accountability. The R&D leadership must understand this balance and must know how to best utilize the unique attributes of each R&D staff member.

Technology and Science Excellence

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.--Arthur C. Clarke

When the R&D team individually and collectively exhibits excellence in technology and science, it can continually drive differentiated and sustainable innovation. Therefore, technical excellence might be considered the ticket for entry to a high-performing R&D team. This understanding is perhaps the easiest of the success factors to establish within the R&D organization. Depending on the nature of the business, the R&D scientists and engineers may be expected to be world-class technical experts in their respective fields. When they are able to apply technical expertise to meaningful innovations, the R&D team can build credibility within the company and within their industry, potentially on a national and international scale.

Because knowledge is a major driver of innovation, continual learning should have a high value in the high-performance R&D culture. Leaders who understand the value of innovation know that technical knowledge should be strong throughout all levels of the R&D organization. R&D team members should be encouraged to build their knowledge base and skills, since technical information changes so fast. Failure to keep up with advances in their field can cause scientists and engineers to lose their edge and value to the organization.


As long as proprietary information is not exposed, writing technical papers and attending technical meetings are also good ways to maintain these skills. They are also beneficial to the corporation in building credibility for their expertise and their technologies. Writing articles for trade journals and customer-oriented peer-reviewed journals allows the R&D staff to translate technical differentiation into customer benefits.

Critical thinking leads to faster, better and cheaper new product development. Tools such as high-throughput screening, rapid prototyping and experimental design can help to provide faster answers to fundamental questions involving multiple variables. Using critical thinking to plan effective experiments can help reduce the total time for projects. When proper planning is sacrificed in an attempt to speed up the process it can ultimately result in slower decision-making due to repetition of studies and incomplete or erroneous information. Risk tolerance should not become an excuse for lack of critical thinking and planning.

R&D leadership is responsible for identifying, prioritizing and developing technologies and technology platforms that drive innovation and growth. These technology platforms typically leverage existing or sustaining technologies as well as incorporating emerging disruptive technologies. R&D leaders should interpret the value of technology platforms to non-technical business partners in order to translate the magic of technology into customer benefits (7).


The best way to predict the future is to invent it.--Alan Kay

R&D teams must understand that true innovation as modeled in Figure 1 is much more than clever inventions or nifty technology (6). Great ideas are indeed the lifeblood of an R&D organization, but ideas need to be successfully implemented to become new products. Sustained innovation requires the successful combination of advanced technology, customer needs, the organization's strategy, and effective execution. In other words, innovation is putting it all together to create value for customers and the corporation.

Successful innovation is to a great extent about creating the atmosphere and mechanisms for choosing the right project. Although this is primarily a leadership function, maintaining disciplined processes around these choices might also be perceived as a management function. The choice and implementation of the right projects is a fundamental challenge of sustained innovation.

The process of "ideation" is generally enjoyable for many R&D staff members. However, a problem occurs when these professionals fall in love with creative ideas and lack the skills or passion for critical evaluation and/or implementation. Many R&D professionals love longrange ideas or potential radical or breakthrough innovations. While these projects are exciting and essential, it is important to have a healthy, balanced portfolio of projects with different opportunities vs. risk profiles and timelines. This balance helps R&D leadership establish credibility with other stakeholders in the organization who are under pressure to produce short-term business results.

Characteristics of an R&D innovation champion often include: technical competency, the ability to interpret customer needs, risk tolerance, entrepreneurial understanding, alignment skills, effective networking capabilities, and a propensity for driving toward implementation (17). R&D teams and staff members can become natural champions of product innovation if R&D leaders identify, reward and develop those individuals who show potential.

Virtual Organizations (CREATIVE Collaboration)

None of us is as smart as all of us.--Japanese Proverb

R&D teams improve their effectiveness by excelling at collaboration within the team itself, across the corporation and externally. The spectacular results of creative collaboration have been chronicled in the book, Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration and Group Genius (18). Building effective collaborative corporate relationships with marketing, operations and other internal functional groups can be crucial for successful innovation and is characteristic of highly effective R&D teams. Unfortunately, networking doesn't come naturally to many R&D professionals. Their personalities, training or culture have often influenced them toward personal autonomy and independence. Because of this mindset, R&D scientists and engineers are often afraid to let go of their egos and ask questions or seek help.

