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October 2012

Overheard at Optimizing Innovation NYC

I recently attended the Optimizing Innovation Conference in NYC as Planview was a sponsor. Initially, I was surprised that half of the attendees had traveled from Europe just for a two-day conference. Once the sessions began, I quickly understood their motivation. Speakers from Levi® Strauss, NASA, MTV Networks, Goodyear®, Mozilla, Kraft, and many other companies whose brands are household names offered insight into innovation challenges they've faced and the solutions they've discovered. The amount of transparency was truly impressive and the resulting discussions between participants around the tables matched the wisdom and honesty modeled by the speakers. I can't possibly sum up all that I learned in a blog (perhaps an article or a mini-novella is in order), but these quotes from attendees and speakers provide some valuable nuggets that will hopefully generate dialogue between you and your colleagues:

Optimizing Innovation Conference Introduction

  • "Celebrate doing, not perfection" and "Failure is not a word in our environment." Much discussion was had around how to create an innovation-friendly environment. Many attendees admitted that while lots of the ideas had merit, their organizations are risk-averse and cultural change is not easy to accomplish -- but without a doubt critical for breakthrough innovation.
  • "Genius lives in all of us." The concept that innovative genius is cultivated rather than a component to one's DNA that is either present or not was propagated by Karen Freidt of NASA. She shared techniques she utilizes in her classes for the agency's Enhancing Your Creative Genius course, which truly stirs up even the most reserved personality types as they discover an inner creative spirit.
  • "Copy and adapt with pride." Sometimes we only feel smart if we figure something out from scratch -- the result can be the old "reinventing the wheel" scenario. The sentiment recognizes that as so many great ideas and products already exist, quite often we just need to put our egos aside, learn from what already is and adapt it for our needs, goals, and market.
  • "Don't steal babies." To encourage everyone in your company to contribute to innovation ('cause you never know where that next great idea will come from), employees must trust that they will be allowed to participate in the development process. Speakers from Danone, Mattel®, Fisher-Price®, and Motorola Solutions shared their collaborative ideation programs (including processes and tools) and demonstrated viable ways to keep innovators connected to their ideas.
  • "By 2050 there'll be nine billion people on earth. We'll need three planets to provide enough resources unless we do something different soon." The impact of this statement was not lost to the participants in the room. There is a tremendous burden on today's companies not only to drive profits but to do so with a higher level of environmental responsibility than before. The need, however, is not just to develop products more responsibly but also to develop products that will solve problems.

The final speaker of the conference shared an approach to innovation that can give us all pause as we think about how we are solving problems. Live Well Collaborative is an innovation incubator that partners with the University of Cincinnati and member organizations to develop products and services to meet the needs of the 50+ population. This collaborative provides real-world experience for college students and utilizes their fresh perspective to come up with innovative solutions. Companies, such as Kraft and Boeing, leverage this opportunity to develop new ideas to real business and world challenges.

Citi Talk at Optimizing Innovation 2012

Spending two days with folks who are committed to finding solutions to not only their companies' business challenges but, in some cases, challenges our world is facing, was truly inspiring. I'm motivated to keep track of these companies and see how they continue to innovate and what fresh perspectives they bring to the process.

Do you have a fresh perspective on innovation? What problems are you looking to solve? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Managing Product Portfolios When You Can't Negotiate Fixed Launch Windows

I recently had an opportunity to listen to an extremely informative Webcast on How to Effectively Manage Your Product Portfolio to Consistently Hit Launch Windows, hosted by Consumer Goods Technology (CGT). Jim Brown from Tech Clarity, Monica Alderson from Hallmark, and Carrie Nauyalis, from Planview engaged participants in a dynamic conversation about what it truly means to companies to get innovative products to market on time to meet innovative launch windows. Here's the highlights from this must watch Webcast.

Meet the Deadline or Risk Being Left Behind

There are plenty of consumer products companies that have seasonal/fixed deadlines that they must meet. Not only to satisfy corporate objectives but to appease the needs and expectations of their loyal consumers.

In the Webcast, Jim gave high-tech and games and toys companies as a few of the examples. A high-tech company may introduce a new product at an industry tradeshow. The gaming company may need to get their latest sci-fi video game in the stores and on the shelves in time for the holiday shopping season. No matter the product, these initiatives have fixed deadlines. If the product release fails, the company may experience negative repercussions to both business and their brand. Not a good outcome for your bottom line or the impression you make to investors.

