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Ideation and Voice of the Customer

Keeping Up with the Innovators: A Look at Recent Entries on the PIPELINE Wire

With the PIPELINE 2013 conference taking place this week, we are enjoying access to valuable insights and lessons learned from the conference speakers and sponsors. Here are a couple of recent articles worth a read:

Posted on the PIPELINE 2013 Wire, Innovation Insights: A Q&A with PIPELINE Speaker Pascal Finette, is a sneak peek into what the director of the Office of the Chair at Mozilla will share in his PIPELINE breakout session. Pascal, a believer in the open-innovation paradigm, explains how "innovation in its most elemental form is a funnel process." He then goes on to share how Mozilla embraced this philosophy as it started out to "do the impossible" and take on Microsoft. Read the full interview to learn more about Pascal's perspective on the tangible steps product developers can take to effectively use innovation to drive meaningful change that can increase market share.

Another insightful read on the Wire this week is titled, A New Frontier for the Learning Organization ‒‒ Better Innovation by Understanding the Big Picture. Chad McAllister, founder of Product Innovation Educators, shares five actions organizations can take to advance their learning about innovation. Read the complete article to find out why it is important for businesses to become learning organizations and start looking at effective ways to address root causes rather than chase issues.

Later this week, the Wire will feature interviews with keynote speaker Frans Johansson, innovation author and founder/CEO of the Medici Group, and Product Pulse will feature Terry Mandel, founder of a startup that is demonstrating innovation that can change the world with its dedication to improving access to affordable and effective biomedical innovation in the developing world.

Stay tuned to Product Pulse for more from PIPELINE speakers and other innovation experts and product development leaders.

Top Innovation and Product Development Resources of 2012

Revisiting Wisdom from Analysts, Thought Leaders, and Practitioners

Happy New Year! As we kick off 2013, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the most popular innovation and portfolio management resources of 2012. These whitepapers and Webcasts feature analysts, thought leaders, and practitioners sharing their wisdom and experience to help us make better, more informed decisions and optimize our limited resources.

Here are five most widely read (and viewed) resources:

  1. PDF: Issue in Focus: Meeting Fixed Product Launch Windows, Managing Portfolios When Time to Market is Non-Negotiable
    In this research report, Jim Brown, president of Tech-Clarity, addresses the critical nature of hitting launch windows and provides insight from successful companies as well as tips for improving the odds of success.
  2. Video / webcast: On-Demand Webcast: Building and Managing an Innovation Portfolio
    Hosted by best-selling business author Jerry Manas, featuring Chip Gliedman, vice president and principal analyst, Forrester Research, Inc. and Carrie Nauyalis, NPD solution market manager, Planview, this webcast provides insights to help you build and manage your innovation portfolio.
  3. PDF: Ten Proven Military Strategies For Better Resource Planning: Avoiding Custer's Last Stand
    This latest whitepaper from Jerry Manas explores 10 timeless military strategies ‒‒ tried and tested over thousands of years ‒‒ that can be effectively applied toward modern day resource planning.
  4. Video / webcast: On-Demand Webcast: How Technology-Enabled Visibility Lets You Prioritize Products and Optimize Resources
    Find out how product portfolio management (PPM) technology enables organizations to optimize their limited people and financial resources to achieve their product delivery objectives. Featuring Planview, Isabel SA, and Frost & Sullivan.
  5. PDF: The 3rd Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study
    With input from more than 1000 product development executives and managers over the last three surveys, this report provides insightful statistics and informative data on the state of product portfolio management along with thought-provoking recommendations for all product development organizations.

Continue the Conversation Online

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Are there other materials that provided you important guidance in 2012? Please use the comment section below to share your favorite white papers, Webcasts, blogs, etc.

A Shift in the Right Direction: Companies are Waking Up to Ways to Streamline Product Development

A Look at the Findings from the 3rd Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study

This year, 320 product development executives and managers across the globe shared their priorities, risks, and pain points around product portfolio management (PPM). Because this is the third study on PPM, we were able to identify some encouraging trends, show patterns in corporate behavior, and see small movements towards maturity within the discipline.

The full report, available at, is a terrific read and a good piece of research to drop off on your boss' desk. And if you really want to sound smart around the water cooler, here are some key points:

  • The top pain points really are solvable, especially the #1 pain point of Too Many Projects for our Resources
  • Two things will continue to impede your product development process if not addressed: the inability to accurately forecast resources and failure to kill products that are underperforming
  • There was a serious shift in the number of survey respondents who indicated that their companies are considering automating their PPM process via a software tool

Now, if any of these statements make your face contort with culpability, don't fret -- let the benchmark study populate your "to do" list for the rest of 2012! The honest, anonymous responses submitted via the study are meant to help those of us in the product development/engineering/R&D industry recognize that there are some weighty challenges that need to be addressed. Know that you're not alone in needing to make progress. But don't delay in getting started, because chances are your competition is also looking to make process and tool improvements to get the jump on you by getting to market faster, reducing cost, increasing revenue, and mitigating risk.

So, how do you get started? Well, just as Fräulein Maria recommends: "Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start." Your first step is to download and read the study to get some perspective on the breadth and depth of PPM, from ideation to launch. Next, take it a step further and perform an informal self-assessment using the study to determine how your organization compares to others in the industry, asking yourself questions like:

  • How efficient and successful are we at incorporating the voice of the customer?
  • How effective are we at forecasting resource capacity in the midst of changing business drivers?
  • How often do we have the courage to kill "in-flight" projects and products?

