A full section on Service Innovation at the PDMA Research Conference


Students of new product development are aware of the term the “Fuzzy Front-End of NPD”, which describes the less understood process of idea generation (versus the allegedly more rational development process at the end that is better studied and understood).

Professor Susan Hart, Head of the Marketing Department at Strathclyde Business School and a well-known researcher and author, coined an insightful phrase, the “Fuzzy Rear-End of New Service Development” and discussed at it at the PDMA annual research conference.

As I have noted in past posts, new service development is not characterized by familiar processes like Stage-Gate(R) or other linear or semi-linear processes. The development process is nearly as mysterious at the front-end, hence Dr. Hart’s apt phrase: The “Fuzzy Rear-End.”

I just returned from the annual research conference of the Product Development & Management Association in DisneyWorld. This year there was a full session on service innovation! As was noted in the May JPIM article by Al Page and me the focus of NPD has generally been on goods-companies, so I was encouraged that there was a full session only on service this year. (Dr. Hart was one of the presenters, as was I. Al Page chaired the session.)

Three straight presenters talked about the dearth of research on service innovation, the risk of viewing service innovation through the framework developed from observing goods manufacturers, and the chaotic nature of the NSD process.

The PDMA is a wonderful get together: a two day academic conference followed by a industry focused conference. There is some crossover — I attended the industry conference two years ago, several brave industry people sat through the entire academic research conference this year. I would strongly endorse the PDMA and the two conferences for anyone involved in new product or service development or in broader issues in innovation.

PDMA website: http://www.pdma.org/

I will report observations from the conference in my next few postings. My Wednesday post will give an overview of insights from the service discussion.


I apologize for the sparse posting recently. In the past 52 days I have defended my dissertation, received my Ph.D., prepared for the PDMA Research conference and delivered a paper and started a new academic year. (Excuses, excuses!) However I will return to posting at least twice a week — on Monday and Wednesday.

This entry was posted in Ideation, NSD Process, Stage-Gate® and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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