Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Fixing the idea-poor company

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Idea-poor companies, as defined in The Innovation Value Chain, struggle to cultivate new ideas. Their cultures do not promote developing sound ideas internally and they do not bring in enough good ideas from external sources. The results usually lead to sub-par products and financial returns.

Companies that lack sound idea development most often do not have a good network. Their managers often do not have deep connections with people outside their divisions or companies. To solve this problem they need to focus on building reliableexternal networks and (especially at large companies) improve internal cross-unit networks. The article points out that managers need to search for answers to specific problems by cultivating relationships with experts outside of their immediate influence. They should also focusfinding new ideas within broad technology or product domains. Ultimately, a company that does not generate new ideas will fade away with their declining markets.

For more information on this topic, see Leadership and innovation and Identifying the weak link in product innovation.

The Product Management Perspective: Much has been written about the need for product managers to find and cultivate new ideas for their products. One of the most popular ways of doing this is through customer visits. Listening to the customer is important to understanding market direction; however, product managers need more than that. Alain Breillatt wrote about this topic in his article You Can’t Innovate Like Apple when he said: “The point is not to go ask your customers what they want….The point is to go immerse yourself in their environment and ask lots of ‘why’ questions until you have thoroughly explored the ins and outs of their decision making, needs, wants, and problems. At that point, you should be able to break their needs and the opportunities down into a few simple statements of truth.” In other words, new ideas.

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