Playing Well With Others

2 Jul 2010 Sandeep Mehta

MIT Sloan Management Review had an interesting article Playing Well With Others about communication between R&D and marketing:

The Situation: Different priorities and ways of thinking often create gaps in understanding between marketing and research-and-development staff.

The Problem: Such gaps often mean that one side dominates the development of new products, giving short shrift to the other. When marketing dominates, R&D can be under too much pressure to hit on breakthrough ideas. When R&D dominates, new products can lack marketable strengths.

Effective communication is very important in R&D environment.  In fact, some amount of questioning and skepticism is absolutely essential to scientific / engineering progress and to innovation. However, when two different departments like marketing and R&D are involved, effective communication becomes more difficult and essential.  The article suggests:

The Solution: Companies should help both sides learn to appreciate each other’s strengths, and encourage them to work closely together at the earliest stages of product development.

I believe that R&D managers need to put in place a communication bridge that transcends jargons (both engineering and marketing) to allow a free flow of communication.  The bridge could be individual dependent (like in FreeScale) or in terms of an effective process and tool-set that allows everyone to focus on what is of common interest (product specs and customer requirements) while bypassing what is not (details of engineering implementation or product surveys).  The article points out the same:

  1. Make sure everybody recognizes the value that each department brings to the process—and how one side complements the other.
  2. If one department or the other is dominating a company’s process for developing new products, bring the two more into balance.
  3. Have the two sides speak a common language.
  4. Get out of your silos—up to a point.
  5. Focus on the consumer.

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