Archive for February, 2009

Will Your New Product Innovation Succeed?

Point: Use a simple formula to evaluate a design

Story: “Italian design” sparks images of beauty, the Renaissance, craftsmanship. Alessi, a leading Italian design firm, has been creating products for the home for three generations. CEO Alberto Alessi describes the company as an artistic mediator, bridging the highest possible expressions of product design with customer dreams. Given such intangible goals, how does Alessi access whether a new product design will succeed?
Alessi has a 4-part formula:

  1. Does it speak to the customer? (Do customers say “oh, that’s beautiful”?)
  2. Does it help the customer express a core value? (For example: simple yet elegant; uniqueness; earth-friendly)
  3. Function
  4. Price

CEO Alessi developed this formula after evaluating 300 of his firm’s products and asking why some were big successes and others were fiascoes.

Action: Look back over the portfolio of products or services that your firm has produced. Are there patterns in which ones succeeded and which ones failed? Use these commonalities to devise your own formula, or try Alessi’s.

For more information:
Interview with CEO Alberto Alessi in the McKinsey Quarterly

About Alessi:

7 Comments »Innovation, Metrics, New Product Development

A Quick Way to Boost Your Creativity or Productivity

Point: Color affects performance

Story: The background color on your computer screen might influence your creativity or productivity, according to a recent study by the University of British Columbia. Researchers gave participants work tasks on a computer. The experimenters varied whether the tasks were presented against a blue, red or neutral background on the computer screen. The results:

People performing tasks that required attention to detail (like proofreading) did better when the computer background was red.

People performing tasks that required a creativity (like creating new products) did better when the computer background was blue.

Action: Set your computer background to red when you need to focus on details. Set the background to blue when you want to make creative connections.

Sources for more information:
New York Times article
Wired Science

12 Comments »Creativity, Productivity

How to Spot an Opportunity

Point: How do you spot an opportunity? Notice an anomaly and investigate it.

Story: Ted Nierenberg launches Dansk International Designs

In the mid-1950s, Ted Nierenberg attended an industrial fair in Germany. While at the fair, he noticed many booths displaying stainless steel flatware. This surprised Ted, because at that time in the US, stainless steel tableware only appeared in mess halls and school cafeterias, not homes or restaurants. Ted investigated: Why wasn’t stainless steel flatware more prevalent in the US? Answer: because it wasn’t very attractive. So Ted had an idea: could the flatware be made attractive yet remain inexpensive? He decided to investigate. First, he visited factories in Germany, checking equipment and costs. Then, he visited designers in Scandinavia to see if they were making anything that would appeal to American tastes. That was the genesis of the new business idea, producing what as considered paradoxical at the time: “elegant stainless steel.”


In your daily experiences — and especially when attending special events like trade shows — look for patterns and anomalies. Do you see something that surprises you? Ask yourself why it surprises you. Chances are that it’s something new to you — and thus likely new to others as well. Investigate the surprise. Could you take part of it and apply it to a new product or service idea? Be particularly alert for paradoxes. Great opportunities exist in paradoxes because people consider paradoxes unresolveable.

5 Comments »How-to, Opportunity

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