Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Fixing the diffusion-poor company


Diffusion-poor companies have a difficult time monetizing good ideas. They often suffer from the “not invented here” thinking. As a result, new products and services are not properly rolled out to the market. In decentralized organizations, managers are often given a fair amount of autonomy, which gives them the ability to stop new ideas from other parts of the company from “taking the time” or “disrupting” their teams. In cases where managers do not necessarily have the ability to say no to new ideas, they can still sabotageprojects they don’t believe in. These practices halt or slow down the diffusion of products and services to the market.

Companies that have a difficult time getting traction for their new ideas need to find a catalyst. The authors of The Innovation Value Chain recommend promoting an “idea evangelist”–someone who preaches the good word about an emerging product or business. They use their deep personal networks to increase awareness internally and promote ideas to customers and others in the market. They reach out through phone calls, emails and socialnetworking to increase awareness.

Ultimately, a company’s ability to recognize market problems, create business opportunities and produce winning products and services depends on its people. When leaders create a culture that gives their people opportunities to grow, innovation–and ultimately success–will happen naturally.

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

The Product Management Perspective: In most companies, product managers are the catalysts that promote forward-thinking ideas and bring their products to market. Because they work with people from other groups and divisions in their companies, they often act in the role of “idea evangelist” for their products and services. Product managers that take the initiative to lead on purpose become the “go-to” people in their companies and find great fulfillment in their work.

2 thoughts on “Fixing the diffusion-poor company

  1. Radical or discontinous innovation is seen as being a high risk proposition. This perception developed, because the methods underlying commodity goods marketing is not diffusion. Geoffrey Moore laid out the technology adoption lifecycle as a diffusion mechanism. Christensen’s approach to radical or discontinous innovation has not been accepted by traditional management either. A few companies take those approaches. Most don’t and will not, because they are radical innovations in themselves. Gary Hamel in his “The Future of Management,” talks about the need for management innovation. But, it will only be the early adopter, high risk tolerant, manager that will move towards a management innovation before it is commoditized. It will be these managers that enable the diffusion capable company.

  2. Being diffusion-poor is an organizational disease. I believe that a Product Manager who exercises good leadership practices and performs the duties of the “idea evangelist “can go a long way in keeping an organization healthy. Much like sleep, lots of water, vitamins, and fresh air prevents other diseases; the idea evangelist is good preventative medicine. But once sick, I have to wonder if being an idea evangelist is enough to “Fix” the company. Someone once stated that all the good attitude in the world won’t build a nuclear reactor. You also need some skills. Any ideas about what leadership skills the Product Manager must have to cure the diffusion-poor organization?

    I suggest that this is a much bigger problem than you hinted at. Many organizations aren’t able to align day-to-day tactics with product strategy. Many Product Mangers don’t even participate in the development and modification to product strategy. In this case, all they can do is respond to the changes made by others. Execution of a plan requires skills, maybe those skills are missing, and maybe the plan is missing. Many times the Product Manager hasn’t socialized the roadmap at all. What can the Product Manager do to cure the disease?

    I’ve observed that being diffusion-poor can be either a disease or a symptom; sometimes both. This just adds to the issue. What happens when the effects of poor ideation and / or poor conversion cause a diffusion poor diagnose? In this situation, the product manager can be doing everything right in the diffusion area and still be diffusion poor. Any efforts trying to fix the diffusion poor condition would have no effects.

    I think to have a good diagnoses, a sensitivity test would have to be completed to determine what was truly the constraint.

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