skyarrow, the steering of our ship is done by us. We can be completely autonomous, like a consultancy with a single client. We could be in a different state for that matter, but it's nice to have manufacturing and the other departments downstairs, they are a great resource.
For ideas, we follow the 100/5/1 rule. For every 100 ideas, we will sink resources into 5 of them expecting 1 of those to launch. Ideas, or more accurately, problems, come straight from the customer as we have our own marketing group within NPD. They are in the field 80% of the time. Problems come from the clinician, posters at trade shows or scholarly papers. We do have a selection criteria to narrow from 100 to the 5.
Those 5 projects running at any given time are what we call franchise products, new to us and (mostly) new to the world blue-sky kind of stuff. With the 5 projects, we can launch a completely new thing every 1-2 years. I will say our sales department can put a hold on a launch if they choose. While it is rare, the sales force can have too much new stuff in the bag. If one of those items generates significantly more revenue, the others won't get pulled out of the bag.
In addition to launching franchise products, we also fill in product lines. A "bariatric" size, or something. Those make it easier to sell as the customer only needs one stop to buy what they need instead of going to different vendors. We tend to have copycats (that gets around our IP, we are big on that) within 6-12 months of a franchise launch. We typically have 2-3 product line filler launches per year.
As for "design", specifically look and feel, we are in the medical industry, not a necessity. Also, our products command a 70%-90% market share. Upper management did not make look and feel a priority as they didn't need to. Our competitors don't either.
But upper management is also not opposed to it and do see it as a competitive advantage. My hiring and the hiring of some "new" folks have changed the course. When the others on different projects see what we produce, they want to get in on the bandwagon. Slow to turnaround, but we are getting there.