You Don’t Get Harmony When Everyone Sings the Same Note

Author: Tom KraMer

We live in a world of specialists. Nobody sings the same note, right?

Our corporations are filled with the special engineer of this or that. In the world of product development we might have human factors specialists, user experience specialists, manufacturing engineering specialists, and so on. We apparently have everyone singing a different note.

So why don’t we see the harmony that we should in product development? According to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, over 85% of all new product development efforts fail.

I think the answer could be that it doesn’t matter if everyone is singing the same note if they are all singing a different song. One note might sound great, but the rest of the song will be a disaster.

What does that mean for us in product development?

Making employees become specialists that just focus on one thing can make them lose sight of the “big picture” of the project. The key is to let your specialists not only experience the activities of the other disciplines, but actually let them take part in them. The more a mechanical engineer experiences design research, reimbursement strategies and brainstorming activities, the more he or she will understand the big picture and be able to make more informed creative and innovative design decisions.

Plus it will make their jobs more fun, and employees who enjoy their work are going to be much more innovative. Remember, the part of the brain that “gets” the humor in a joke is the same part of the brain responsible for problem solving. This means happy, pleasant thinking will help them be creative, and a fun job delivers on that promise.

So mix it up. Let the members of your R&D team take on tasks outside their normal discipline alongside those experts. The long term innovation benefits will be worth your while, and hopefully you will never hear, “that’s not in my job description” again.