The evocatively titled ‘fuzzy-front-end’ of the NPD process has been coined to reflect the general messiness and lack of clarity that goes into the initial ideas phase of new product design (Kim and Wilemon1 , 2002, Koen et al. 2, 2001). It can often be the lengthiest phase, taking up to 50% of the total development time3. Online qualitative conversations can help companies wipe the fuzz from their brows, by providing fast-flowing, on-going and inspiring insights.
Some of the most seminal models mapping the optimal NPD process have tended to gloss this early idea-creation phase (Katz 2011)4. Urban and Hauser’s Design and Marketing of New Products (1980)5 focuses more on marketing. Similarly, the discovery phase in Cooper’s “Winning at New Products” (1986, 1993, 2001) 6, is less concerned with the evaluation of the early concepts and more focused on reviews at later stages in the cycle. A similar assessment can be made of Wheelwright and Clark’s ‘Revolutionizing Product Development’ (1992) 7, Michael McGrath’s ‘Setting the PACE in Product Development’ (1996) 8 and MITS ‘Center for Innovation in Product Development’ (2005) 9. All these models focus on the process after the initial ideas have already been had.