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Book Review: Leveraging Constraints for Innovation
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Book Review: Accelerated Product Development by Clifford Fiore

Leveraging Constraints for Innovation

Written by: Abbie Griffin, Jelena Spanjol, and Sebastian Gurtner
Reviewed by: Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, NPDP, PMP®, PEM

Leveraging Constraints for Innovation

In a tradition of publishing guides to help innovation professionals succeed in the challenging world of new product development, PDMA has recently released the third volume in the Essentials series. Editors Jelena Spanjol and Sebastian Gurtner have brought tougher methodologies and tools to aid product development professional identify and overcome common barriers to innovation.

“Leveraging Constraints for Innovation” is divided into three parts, addressing individual constraints to adopting innovation, organizational constraints to implementing new product development (NPD), and market constraints in introducing products to markets. Understanding that new product failure is different than a constraint to innovation is foundational to creating environments for successful product launches.

Part 1

In Part 1, focusing on Individual Constraints to NPD, Goran Calic and Maryam Ghasemaghaei discuss how a blank sheet of paper can inhibit creativity. Instead, they model guardrails to the innovation challenge as a way to increase creativity in problem-solving. Specifically, Chapter 1 of “Leveraging Constraints for Innovation” teaches us that a constraint of sustainability can increase the quality of ideas generated for new product development.

The authors of Chapter 2 present a simple, four-stage model to overcome the individual constraint to innovation that is manifested by a lack of knowledge transfer. Meanwhile in Chapter 3, Nadine Hietschold argues that consumers are themselves barriers to accepting innovations especially when they feel the need to comply with unwritten societal norms. Checklists and customer surveys are tools in both Chapters 2 and 3 to help NPD teams become more successful in overcoming these individual constraints.

Part 2

Part 2 includes actionable models and approaches for NPD teams to immediately implement to overcome organizational constraints to innovation. The authors of Chapter 4 present a successful case study in the sporting goods industry of structuring innovation via a “think tank” approach. Lack of skills and operational restrictions are among the barriers that internal innovators face in new product development. Using a think tank that delivers training as well as dedicated space and time for creative experimentation increases the quality of innovation and the degree of collaborative networking among work colleagues.

Flo Blindenbach-Driessen validates that time is our most constrained innovation resource in Chapter 5 of “Leveraging Constraints for Innovation”.  Service development is a slightly different view of innovation but requires dedication and motivation of busy professionals to offer improvements.  She recommends embedding innovation functionality within the service profession to change behaviors in developing new ideas for next generation service offerings.

Chapter 6 of “Leveraging Constraints for Innovation” presents an overview of the Virtual Team Model (VTM).  Most organizations today do not have the luxury of co-locating NPD teams.  Virtual teams can outperform traditional teams by overcoming innovation constraints through initiation and structure, communication, effective meetings, knowledge management, and leadership.  The VTM is built from industrial experience and includes 16 practices to improve communication when team members are dispersed.  The end result allows teams to focus on serving global markets more efficiently with new product development.  VTM training is now being offered as a supplement to this chapter.

Part 3

Finally, “Leveraging Constraints for Innovation” concludes with Part 3 and a discussion of market constraints.  There is a specific focus on low-end and emerging markets as well as underprivileged market participants.  For example, Chapter 7 by Ronny Reinhardt advises cost-cutting as early as possible in the NPD process when designing products for consumers in low-end markets.  Products must be priced to serve a high volume of customers in these low-end environments.

Chapter 8 is a reminder to involve consumers in product design and development regardless of their language, customs, or location.  Similarly, the authors of Chapter 9 emphasize a holistic view of the society and culture in which innovation is implemented.  Active involvement of local resources and careful process development can engender success.

Lastly, Chapter 10 by Jose Antonio Rosa and Shika Upadhyaya describe how selling of goods can constrain adoption of products within emerging markets.


PDMA Essentials Volume 3 is a great addition to the series to help NDP practitioners adopt frameworks, models, and approaches to overcome individual, organizational, and market constraints.  Anyone working in innovation should read this book, regardless of industry or scale of product development efforts.  It is especially important for those people and companies that want to immediately improve their focus on consumers and team communications to overcome constraints in innovation.  Get your copy of “Leveraging Constraints for Innovation” now!

What is your greatest constraint to innovation? Is it individual, organizational, or market-driven?

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