Eleven R&D Game Types

In his seminal work on games of innovation Roger Miller found that value creation capture was not limited to the nature of the creative breakthroughs, but rather involved a range of activities by which products and services were developed and delivered to the marketplace. Best-practices were related to the games of innovation companies in similar business segments played. It was found that technical projects that achieved high levels of profitability and growth did so by adapting capabilities and practices to the requirements of value creation for their particular game type. The “Eleven R&D Game Types” figure shows how these game types segment according to (1) how long the technology development takes, and (2) after the technologies is developed, the time it takes to introduce that technology into the market as a new product.

Typical Industry Participants for the Eleven R&D Game Types

The “Typical Industry Participants for the Eleven R&D Game Types” figure makes these concepts a little bit easier to understand. By looking at the industries participating in each of the game types it’s easier to envision from a technology standpoint the commonality of the industry based on the factors that affect the time to prototype and the time it takes to bring a product to market. What was insightful about Roger Miller’s work was, from an R&D project management standpoint, R&D project pitfalls could be foreseen and avoided.

Typical Project Characteristics Based Upon the Eleven R&D Game Types

As an example, various state holders influence the type of innovation that will be successful in various industry segments. There are some R&D game types that support breakthrough innovation and reward commercialization of radical new ideas handsomely, whereas other segments tend to reward incremental and next-generation research. The “Typical Project Characteristics Based Upon the Eleven R&D Game Types” figure shows the key influencers that affect the type of innovation that is best supported. Figure also shows where the innovation ideas typically come from. From a project management standpoint it’s important that project leaders and teams take advantage of these best practices and make sure that they utilize productive idea sources in the ideation phase of their project. The figure also shows typical types of funding models used for projects in each R&D game type. This too affects project success. Utilizing venture funding models is very different from allocating resources according to technology roadmaps as a percent of sales of the Corporation. Using the wrong funding model can starve a project for resources or suck up inappropriate amounts of project leader’s time worrying about the budget versus developing and commercializing new technology.

Typical Project Needs Based Upon the Eleven R&D Game Types

In the “Typical Project Needs Based Upon the Eleven R&D Game Types” figure other attributes associated with successful technology project management are shown. There are times when it is important have specialized personnel with technical or professional competencies integrated as part of the project team. These too vary by R&D game type is shown in the figure. Likewise a leadership style used to guide a project is important to project success. There are times when it’s most productive to have a strong individual leader such as a principal investigator with supporting lab technicians. Other times it’s important to have a more collaborative team approach were all project participants have experience-weighted voices in guiding a project. The best means to provide management oversight of projects also varies by R&D game type. Some projects require an unstructured fuzzy front end methodology where as others are better off with stage/gate or agile/lean approaches.

In summary, R&D game types are useful tools to understand which of the many best practices reported in the literature are best applied to project management within a specific company. Using the best practices taken from the wrong R&D game type slows and significantly reduces the chance of commercial success of projects.