Business and design strategy play critical roles in new product development

September 19, 2013

This week I had the pleasure of speaking to the Mechanical Engineering 549 Product Development class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison about the importance of business strategy and design strategy in product design.

I spent a portion of my time with the mixture of graduate and undergrad students to impart on them why it is important for them to understand business strategy and design strategy. The majority of the students in the class are mechanical engineering students, but three students come from the MBA program, and I think it’s wonderful that they will get to live the multi-functional project team experience this semester.

I like to approach my work as a way to help our clients reduce the inherently risky nature of new product development. There are so many places to get it wrong. This week, Craig Conner spoke the to the ME549 class about the importance of observational research. That customer-focused approach helps reduce risk because it gets to the right user needs and forms the basis for well-grounded solutions. Those solutions are the outcome of a carefully crafted design strategy. As a business strategist, I take a careful look at the competitive landscape, the internal strengths and weaknesses of a company, and the value chain in which the product exists to help a company reduce risk.

The intersection of design strategy, business strategy and consumer-centered research can vault companies and new products to create a new future for us not only live in, but thrive in.

A customer-focused approach helps reduce risk because it gets to the right user needs and forms the basis for well-grounded solutions.

In my talk, I also introduced the students to a few tools that business strategists and design strategists use, and how they apply them. The class is a wonderful group of engaged students, and with their help, we built out a number of examples using the suggestions they offered when I solicited them for feedback. They may not have known it, but we lived a design thinking work session throughout that class as we built off of each others’ ideas, challenged assumptions, and applied our tools.

In the end, I hope they not only were able to see why business strategy is critical, but also how to apply it to new product development.