Book Review: Product Development Innovation Teams: Organizing for Success in New Product Development

    By: PDMA Headquarters on May 22, 2013

     Product Development Innovation Teams: Organizing for Success in New Product Development.

    By Teresa Jurgens-Kowal. Get to the Point Books, 2013. 63 + ii pages.

    The need to innovate is universally recognized. Whether to help countries and populations advance or to produce the next novel and useful chip from silicon, potatoes or what-have-you, leaders and managers seek incremental and radical new products to grow and profit. Yet fast-paced Network Society competition compels the revisiting of innovation team formation and leadership practices to ensure strategic, tactical and operational success. So, how can organizations address this ongoing high performance imperative?  

    Solutions to this challenge are emerging in targeted media offerings directly connecting with current expertise. Dr. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal’s “Product Development Innovation Teams” is part of this industrial advance from pulped tree to 24/7 university. The book (available as e-resource) engages readers with its NPD framing, helping guide the application of knowledge and expert access toward new product success.

    Organizations can benefit from such a deliberate approach in at least two ways: First, their employees experience work-based personal development (Yorks, 2005) as practitioners and leaders by learning innovation team techniques that will contribute to immediate project success and the acculturation of innovativeness; Second, the “action learning” (O’Neil & Marsick, 2007) that occurs through applying the acquired framework during actual work assignments can help generatively deliver improved project outcomes. The book proceeds on its course in two general parts: First, Chapters 1-3 lay out new product development (NPD) context, project types and team structures; Second, Chapters 4-6 (plus a summary and appendices) guide project team execution for product development gains.

    Chapter 1 introduces the importance of considering NPD project risk and uncertainty ranges, describing different types of workplace groups and noting organizations’ reliance on geographically dispersed virtual teams that work “primarily via electronic means” (p. 7). Chapter 2 presents a four-box model that plots two ranges of project risk (market, technology). The model illustrates increased risk/reward relationships of incremental to radical new product development in four project categories: (1) product improvements, (2) derivative, (3) extension and (4) breakthrough. Chapter 3 highlights varying cross-functional input levels among innovation team structures in four team types seen in the NPD literature: functional work groups, lean teams, full teams and venture teams (Wheelwright & Clark, 1992).

    Having laid out NPD concepts in the book’s first part (risk profile, project type, team structure), the second part revolves around practitioner implementation. Chapter 4, Matching Innovation Project and Team Types, is aimed at increasing product development success rates through appropriate staffing. Seen here generally, higher project risk and complexity levels correlate with a greater need for organizations to invest in dedicated cross-functional innovation teams. For example, a self-sufficient off-site venture team that includes specifically tasked sub-teams is recommended in the quest for breakthrough project outcomes. Next, leadership and teaming as they relate to organizational culture are referenced in chapter 5, and chapter 6 covers virtual team (see Kahn, Kay, Slotegraaf, & Uban, 2013) practice tips and limitations.                   

    As a topical introduction and a hands-on manual for new product implementers, “Product Development Innovation Teams” is a project management resource particularly apt for working with a process expert to quickly advance product development success. Reflecting the author’s credentials and experience as researcher, practitioner, facilitator and trainer, it can assist project leaders, managers and team members in reaching for higher performance, as well as help organizations develop a culture of innovativeness. As a theory and practice-based guide for successful innovation team organizing—from short term assignments to lengthy and ongoing organizational projects—author Jurgens-Kowal’s package is a winning NPD solution.     


    Dr. Erik A.J. Johnson

    Columbia University



    Kahn, K. B., Kay, S. E., Slotegraaf, R. J., & Uban, S. (Eds.). (2013). The PDMA handbook of new product development. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    O’Neil, J., & Marsick, V. (2007). Understanding action learning. New York, NY: AMACOM.

    Wheelwright, S. C., & Clark, K. B. (1992). Revolutionizing product development: Quantum leaps in speed, efficiency, and quality. New York, NY: Free Press.

    Yorks, L. (2005). Strategic human resource development in organizations. Mason, OH: South-Western College Publishing.



    Released: May 22, 2013, 9:37 am | Updated: July 2, 2013, 1:59 pm
    Keywords: PDMA Blog

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