How To Get Others To Do Your Product Innovation For You

by drjim on August 6, 2012

Innovation is where you find it…

Innovation is where you find it…

“Be more innovative” – how many times has your management told you that? Although being innovative isn’t really part of the product development definition, product managers still want their products to always be ahead of what their customers want. We’d like to be able to have our products solve problems that our customers might not even know that they have. However, it turns out that being innovative is very hard to do. Good news – I’ve got three ways that product manager can capture some of that innovation stuff and apply it to their products.

Dive Deep With Your Customers

Where can a Product Manager look for innovative ideas? One of the best places is to have your customers provide you with the innovation insights that you are looking for. As long as you are able to capture innovative ideas for your product, then this is yet another thing that you’ll be able to add to your product manager resume.

The trick is finding a way to allow your customers to communicate these ideas to you. One way to go about doing this is to perform what is called a “deep dive” with your customers. Take the time to immerse yourself into the lives of your customers. The results of doing this can include the uncovering of unserved or underserved areas. It can also provide you with information on new directions and new frames with which to search for innovative ideas to apply to your product.

Probe Your Customers

As though a deep dive wasn’t enough, you can take things one step further. You can create and execute what is called a probe-and-learn strategy with your customers. This is the kind of approach that product managers use to find out more about areas where their products are not either active or strong in.

When you are executing a probe, what you’ll actually be doing is trying out new ideas in a new context. The most important thing to realize about probes is that they don’t always work out. A high failure rate is to be expected; however, you need to make sure that you learn something new from every probe that you try.

Look Internally

Innovation happens when someone has a great idea. What this means is that the more people that you are able to enlist into helping you search for innovative ideas, the better the chances are that innovation will happen for your product.

One way to boost your chances of identifying an innovative idea is to enlist other people who work at your company to help you out. This can be as simple as asking employees in the finance, sales, or even the procurement departments to keep their eyes open and let you know about trends that they encounter that may relate to your product. This can be a great way to become aware of things that would normally go unnoticed.

What All Of This Means For You

Every product manager would like their product team to be more innovative, but exactly how to go about making this happen is something that too many of us struggle with even if our company believes that it is a part of our product manager job description. It turns out that it’s not hard to do once you know how.

Three different ways to make innovation happen for your product include diving deep and really getting to know how your customer is using your product. You can build on this information and create probe projects that try out innovative new ideas with the expectation that most will fail, but all will produce good learning opportunities. Finally, you can tap into the power of your in-house staff: put their minds to work on how your product can be more innovative.

Everything is possible, the trick is in finding out how to make it happen for your product. Take the time to investigate these three suggestions and see if you can use them to add some innovation to your product in order to make it even more successful!

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How long do you think that you would have to observe your customers using your product in order to get valuable information?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

“Be more innovative” – how many times has your management told you that? Although being innovative isn’t really part of the product development definition, product managers still want their products to always be ahead of what their customers want. We’d like to be able to have our products solve problems that our customers might not even know that they have. However, it turns out that being innovative is very hard to do. Good news – I’ve got three ways that product manager can capture some of that innovation stuff and apply it to their products.

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