Isolation and independence can lead to the well-known phenomena of NIH (not invented here) and groupthink (19,20). One of the consequences of NIH can be rejection of ideas from the outside without appropriate diligence. This practice has a damaging effect on innovation and R&D credibility. One tactic for discouraging NIH behavior is "research tourism," i.e., having researchers visit outside institutions (21). Jain and Triandis discuss other helpful activities to help reduce the NIH attitude in Management of Research and Development Organizations (20). Internal and external relationships are important sources of creative energy for identifying new product opportunities and for solving problems during rapid implementation. However, this external research should be balanced against the desirable benefits of extending internal competencies.

Any corporate perception of an NIH attitude from the R&D group can lead to frustration and eventually to an undervalued R&D organization. When that happens, other departments may seek alternate sources of innovation, and the R&D organization may be cut out of a major part of the innovation process. The R&D team needs to maintain an open, collaborative attitude and seek appropriate outside interactions before these detrimental consequences occur.

The spectrum of innovation processes ranges from totally internal development to entirely external product or asset acquisition. "Open innovation" is the popular term for the external side of the continuum. Fully internal development uses totally vertically integrated operations, and this rarely occurs today. The practical reality is that most NPD projects fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. One way to combine the benefits of larger and smaller companies is to become a system integrator and use sub-contractors to coordinate the complex elements. In this case, R&D innovators need to build effective partnerships with appropriate outside organizations. Again, this may not come naturally, so leadership needs to find ways to encourage such partnerships.

Execution, or Excellence in Project Management

Real artists ship.--Steve Jobs

The R&D organization should consistently excel at commercializing innovations to gain and maintain a reputation as a high-performing team. There has been a great deal of attention provided to improving cycle time or speed-to-market in many companies and industries, and countless books and papers are available on the topic. While there are many reasons for excessively long product development cycles, a major source of frustration can come from inefficient project prioritization procedures that span R&D and other corporate functions involved in the NPD process.

Much has been written about the benefits and disadvantages of phased product development, and about project management as it relates to new product development. The best processes balance discipline with lack of excessive bureaucracy. Although R&D teams should participate and be proficient in these overall corporate processes, they must also master internal R&D processes and activities. Great ideas and strategic alignment mean little without the results of efficient execution. Champions of innovation within the R&D organization need to be proficient at cross-functional project management. Lack of proficiency can result in revenue loss and missed opportunities (22).

Effective disciplined corporate processes have been well described by Cooper and by Wheelwright and Clark (4, 23). These process tools include the establishment of phases and decision gates, resource allocation, and portfolio mapping. They help the corporation manage risk and eliminate projects that should be discontinued due to lack of marketing or technical feasibility. While such processes are valuable, they need to be monitored to ensure that they do not become overly bureaucratic. Furthermore, these tools work best when they are accepted throughout the corporation.

Execution is the element most related to R&D management. Some leaders may view this discipline as micromanagement, but leaders are ultimately accountable for results. It has been said that "management without leadership is bureaucracy, but leadership without management is chaos." It is the R&D leader's job to set the expectation for discipline and accountability for new product results. Many R&D managers don't feel the full weight of this responsibility because progression to senior levels has often been based on technical competency rather than managerial or leadership skills (24). Once they are promoted, managers often miss appropriate training and coaching on the skills related to management and leadership.

Execution does not always come easily to R&D scientists and engineers who tend to seek perfection before commercializing products. The desire to tweak new products often leads to numerous delays. Credibility of the R&D organization is often lost when timelines are not maintained. "Paralysis by analysis" can become a problem for R&D professionals and managers, but internal credibility can be gained or reestablished by meeting project milestones, in scope, on budget and on time. R&D leaders should strive to develop credibility for their organization within the company by consistently meeting its commitments. High credibility will provide greater resources and freedom for the R&D organization to advance longer-term objectives.

