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JWI 555 Strayer University Week 2 Role Director of Product Innovation Paper

JWI 555 Strayer University Week 2 Role Director of Product Innovation Paper

Question Description

I’m working on a business exercise and need an explanation to help me understand better.

Role: Director of Product Innovation

You studied environmental science in college and are active in manyenvironmental causes. You believe deeply in the potential for thesustainability initiative to foster innovative R&D and a broaderproduct portfolio at Spectrum, and you are willing to stake your careeron its success. You aggressively lobby your friend and mentor, DeborahEdge, about the benefits of this initiative.

You are Director of Product Innovation within the Research &Development unit of Spectrum Sunglass Company. Spectrum’s immediatefuture looks bright as the company enters its second decade ofoperations. Externally, the consumer sunglass market is growing again,and competitive-pricing pressures have subsided. The company recentlyrehired some of the workers laid off during the last recession, and manydepartmental budgets have been restored to well-funded, pre-recessionlevels. You are especially proud that one potential new product designhas received positive focus group feedback after the first phase ofdevelopment, and some exciting branding deals with Hollywood celebritiesare under negotiation. Everyone at Spectrum Sunglass is looking forwardto growth and enhanced earnings.

While you generally feel very positive regarding the situation atSpectrum, you have noticed that the topic of sustainable economicdevelopment and the link between sustainability and innovation isfeatured in many of the professional articles you read, such as “WhySustainability Is Now the Key Driver of Innovation.” You are frustratedthat you don’t have any new sunglass products to offer to the vocalcustomers who increasingly express concerns about Spectrum’senvironmental impact. Not only does sustainable development make senseto you personally, from both a moral and an economic standpoint, but youalso see this as an opportunity to differentiate Spectrum’s productsfrom your competitors, which focus exclusively on design and price.

During Spectrum Sunglass Company’s annual strategy retreat, youdecide to pitch the idea of forming a task force to make the company andits products more environmentally sustainable. Your vision for Spectrumconsists of three specific goals: (1) Eliminate 25% of waste byredesigning the manufacturing process; (2) reduce the current level ofgreenhouse gas emissions by 15%; and (3) create a new product line basedentirely on environmentally benign materials. You argue that thesegoals, while aggressive, are achievable within the next two years. Youalso add that based on your current understanding, the task force willneed to pursue the following activities: (1) Conduct energy audits andset aggressive milestones for improvement on the three goals; (2)redesign processes and products to be more environmentally sustainable(and scale up successful experiments quickly); (3) analyze environmentallife cycles throughout the entire value chain inside the firm and withits suppliers; (4) seek to replace fossil-fuel energy sources withrenewable energy sources; and (5) seek to replace petroleum-basedmaterials with biodegradable materials.

After politely listening to your proposal, Andrew Chen, the GeneralCounsel, interjects that in his professional opinion, the sustainabilityproject opens up the company to unnecessary legal risks. If the companydoes go ahead, he advises that only one of the three goals be pursuedand that it not be publicly announced or promised until after a carefulinternal due diligence process. Then the CFO, Paul D’Arcy, speaks up,adding that instead of focusing on a pie-in-the-sky sustainabilityproject, the task force’s time and money would be better spent onfinding innovative ways for Spectrum to reduce raw material costs andcounteract the seasonality of its business. Just when you are about toinject a counterargument to this increasingly negative reception, LukeFiler, the VP of Operations, states that he is concerned about a productand process change that is likely to increase raw material costs anddisrupt existing production flows.

Breaking the impasse, Leslie Harris, Spectrum’s VP of Sales andMarketing, argues that this idea has considerable promise and that itwould be foolish to reject it prematurely. After an hour-longdiscussion, during which some members of the top management team voicesupport for the initiative while others express skepticism, Henry Adams,the CEO and the rest of the management team agree to support yourproposal, with the condition that the measure of success be your team’sability to achieve the proposed three goals within the next two years.The CEO agrees to allow you and your task force members to spend 75% ofyour time on this change initiative over the next two years. You agreeto this arrangement, and you recommend that the task force reportdirectly to the CEO in order to signal its importance to the rest of theorganization and to facilitate direct communication on key issues asthey come up. As the retreat ends and everyone heads to dinner, youstart pondering the numerous issues and obstacles you’ll need toovercome in order to implement your sustainability vision.

Your central challenge is to convince your colleagues that a dramaticchange in the organization’s strategy and products is necessary andthat environmental sustainability is one of the keys to the firm’sfuture. This challenge is somewhat complicated by the fact that you mustinfluence the rest of the organization without the formal authority tocommand employees’ attention, and there is no generally perceived needto change at this moment because of the firm’s return to normalprofitability. However, you do have a reputation for being competent andtrustworthy, and this reputational capital will be invaluable to you asyou take on this new challenge.

© 2013 Harvard Business School Publishing.


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