Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How to create a culture of innovation

Disruptive and incremental innovations: How to ascend the ladders and avoid the snakes

Guest post by Gaia Grant and Andrew Grant

Current realities are harsh. Whereas once it was enough to bring out slow incremental improvements, to give time to trial new products, services and ideas and test the market, innovations now need to be rapid and radical. And the competition is fierce.

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What are you really competing against?

In our world of work and business, competition is a real thing. Too often, however, we miss the real competitor. We overlook the root of what our products are really competing against. As Peter Drucker famously said: “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him.”

Why do we miss the mark when it comes to competing in products and services? Why do the majority of innovations fall short of their desired objectives? Are you competing against luck?

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The importance of leadership in effective management

There are many elements that make a good manager, however, one of the critical qualities is leadership. Leadership and management must go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing. Leadership and management are complementary, but it is important to understand how they differ.

Leadership is about vision and innovation, whereas management is about maintenance of excellent standards. A leader innovates and a manager administrates on the innovation. A leader focuses on individuals and inspires them, a manager focuses on systems and structure. A leader always has their eye on the horizon, whereas a manager should be watching the bottom line.

While it is important to be aware of the difference between management and leadership it is vital to understand that a good manager is also a leader. In the infographic below we explore the elements that make a good manager, leadership being a principle feature of good management. Continue reading


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How leaders harness innovation to out think competitors

“We’ve entered a new era. Call it the age of imagination, ideation, conceptualization, creativity, innovation—take your pick. Creativity, mental flexibility, and collaboration have displaced one-dimensional intelligence and isolated determination as core ingredients of a competitive advantage.”

Out ThinkIn his book OUT THINK: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, author Shawn Hunter synthesizes a set of what he calls “truths in emerging innovative leadership practices” that help companies generate value in the form of innovative products and services. The volatility of the current economy—which he calls ‘marketquake’—demands that organizations become agile in order to survive.

In the book, Hunter explains a series of ten processes that comprise the ‘Out Think’ journey:

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How do you build the right culture in your company?

People in countries, organizations and companies tend to behave in similar ways. The term culture has come to represent this idea: the way people think, behave or work. The culture of a company can have a major effect on the value—in terms of products and services—that a company provides to its customers.

A recent Gallup study analyzed data from more than 30,000 employees in various industries to determine what characteristics led to companies creating a high-performance culture that improves top- and bottom-line business metrics. The analysis revealed six crucial components on which companies should focus: Continue reading


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Are you a leader in product innovation?

What drives innovation in your company or organization? Do you have a group of “thinkers” who come up with the new ideas? Do you watch the trends of competitors or others close to your market? Do you look outside your corporate world for clues to where you should go next?

In a recent MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work post the author Eric von Hippel asserts that company leaders focus too much on what’s next based on their internal product innovators, and they do not listen enough to the people using the products. On the topic of who are the real product innovators, von Hippel says:

It’s consumers not the product innovators who should be viewed as the new experts. A new school of innovation thinking says that product innovators who work for manufacturers have received far too much credit for product innovation, while product users have received far too little


The Product Management Perspective: The topic of product innovation goes to the roots of every product manager. Most forward-looking organizations rely on product managers to innovate their products, to assure their viability to the market, with the end goal of increased sales revenue. Visiting your customers—whether consumers at a tradeshow or large enterprise customers at their place of business—is key to the innovation and future success of your products. If you (or your boss) need motivation for looking to the outside for product innovation, I recommend the article three reasons to visit customers.


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How do leaders make lasting change?

One of the great leaders and thinkers of our time is Clayton Christensen, ”a down-to-earth” alum of BYU, Oxford and Harvard. His book The Innovators Dilemma has impacted the business world perhaps more than any other book in recent history. He has expanded his research and applied his theories to other industries like health care, higher education and even governments and tax systems.

I found two recent articles about Clayton Christensen that have increased my understanding about leadership: The first is published in the BYU Magazine’s Spring 2013 edition. (As a BYU alum I get the magazine in the mail; it will be available online in a few months.) The second article is an interview in Wired magazine. In this interview author Jeff Howe asks Christensen questions about his career and sheds thought-provoking light on how he became so important to the business world.

So how do leaders make lasting change? According to Christensen, you keep nimble and respond to up-and-coming innovations at the bottom of the market. You make a concerted effort to not let your company become vulnerable to what Christensen coined as disruptive innovation.

What’s even more important to Christensen is the application of his theories to individual lives; making lasting change in your personal life. He recently wrote the book How Will You Measure Your Life in response to his experiences with former classmates and students. Rather than attempting to explain it I will point you to a TED video where Clayton describes it himself.

If you really want to make lasting change in your life, understand these principles. In the end, says Christensen: “God will measure my life by the individual people that I have blessed.” That’s how you make lasting change.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers operate in a very interesting position (in light of Clayton Christensen’s theories): they need to innovate and keep their products viable. However, the very things they do to innovate lead to The Innovator’s Dilemma if not watched and guarded closely. Take a careful look at Christensen’s writings and talks, and look for ways to apply them in your role as product manager.