PIPELINE 2013 “Innovation that Works” No-Cost Online Conference

I hope you are registered for PIPELINE 2013 – the no-cost online innovation conference occurring Thursday, May 16th, 2013.  If not, please register now.

PIPELINE invited us to contribute a blog post for the conference website.  We addressed innovation and the learning organization, sharing 5  critical actions to take for becoming a more innovative organization.

Read more of our blog post at PIPELINE…

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Valuable Innovation Lessons from Tim Ferriss’ Recap of 2012 Shopify Build-a-Business Competition: 8 Great Questions

Would companies that went from nothing to grossing more than $300,000 a month catch your attention? If caught mine. I wanted to know what these entrepreneurs did that resulted in a successful new business and a new product launch. The winners of the 2012 Shopify Build-a-Business Competition are a valuable place to look for real-world innovation lessons, especially through the lens of the individual entrepreneur or small founding group.

To make the task of learning from the winners even easier, Tim Ferriss (author of the 4-Hour book series, starting with the 4-Hour Workweek) provided a well-structured interview with the winners, asking these important innovation and entrepreneurial questions…

  1. Describe your product in 1-3 sentences.
  2. How did you decide on your product? What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?
  3. What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or a-ha moments? How did the tipping points happen?
  4. What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time / money?
  5. Key manufacturing and marketing lessons learned?
  6. Any PR wins? Media, well-known users, or company partnerships, etc? How did they happen?
  7. What software/tools and resources, mentors or groups did you find useful for growing, if any?
  8. If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

The answers are in Tim’s blog at: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2013/04/24/how-to-online-business/#more-9459.

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10 Experts on How Leaders should Spur Innovation

The Wall Street Journal asked a group of thought leaders “what’s the most important thing leaders can do to spark innovation at their institutions?”  Their responses are below and more details are in the WSJ article.  How about you – how should leaders spur innovation?

  1. Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Encourage Small Wins—and the Big Wins Are More Likely to Come
  2. Bob Kerrey: Let Us Innovate and Ossify in Equal Measures
  3. Andrew McAfee: Get Specific and Follow These Two Mantras
  4. Lynda Gratton: Use Connectivity and Bring In Outside Ideas
  5. Bruce Nolop: Go for Singles, Not Home Runs
  6. Bernard Yeung: Lead a Collective Change in Attitude
  7. Kenneth Freeman: Make Challenging the Status Quo Acceptable
  8. Jay Hooley: Listen for Good Ideas at All Levels
  9. Hamdi Ulukaya: Don’t Confine Innovation to One Department
  10. Cesare Mainardi: Don’t Throw Money at the Problem—Invest in Coherence
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10 Key Customer Questions

Both the CIL and NPDP certification exams ask about market research principles.  The topic of market research can be misunderstood.  When it comes to product innovation, we have a keen focus on customers, not an abstract notion of market segments, but very specific people the product concept is targeted to.  What should we know about customers?  Lehmann and Winer, the authors of Analysis for Marketing Planning,  offer 10 critical questions.  Are you using these questions with your innovation projects?

  1. Who are the customers for this product or service?
  2. What are customers buying and how are they using it?
  3. Where do customers buy products?
  4. When are purchasing decisions made?
  5. How do customers make purchase decisions?
  6. Why do customers choose a particular product?
  7. How do they value one option over another?
  8. How do they respond to marketing programs such as advertising and promotion?
  9. Will they buy it again?
  10. What are they worth to the company?
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Innovators and Business People

Recently I reread a 2011 article on the "top 20" tech start ups and reflected on how each company is doing today.  Some have survived and thrived and some have not.  The article is available here.

Even start ups with very good ideas, creating innovative products and services can fail by year two. Why?   Years 2-5 are critical.  While innovation is key – business acumen, intelligence, and execution drives success.   Many innovators need a "business" partner that understands everything from accounting to logistics to markets.  The innovation helps account for both the innovation side and business side of a successful new or improved product.

An example of a someone who took a “product” and turned it into a successful business is Ray Kroc.  He did not “invent” McDonalds (the McDonald brothers did) but built and expanded the business and the brand.

One reason I appreciate the Certified Innovation Leader training and certification provided by AIPMM is its focus on the business aspects of innovation that should occur during the managed front end of product development. 

Enjoy reading and thinking about innovation, business, success, and sustainability.

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Making Innovation Work: How to Manage it, Measure it and Profit from it

I just skimmed the latest edition (is being released) of Davila, Epstein, and Shelton’s Making innovation work: How to manage it, measure it and profit from it. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publisher. The authors have provided an excellent read on applying innovation best practices in the real world of competition, sustainability, ethics, and preparing for and meeting the future marketplace head on.