When progressing toward a high-performance R&D team, the change can begin with focus on execution. Many times even smaller projects or ideas flounder due to a lack of attention on execution. These projects may represent only small, incremental innovations but change is often accomplished through small early wins and the celebration of these milestones. When there is a history of poor performance, cross-functional relationships falter and R&D credibility suffers. Even small commercialization successes can restore teamwork, confidence and credibility.

It may be difficult for many R&D staff members to deal with the political complexity of the product innovation process, especially in large organizations. Therefore, the innovator/champion must be adept at initiating projects and maintaining progress. Professional project managers can be valuable, but should not become a crutch for R&D innovation champions. Individual contributors need to be involved in project planning and execution.

Implementing the CREATIVE Culture

Lead, follow or get out of the way.--Thomas Paine

Establishing the CREATIVE R&D culture is a challenging, long-term task and is not achieved through a single seminar, tool or program. There are no simple techniques that can create this culture and make changes in intrinsic values. R&D leaders must examine attitudes and behaviors, and eliminate barriers that impede customer focus, risk tolerance, entrepreneurial approaches, alignment, technology excellence, innovation, collaboration, and execution. Isolation is a major barrier to these changes. Although the R&D team may benefit from some insulation, R&D leaders need to look for signs of isolation and determine the underlying reasons.

It is a happy coincidence that the CREATIVE acronym begins with the customer and ends with execution. These elements can be referred to as the bookends of the framework from a conceptual standpoint, but the starting point for building the culture actually depends on the current status of the R&D organization. And of course there is no end point, since the high-performance R&D culture is built on continual improvement.

John Kotter has said that "most organizations are overmanaged and under-led" (25). This observation seems particularly true for R&D organizations. It is difficult to develop leadership skills in what may be the most technical function of the corporation. Although managers are responsible for project implementation and process improvement, it is a leader's role to establish the overall high-performance culture. The CREATIVE framework provides guidance for building and maintaining such a culture.

A culture is defined through behaviors that represent individual, management and leadership characteristics. This is a holistic approach to new product development within the R&D organization: a culture that encourages not just doing projects right but also doing the right projects. Rapid, effective, sustained innovation can be the result. Individual contributors are the force behind innovation. Great R&D managers and leaders understand the attributes of individual innovators and can help establish the innovation culture. Their leadership provides direction toward choosing projects and establishing the right environment for identifying and implementing innovation, and their management ensures that the execution process delivers new products to the marketplace.


To initiate the change process, R&D leaders must first communicate their vision for establishing a high-performance culture. Next, baseline qualitative and quantitative assessments should be completed to provide a thorough understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the organization and its people. This can be followed by a CREATIVE 360 evaluation of the management team, which can lead to organizational alignment within the team to support the model (5).

Leaders should also communicate expected behaviors broadly throughout the R&D organization (5). Leaders of poorly performing organizations may want to focus on executing incremental but significant innovations to produce small early wins. Figure 5 depicts a possible outline of a plan for R&D culture development. While the plan will depend upon the results of assessments and early achievements, it is important to develop and communicate an overall plan for the organization as well.

Fortunately, the CREATIVE R&D culture is not merely a theory. This author's use of the model has been proven through successful application of the framework, most recently producing an increase of greater than 70-fold in the percentage of new product sales over a five-year period. It has been used successfully to create high-performance R&D teams in several industries, with teams of varying maturity. This model is not the result of academic study or a concept from non-practicing consultants, but rather has evolved from the analysis and use of success factors from actual business experience. Of course, as the disclaimer says, "individual results may vary." But it is unlikely that the disciplined use of a validated, successful R&D approach will not yield positive results.


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Jerry Newman is senior director, product development at STERIS Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. His team is responsible for R&D activities for the skin care and other chemical decontamination businesses within STEMS. During his career he has held a variety of R&D positions at S.C. Johnson & Son, Johnson & Johnson Medical, Kemin Foods and STEMS. He and his teams have been responsible for the development of over 50 new infection control, skin care, wound care, decontamination, and dietary supplement products. Newman obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio University.
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Author:Newman, Jerry L.
Publication:Research-Technology Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2009
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