Industry Statistics

So how do product organizations deliver under pressure? According to the Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study, 68% of product companies say their major pain is having too many projects for their resources when managing their product portfolio, which aligns with their second challenge of missing important time-to-market windows (53%). The main source of that pain is around resource capacity planning. The study shows that there are conflicts between projects that require similar resources. Plus, we all have experienced those ad-hoc project requests that are not linked to the product roadmap but all of a sudden need to be delivered tomorrow. These too create an enormous constrain on resources -- again, affecting those launch windows.

Think About It

The report statistics Carrie shared represent some astounding figures. She recommended that product managers should consider stepping back from their everyday tasks and critically think about how they are managing their product portfolios. Here are a few questions that came up during the Webcast that product development should take into consideration:

  • Are you trying to reconcile everything in your entire product portfolio in spreadsheets?
  • How are you tracking new product development (NPD) initiatives to completion?
  • Are you exploring and tracking new ideas that fuel innovation?
  • How are you managing the maintenance of existing products and projects?
  • How do you currently allocate your skilled resources and staff and ensure they are working on the projects that align with corporate objectives?
  • Do you have the end to end visibility to help you make the right decisions and get your products delivered on time and on budget?

Carrie stated how she has seen many organizations try to do all of this using spreadsheets -- it is no easy task. On the other hand, she stated she has seen organizations flourish when implementing the right product portfolio management solution. Those companies are leading the way to changing the way the industry thinks about product portfolio management.

Hallmark is leading the way with their pipeline approach to bringing innovative product to market. I invite you to watch the Webcast to hear how Monica Alderson as she shares key points on how Hallmark successfully meets seasonal product launch windows.

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have those non-negotiable launch windows that you can't miss? What are some of your best practices for mitigating risk? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

The BIG Goals and the Important Details

Last month Planview sponsored Frost & Sullivan's GIL (Growth, Innovation and Leadership) Conference. I enjoyed this opportunity to meet some amazing innovators and gain insight into world-changing innovation. During general sessions, visions of self-driving cars, cures for cancers (including one discovered by 15-year-old Jack Andraka who spoke at the conference @jackandraka), and a complete revision of the current university system were cast along with compelling round-table discussions. During the breaks, however, conversations were grounded around how companies effectively conduct business to deliver these innovative products to market as well as how technology solutions enable innovation throughout the product pipeline.

Innovation at the 2012 GIL ConferenceThis attention to addressing business concerns was woven throughout GIL. For example, our networking sessions included a "speed-dating" style format, which enabled attendees to get to know sponsors and quickly identify those who can help them address challenges they're facing. The exhibit area focused on solutions to everyday business challenges, e.g. managing the pipeline, automating marketing, generating new ideas, connecting with the right buyers, etc. Breakout sessions (such as Carrie Nauyalis' Accelerating Speed to Market: Today's Real Competitive Advantage), provided opportunities for attendees to dig into specific business challenges and interact with speakers and fellow participants to identify tangible ways to address them. Carrie's session was particularly interactive, with participants marking up flip chart paper with the challenges they face at various points in the product development pipeline and solutions they've implemented. This collaborative approach is a great way to get folks connected and also to share real-life lessons learned.

The GIL conference accomplished exactly what I think it set out to do: think big while connecting with the parts, pieces, and people necessary to achieve those lofty goals. For me, I met some terrific folks and the dialogues continue. And as I attend other conferences this fall, I look forward to seeing the variety of perspectives shared around what innovation is and how product developers address the challenges inherent to bringing innovative products to market.

Share your experiences and lessons learned from the product conferences you're attending by leaving a comment below.

Meeting Product Launch Windows and the PIM Conference

Coffee Talk Podcast: Product Portfolio Mavens

The Product Portfolio Mavens are back and this time they've recorded in an undisclosed location. In addition to sharing insights on hitting launch windows and pipeline visibility, Pamela and Carrie provide an update on the PDMA PIM Conference and shed light on the latest product portfolio management (PPM) rumors.

Listen to the Coffee Talk Podcast for all the juicy details.

Here are links to the programs the Mavens discuss:

Want to share your feedback with The Mavens? Join them for the next #PDPMchat on Twitter at hashtag #PDPMchat on managing your ideation portfolio 10/17 at 2 PM EST.

Can you guess where the Mavens recorded (the undisclosed location)? Want to suggest a location or topics for next time? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. The best recommendation (as judged by the Mavens) will receive a copy of the book, Taming Change with Portfolio Management.