What I love best about the latest edition is the clear, concise, and focused way that the authors present information and include templates, checklist, and what I term “cheat sheets” to help drive innovation.

For example: To analyze your company’s collaboration capabilities, the authors suggest you ask the following questions based on the ABCs framework. Answering the questions can assist in determining if your organization is ready to engage in collaboration endeavors and development.

ABC Framework Tool from “Making Innovation Work” Book

A = Alignment

Alignment can help make sure your business strategy is aligned well with related innovation goals and both strategy and goals are communicated throughout the organization consistently and clearly.

Q: To what extent is your overall business strategy supported by a strategy for collaborative innovation?

Q: How well do people at all levels of the organization understand the overall strategic direction and associated innovation goals? How strongly do they identify with these? And do they know how their actions contribute?

Q:  Are the right processes in place to drive or support innovation at all levels of the organization, in operations, in business models and in the development of new offerings, for example, in manufacturing, sales, and corporate development?

Q: How well connected are the component parts of your organization to support innovation,
including R&D and sales, for example?

B = Boundaries

Organizations need to establish rules and policies that govern their relationships with external partners while maintaining an ongoing collaboration across organizations.

Q: How well does your current business model, operations and product portfolio support
collaboration with partners outside your company?

Q: How visible are these partnerships throughout your organization? How structured are the
processes for collaborating with external partners? Are roles and responsibilities for managing
collaboration internally and externally understood?

Q: In what ways are your processes, governance and operating guidelines designed specifically to facilitate sharing information with other companies? Do you have structures for resolving or
avoiding conflicts over intellectual property, ownership and other core issues?

Q: How does your technological infrastructure support collaborative processes across the extended enterprise, from basic communications to shared access to information, to real time collaboration?

Q:  What kind of process do you have in place for monitoring and understanding potential changes in strategy or direction by any of your current and potential partners?

C = Commitment

Leadership needs to demonstrate a strong commitment to change and innovative thinking. They must be open and flexibility to new methods of learning and improving.

Q: How strongly does your company culture value spending time, energy and resources on
commercializing ideas obtained from outside?

Q: To what extent do leaders provide support for the strategic innovation agenda? How consistent is this over time?

Q:  In what ways do your HR processes (hiring, training, performance management, incentives),
reporting relationships, and other organizational structures support collaborative innovation?

Q:  Does your collaboration strategy enable the agility necessary to accommodate dynamic
partnering relationships?

Q: Does your organization capture lessons learned and apply these to future collaborations and, if so, to what degree?

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New Product Development: Nordstrom’s Innovation Example

How does innovation happen?  Some form of this question is frequently asked.  Sometimes I respond with describing the elements of the body of knowledge contained in the New Product Development Professional (NPDP) certification from PDMA or the Certified Innovation Leader (CIL) credential from AIPMM.  In doing so, connecting to real examples makes “how does innovation happen” more tangible.  One example is Nordstrom’s innovation lab.  In the video below, Nordstrom’s shows how they setup a product development center in a Nordstrom store for one week, resulting in an iPad app to help shoppers purchase sunglasses.  There are several good lessons in this short video – customer centered design, concept testing, rapid prototyping, field testing, time boxing innovation, and more.  What is missing is on the front and back end — how and why the initial ideal was chosen and an assessment of the value of the product.  It is an impressive demonstration of what can occur with a small team in only a week.

How Innovation Happens–One Example
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Relax and be More Innovative?

Several years ago I read “Slack:  Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency” by expert computer scientist Tom DeMarco.  It reminded me that the times when I was more innovative were also characterized by times of having slack in my schedule to be influenced by new sources and different thinking.  A recent Opinion page in the New York Times summarizes research on the value of relaxing to be more productive – relaxing to be better at your work.  In my case, my work is innovation and I know relaxing and creating slack is helpful.  Take a moment to “relax” and review the New York Times article.

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Managing Innovation: ProdMgmtTalk Web Radio

Global Product Management TalkI had the pleasure of joining Cindy F Solomon on the Global Product Management Talk web radio show.  Her co-host was Tim Bates, product executive.  We discussed several topics, including the nature of innovation, how the slowing economic conditions has impacted innovation, descriptions of several innovation frameworks, and why 2013 is the Year of Innovation.  The archive is available for playback here.  The discussion begins about 10 minutes into the recording.

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Product Management Talk–Live Web Radio Jan 14

Chad will be Cindy F. Solomon’s guest on Product Management Talk Monday, Jan 14th at 11:00am MT to discuss innovation and how ideas become products  Participants are welcome to listen live at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/prodmgmttalk, call in to talk on the show (323) 927-2957 and to participate on Twitter by following @ProdMgmtTalk and tweeting using the hashtag #ProdMgmtTalk.

Read more here.

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