Full citation

Spivey, W.A., Munson, J.M., & Wolcott, J.H. (1997). Improving the New Product Development Process: A Fractal Paradigm for High Technology Products. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 14(3), 203-218.

Format: Peer-reviewed article

Type: Research — Non-experimental

Experience level of reader: Advanced

Annotation: The authors developed a fractal paradigm to represent the new product development process, which is built around two factors: management factors and resource factors. The term fractal is metaphorically described as a fern. The fern represents the essences of NPD, where the same set of concerns arise at every level from which the NPD process if viewed; the organization, the division, the team or the individual.

Setting(s) to which the reported activities/findings are relevant: Federal lab, Large business, Small business (less than 500 employees)

Knowledge user(s) to whom the piece of literature may be relevant: Manufacturers, Researchers

Knowledge user level addressed by the literature: Organization

This article uses the Commercial Devices and Services version of the NtK Model

Primary Findings


  • Face-to-face contact helps overcome documentation constraints that might preclude a laboratory technologist or acquisition development specialist from elaborating about possible impediments, if any, to successful transition.
    Interviews with senior personnel.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.12, Step 4.3, Step 4.2, Step 4.13
  • Care is taken to insure that acquisition specialists “buy-in” early during technology development so that the likelihood of the “not invented here” (NIH) syndrome is minimized. This also helps overcome the barrier of “lack of appreciation”. Achieving buy-in and counteracting the NIH syndrome implies the need to “co-locate.” That is, someone from a particular functional area is assigned to the team responsible for transition; as a consequence, the team has the expertise it needs to accomplish the task.
    Lessons from empirical study.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Stage 4, Stage 5


  • In the federal system, networking should be extended to contractors. They should be invited to participate early. Contractor recommendations on research plans and schedules could reduce implementation risks. To ensure fair competition, all interested contractors should be asked to participate.
    Lessons from empirical study.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 3.1, Step 4.6
  • The appropriate image for the NPD process is self-similarity. For example, exemplary leadership, sensitive communications, and integrative managerial structure are necessary for effective NPD-regardless of the level of the organization.
    Conclusions drawn from empirical study.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.6

Secondary Findings

Method: One way to integrate the “voice of the customer” is to implement quality function development (QFD). QFD emphasizes identifying customer needs and mapping them to specific product characteristics. A series of interaction matrices translates customer needs into process step specifications. (Hauser & Clausing [1988] and Griffin [1992])
Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.11, Step 6.1, Step 5.3

Tip: Musselwhite reported that over 80% of the projects using a cross-functional team met or exceeded commercial expectations-compared with 60% for projects headed by technical line management, 50% for technical project management, and only 20% for one-person operations. (Musselwhite [1990])
Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.6