Product Development Teams: Case of Skullcandy


New product development is a process that involves the creation of good or service for a specific target market. In most instances the process of product development begins with an idea. A person gets an idea of a product or service that s/he can launch for a specific market. After idea generation, the next step is the product design where a team of qualified individual get together to discuss how the product or service will be like. The third step involves the manufacture of the product which is then followed by marketing to the target market. Another procedure of new product development involves conducting market research and analysis to determine which product a specific market lacks (Reich, & Karniel, 2011, 3).

This paper analyses the product development process at Skullcandy. The paper will look into the aspect of company size and how it influences the product development process. Focus will also be on the product development team at Skullcandy and how effective or ineffective it was. The paper then concludes with recommendations on the management of Skullcandy can improve on the new product development process.

Skullcandy began as a small company that came to be as a result of the ingenuous ideas of founder Rick Alden. Alden saw an opportunity to create headphones for snowboarders and skiers. Generally Skullcandy was a small company that was quickly growing. For successful development process, it relied heavily on collaboration with external parties (Annachino, 2006, 285). In 2002 for instance, he collaborated with a Chinese manufacture to create the first prototype headphone. He also collaborated with manufactures of Giro ski and snowboard helmets to sell this snowboarding wears with shi headphones integrated into them.

The small size of the company also meant that different employees had to undertake numerous roles at the same time. Alden for instance was the founder of the company who worked hard to create suitable headphones for his clientele. Other than that he engaged in marketing where he used his strong connections in snowboarding and skateboarding to acquire endorsements for the products. At the start of the company the members involved in the team development process were few and not sufficient to be solely engaged in a single line of the project

Skullcandy’s new product development team structure appears to be of the hybrid nature. More specifically, the team appears to have lightweight and heavyweight members. Lightweight team members are those who are not entirely focused on one project role. Though the team members may appear to have specific roles, they are not entirely tied to these roles and can take up any alternative tasks in the product development endeavor. On another hand Skullcandy appears to have a well organized managerial team. This forms the heavyweight team members (Sethi, & Park, 200, p74).

Rick Alden comes of as a dedicated leader who not only comes up with the novel idea of head phones but takes the front row in ensuring that it is a success in the skate boarding business. With prior experience in skate boarding industry and skills in marketing Alden leads his product development team in manufacturing headphones suitable for the skate boarding industry. He starts small, but successfully launches the product which becomes a hit in the market making sales of over $10million.

Skullcandy is a small firm. This means that they lacked adequate personnel. To cover for this shortage the existing employees had to take up different responsibilities in the product development team. There are several advantages associated with this strategy. The first is the fact that individuals who are multi talented will be better placed to make productive contributions to various projects within the company. By taking up different tasks/responsibilities a multi talented individual will successful engage in productive team work with the rest of the employees (Gebert, & Kearney, 2006, 439).

Working in multiple projects enables employees to share ideas and thoughts as they undertake the different projects. In the process there is productive cross sharing of important ideas that employees can learn form each other. Engaging in multiple projects also gives the employee adequate exposure to the company’s products and technologies. In the end, the employee acquires a valuable degree of experience and exposure (Holland, & Gomes, 2000, 234).

The main disadvantage in this arrangement is that employees do not get the opportunity to specialize in their specific skills. A team of employees who are skilled in a particular field e.g. marketing may have been more productive had they worked together in the marketing docket. With similarities in skills and experience, the employees would have freely shared information across boundaries thus accomplishing the task assigned to them. The second disadvantage is that the employees lack a sense of ownership to any project within the organization (Gebert, & Kearney, 2006, 444). If the employee had specialized in a specific project and participated in it, from the beginning to conclusion, s/he would confidently lay ownership of the project.  This is however no the case when one engages in multiple projects within an organization.

The strategy of measuring and rewarding performance of Skullcandy development may be a challenge due to several factors. Firstly, the actual undertaking of a project is done by a pool of team members. In the case of Skullcandy, the team comprised of lightweight members who were not entirely tied to the project. This means that the reward system may be tricky as it would not be clear which employee put the most effort and who did not. There also is the challenge of waiting time. The success of a product in most companies is determined after it has been launched and rolled out in the market.

In the case of the headphones, Skullcandy development team members have to also patients wait (Holland, & Gomes, 2000, 236). If the product was a success, then it would rake in huge profits, part of which may be shared to the team the developed the product. Unfortunately, this strategy means that the employees have to wait for along period of time before any form of incentive is given. The long wait may demoralize the employees from engaging in other projects.

In conclusion, if advising the top management at Skullcandy I would advise them to divide the development team into specific categories. For instance, there would be a team in charge of innovation of products vis-à-vis the market needs; they would another team that would be in charge of marketing. The two team should then come together to discuss the way forward in terms of product development. Having conducted adequate marketing research, the marketing team would have determined the specific needs of the market and their opinion of the existing prices (Holland, & Gomes, 2000, 242). They would also have determined other competitors that may have cropped up. Such information is crucial in helping the innovation team to adjust or create alternative products that will match up to the needs of consumers.


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