Is It Death of Innovation - or Birth of Innovative Modifications

In "Your NPD portfolio may be harmful to your business health" (Cooper, 2005) presents data showing that true new product development has decreased by 43.7% between years 1990-2004. According the same article improvements and modifications to existing products has increased by 80.1% during the same time period.

September 2007 issue of Embedded System Design Journal revealed the results of reader's vote. Parts of the results add recent data to above observation. According to reader's vote the fraction of "new to the world; a new project from the scratch" compared to "an upgrade or improvement to an earlier or existing product" products has decreased from 48% to 39% in the past three years. 79% of those upgrades or improvements included "New or different software features".

Do not feel sad if it's been a while since you started to work on a brand new product. You are not alone. Working with new product seems to be getting more and more rare situation. If you get to do this, enjoy while you can. The data shows that there is a fair chance that you will be working with that product for a long time.

From the agile development point this data shows that it is ever more important to invest in automated regression test suite and refactored, clean, code. It is a safe bet that the software will be under heavy modification.

Very few of us have a chance to work in true high-tech fields which are generally understood to require innovation. Products developed are increasing in size and complexity. Building something from scratch based on a novel idea is most of the times in mega-project category. Mega-projects will take a long time, and thus include a mega-risk. This means that they are not so attractive to management. They do not get the funding so easily. However to me innovation means combining some, typically existing, technologies and ideas in a novel way to create some value to some one. By this definition adding ethernet connection to traditional product, and figuring out a valuable meaning for it, is innovation. We also need innovation in designing and improving the products so that they more easily adapt even more change. The need for innovation has not disappeared, it is just the nature of it that is shifting.

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