Electrolux is using an "innovation triangle" to leave its competitors in the dust, reports Carol Matlack in Bloomberg Businessweek (11/4/13). Electrolux faces stiff competition from the likes of Dyson and Hoover in the vacuum category, but hopes to change the dynamic with its "bagless vacuum cleaner, the UltraCaptic, that compresses dust into a spongy pellet, eliminating flyaway particles when the machine is emptied." The feature is based on extensive research into what annoys people most about vacuum cleaners, which yielded a simple response: Dust.
The "innovation triangle" represents a break from the past, when the company’s product development was "run mainly by engineers and accountants." Today, the company brings "together the design, research and development and marketing departments to jointly hammer out … new products." Research on the "dust" issue was turned over to designers, "who suggested adding a built-in compactor to compress dust into a disc that could be dumped into the trash without creating a dust storm."
Engineers then came up with a pair of possible technologies, with the final choice left to focus groups. The Electrolux "innovation triangle" has elevated the role of design at the company, where a chief design officer now reports to the CEO, giving Electrolux and Apple something in common. Bill Fischer, a business school professor, comments: "What Electrolux is doing is moving from being a capital-intensive organization, to trying to be a talent-intensive organization, to know more, and to know it faster, and be ready to react."