Concurrent Innovation



Society of Concurrent Product Development (SCPD) @ Science Museum of Minnesota (6/14/18)

Concurrent product development — aka “concurrent innovation”, “concurrent development”, “concurrent engineering”, “simultaneous engineering”.

Some would say that concurrent innovation is based on five principles. I assert that it is based on three principles. It is said that real estate development is based on three principles: location, location, and location. I assert that concurrent innovation is based on three principles: parallelism, parallelism, and parallelism.

(I’m actually asserting that concurrent innovation is based on one principle: parallelism.)

All other attributes of concurrent innovation derive from this principle. Design and implementation (and the sub-phases / sub-disciplines of each of those phases) are performed in parallel. Not series — parallel. The progress of each discipline cross-references and informs the other discipline as they advance through the telescope of time. They may accomplish this cross-reference by short intervals / high-frequency iterations between the disciplines, but one discipline does not substantially finish before the other discipline substantially starts.

Concurrent innovation is a sibling or cousin or second cousin of agile development. Agile development is based on one principle: rhythm. All other attributes of agile development derive from this principle. The essential difference between agile development and conventional development is how they respond to the condition of expected scope not fitting expected timeframe. Conventional development changes the schedule (the time-series dimension); agile development changes the scope (the cross-section dimension).

(Software development is, itself, a system — a second-order system. All systems have two dimensions — a time-series dimension and a cross-section dimension.)

All other attributes of agile development are reflected in this response — changing the scope vs. changing the schedule.

Concurrent innovation is perhaps the analogy in the hardware domain of agile development in the software domain. Both of these disciplines derive all of their attributes from a single, unifying principle. Concurrent innovation can perhaps inform agile development; agile development can perhaps inform concurrent innovation.

‘Nuff said about the theory and concept of concurrent innovation.

SCPD convened on 6/14/18 – 6/15/18 at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Like taking a new route to the office, SCPD induced divergent thinking this year by changing venues. SCPD has historically convened at the 3M Innovation Center.

How fascinating to hear systems engineers (Jonathan Watson, Andrew Pickard) from Rolls Royce tell stories about designing and building jet engines. Not just the jet engines of today, but the jet engines of 10 and 20 years hence. One of the most complex artifacts ever conceived by humanity, jet engines aren’t designed and built in a day. How do we build and enhance and innovate jet engines? How do these patterns apply to more mundane initiatives?

Jonathan urged us to visit Lego Ideas and support “Rolls Royce UltraFan — The Ultimate Jet Engine“.


We heard stories about channel innovation from Jeff Raider, co-founder of Warby Parker; Chris Walton, former director of Target “store of the future” initiative; Matt Pacyga, mobile development leader at Dairy Queen. Not surprisingly, Amazon was an undercurrent in the channel innovation theme. Will Barnes & Noble meet all of the criteria / exercise all of the advantages of modern customer experience in the physical domain (yes — the virtual domain will not conquer the world / the physical domain will persist in some form) and still, in the end, lose to Amazon?

Chris Walton recommended “The Era of Choice” by Edward Rosenthal; Matt Pacyga recommended “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg.

Fritz Grutzner at Brandgarten fascinated us with stories about the emotional power of storytelling. Imagine conducting a survey about personification of fireplaces (yes, fireplaces) and finding a pattern. Imagine running shoes made of ocean plastic (yes, ocean plastic — you’ve heard of ocean plastic). Fritz recommended “How Customers Think” by Bernard Zaltman.

Amanda Zweerink and Beth Larson at Zeus Jones challenged us to revert to intuition… via “radical empathy”. Not abandon it in the data-driven frenzy of modern technology. But, wait — we’re just beginning to assimilate the data-driven culture. And, now, back to intuition? It’s a balance, say Amanda and Beth. If we are to practice not one or the other, but both — then I assert that integration of the two capabilities is a key requirement. While we may have (or develop) strength in each capability, integration is a significant gap (and opportunity).

I enjoyed partnering with Kumars Sakizadeh, a 3M scientist, on some exercises and informal discussion around technical teams and team-building (integrating multiple chemical disciplines on a team; integrating chemical / electrical / mechanical disciplines on a team; integrating technical disciplines and product management).

Thanks to Linda Cummings, Sarah Darmody, and the rest of the SCPD team for curating this thought-provoking event!


Related events:

I will be presenting on systematic innovation at Society for Concurrent Product Development (SCPD) on 7/19/18 and DevJam / Product Agility on 8/14/18; details are coming soon.

Customer Focus is coming to Minneapolis on 7/17/18; it seeks to bring new perspective and emphasis to customer experience and employee experience.


post @ LinkedIn: “Adventures in Concurrent Innovation


2 thoughts on “Concurrent Innovation

  1. I truly enjoy reading your feedback David! Your commentary regarding Agile and Concurrent Innovation is thought-provoking, and was discussed in detail on our latest Board call. SCPD exists to stimulate a community of thinkers – who act with intent – to effectively innovate big solutions that will create a healthy future. Thank you for being part of our community and we are so glad that your takeaways from the Conference have produced additional discussions!


    • Sarah — thanks for your enthusiastic perspective. I’m glad that my account of this thought-provoking event was further thought-provoking. Thanks for organizing this community. Concurrent development is a distinct and valuable discipline.


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