It is impressive – at least for me – the number of medium (or large) companies that do not have a well-designed R&D area. Having worked with ingredients almost my entire career, I had the enriching opportunity to meet the R&Ds of several companies, various segments and distinct sizes.
By talking to the different researchers, two things called my attention: that researchers followed their own course, and that there was no interaction between the members of the team during the development process.
It’s not rare, in my wanderings through that world, that I find an R&D team that exists, but whose members do not work together at any time, such is the belief in the myth of Gyro Gearloose – that fantastic, inventive and isolated being, who creates the most innovative machines in his garage. Although there might be some inventors with that exact profile, it is not the only way to achieve innovation and – in a company, with so many wonderful resources available – that would be even reckless.
Ferran Adrián’s (legendary chef creator of El Bulli) notebook. Although the creation of a dish in a restaurant might seem an isolated action, it is usually ALSO the result of a team’s effort.
Of course it depends much on the profile of the manager of the area and the culture of the company – that particular way of doing things that varies from place to place. But in all the companies I have visited up to this date, one thing is common: those that had a more organized process were also more efficient in conducting their developments. And that efficiency was linked to better intra-team communication.
To clarify, I will give you an example.
Imagine yourself, already working for 5 months in the R&D department of a jam and marmalade company which recently entered a new point of sale and is growing at a frantic pace, receiving the task of developing a salt jam from you manager.
The company already occupies a reasonable share – for its size – in the sweet jams segment, but it wants to achieve that voracious consumer of meat, which does not enjoy the sweet/salty combination: the guy really wants salty/salty.
Well, what do you do?
- Start testing the formulations just replacing salt for sugar?
- Search the Internet for recipes that could be adapted to the industry?
- Buy any salt jams you find on the market (do they exist?) and try to reproduce them in the lab?
- Ask the experts, suppliers, colleagues, your mother?
- You raise your hands over your head and run away? (No, you won’t do that, will you? You’re better than that, I know).
How long does that search take? A few weeks before the first product comes out, isn’t it? Maybe months before fairly good product comes out. Some more for factory tests and fixing stability problems. Some more time to study shelf life (you do it, don’t you?).
When you realize it, more than a year has gone by to develop the product. What was supposed to be the big blockbuster of the jam industry lost momentum because of the time consumed.
In the end, you have an excellent product in your hands – but it will have to do your ‘via crucis’ on the market and find another wave of popularity to reach a reasonable audience.
It would be nice if you knew that, 2 years before you came, a researcher who left the company had worked on the same project. Gone through the same troubles as you have. Noted, on a protected electronic spreadsheet that is stored only on the company’s server, all the stability problems that the product had and, mainly, how they managed to resolve them.
It would have been nice, wouldn’t it? How much time would you have saved if you had this information on your hands from the beginning and had at least read the mentioned project?
A few months, for sure. That could have been the difference between launching the product in six months or one year.
You could have reproduced the latest version of the product to decide whether it was worth it – or not. The former researcher had not necessarily discovered the best formulation, but surely she would have given you some tips, wouldn’t she? What to do, what not do: signaling lights that would help you to choose the best way for this development.
Do you see it? The researcher wasn’t even there and you would have had a chance to take advantage of her work.
Now, let’s say you’re part of a team, and that you’ve received the same project. One could imagine that you would at least talk to your colleagues – but one of them, say, a rival, a kind of possessive guy, won’t share his knowledge. Or abides to “forgetting” that he worked on a similar project about five years ago. He is quiet while you suffer on the bench tests.
Again, wouldn’t it be nice if you had access to their archives? That the mentioned files were ORGANIZED and not a pile of messy notebooks, or huge electronic files, without any logic, where you don’t understand what was the path the guy took?
That such files were available in an ELECTRONIC way, to be easily searched through and not on some papers stored in dusty dead files that no one will ever open again?
Well, that sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it?
So why don’t more companies implement a simple R&D project management system? Of course there are ready, complex, resource-filled systems-but it doesn’t have to be like that, right?
We can manage the projects even if we do not have the most advanced features available, even if our company is small and has no means to buy a ready system. I believe, with intent and persistence, we can take a leap of quality and assertiveness in our R&D projects.
That’s why I’m leaving here a very simple way for you to organize yourselves with your multiple projects. It is an Excel spreadsheet that will help you to:
Organize all the projects and, at any time, know with whom a particular project is, at which stage is, when it was opened, who requested and who is responsible for it, among other cool information pieces.
The form is in open format. Therefore, if you need to add, reduce, or change fields, you can easily do it.
You will receive the spreadsheet by email, registering in the box below, and following the step-by-step. Don’t forget to put the email firstname.lastname@example.org on your favorite email list and check your Spam box – Gmail loves to send the email with the document to it. And if you have any doubts about how to use it, or need inspiration on how to implement this with your team or colleagues, leave a comment! With the doubts in hand I can record a video afterwards, explaining the usage.
APPLY HERE TO RECEIVE THE SPREADSHEET
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