New Product Development: From Post-it Sticky Notes to Volvo Trucks

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Smart people create great products through hard work, team efforts and, sometimes, by happenstance. The invention of the Post-it Sticky Note is an example of the latter. The product development surrounding a Volvo FH truck represents a new and better way.

Then: Sticky notes and a chance encounter. As the story goes, in the ‘70s, a 3M chemist named Spencer Silver invented a kind-of-sticky adhesive but couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Four years later, Arthur Fry, a colleague in product research was looking for a kind-of-sticky way to bookmark pages in his church hymnal. A 3M golfing buddy told him about Silver. The two met and the sticky note—one of 3M’s most successful and enduring products— was born.

This story came to mind during a recent discussion I was having about social media as a tool for collaborative product development. Most people today think that companies use social media principally for marketing communications. But in an interview in the MIT Sloan Management Review, Gartner Inc. VPs Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald report a momentous shift over the past two years towards “mass collaboration” where companies use social media to bring employees, suppliers and customers together to solve problems that drive significant business value:

“The hype [over] its power is absolutely true,” says Bradley who with McDonald has written a book, The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees. “It enables hundreds, thousands… of people to collaborate like never before, and to achieve results that are otherwise unachievable.”

Now: PLM propels Volvo into a new world of product development. Volvo is a case in point. Social collaboration rooted in product lifecycle management technology is delivering levels of car and truck quality, safety and sheer variety that were unimaginable 20 years ago.

Hear what Volvo is saying about PLM <<Watch the Video>>

Great products will always be developed by hard work and team efforts. But with technologies that foster real-time global collaboration for sharing knowledge, managing product complexity and boosting innovation, happenstance is no longer a factor.

Tell us how your company is using social media to drive global product development.

This entry was posted in Best Practices, Product Lifecycle Management and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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