If you need help with this second step, there are lots of industry experts who can help guide the way, like our friends at Kalypso and PWC. They'll give you an unbiased viewpoint on the areas within PPM where you need improvement, along with a great plan of action to help you implement the processes and tools necessary to help you smoke the competition.

I'm not going to tell you that embarking on a PPM journey is as easy as Do-Re-Mi, but I will promise you that it will be worth the effort. So get started now and report back to us on how you're doing via the Pulse and again on next year's benchmark survey!

Product Companies Share Their Priorities, Risks, and Pains of Innovation in a New Study

Written by Maureen Carlson, Partner at Appleseed

Maureen Carlson

Is it appropriate for product-based organizations to make improvised decisions when they don't have visibility or access to proper data or metrics? Do product leaders have the resources for priority projects to drive innovation and growth? Is it possible that underperforming projects continue to consume precious resources? According to the industry’s third Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study, the majority of product leaders struggle with these concepts and are eager to gain control of the innovation process in an economy that requires faster, smarter innovation with limited to no addition in resources.

3rd Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study Infographic

A compilation of 320 product development executives and managers from around the world shared their priorities, risks, and pain points around product portfolio management (PPM) creating a sample size that allowed us to draw specific conclusions about the product development population. The following topics represent a snapshot of the study's key findings. Download the full study methodology, demographics, additional results, findings, and recommendations.

Key Challenges

For the third time and by a wider margin this year, the top three pain points are:

  1. Too many projects for resources (68%)
  2. Not being able to drive innovation fast enough (53%)
  3. Decisions that go back and forth and get made late or ineffectively (56%)

These challenges affect one another and expose the fact that many organizations still do not have access or visibility to the data and consistent metrics needed to prioritize projects, drive innovation without adding resources, and ultimately drive winning products to market. Many organizations continue to report on the challenge to kill underperformers and properly allocate resources the highest value projects -- these are just a few dilemmas facing product-focused companies today.

The Risks

Product executives from around the globe identified the following as the greatest risks when managing a product portfolio:

  1. Managing changing priorities as business conditions change (61%)
  2. Not cutting lower value projects that take away resources from more strategic projects (53%)
  3. Missing the voice of the customer and developing the wrong products (52%)

The results signify that there are serious challenges with data-driven decision-making because of the lack of data or the inability to access or synthesis it. Product leaders should consider how they currently approach portfolio scenario analysis and ideation management techniques. It's crucial for these companies to maximize limited resources against the highest return (both strategic and profitable) projects and to ensure that in this day and age of multiple avenues to capture the customer voice that opportunities are not missed -- thus the competition gains first mover advantage.


Participants were asked to rate their accuracy of forecasting in terms of Costs, Schedule, and Expected Revenue.

  • Fifty-four percent rated their organization as accurately projecting costs
  • More than one-third of participants rated themselves mostly inaccurate at projecting schedule
  • Only twenty-eight percent rated their organization as being accurate at forecasting expected revenue

There are significant ramifications to business decision making over the usage of finite resources based on inaccurate forecasting information. While more than half were positive on the ability to project costs, only one-third are confident in revenue forecasts. The full report considers several questions as to why revenue projections are off: overzealous projections to get products approved; inaccurate average selling prices; or schedule impacts that negatively affect revenue performance? By having better ability to analyze scenarios, risk may be reduced.


Nearly half of the respondents reported that they are somewhat poor to very poor in their ability to manage and forecast resource capacity accurately. With nearly 70% of participants stating that too many projects for their resources as their number one pain point, this is undoubtedly a key concern for organizations. The underlying challenge to effective resource capacity planning is projects that compete for the same resources and sales-driven "just do it" projects that are not on the product roadmap. The bottom-line here is that visibility and scenario analysis are paramount, or this trend will continue.


As we look at the trends in benchmarking the results since 2009, there is an increasing acknowledgment in the risk of relying on tools such as spreadsheets and project tools, which are unfit for the complex job of multi-product companies and their product portfolio management. The study shows that the use of Automated Product Portfolio Management Systems has doubled since 2010 and evaluation of PPM solutions expanded six-fold in the same period! It would be wise to consider how your competition is viewing the challenge and the opportunity. Could addressing PPM more effectively become a competitive differentiator?

Companies around the globe are recognizing the need to gain a tighter grip on the ins and outs of their product portfolios and gain visibility to make better business decisions to remain competitive. Companies require consistent processes, tools, and metrics to improve data availability, accuracy, and visibility. The full report goes into more recommendations and potential holistic or piecemeal approaches that companies may take to gain more control over their product pipelines and innovation plans.

Download the 3rd Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Survey conducted in February 2012 by Appleseed Partners and OpenSky Research and commissioned by Planview, Inc.

I’d like to hear from you. How does your organization compare to those who participated in the survey? What are your priorities, risks, and pains when it comes to innovation? Answer by leaving a comment below.

Top 5 Tips for Capturing the Voice of Your Customer

Product Development managers know how critical it is to develop products people want. How do you figure that out without simply guessing? How do you ensure your choice of which product or service to produce wasn't just your opinion? You need customer-driven data. Here are my Top 5 Tips on how to get it right:

1. Ideation

Never underestimate the power of the masses to give you the best ideas. By opening up the question to the world, or even just your customer base, you will be amazed at how many great ideas you can generate. You can simply ask your internal customers, like sales and support, or find key constituents who are passionate about the topic. The key is to choose an audience, maybe 10-15 customers, that is varied enough to capture the true market yet narrow enough as not to overwhelm. At Planview, we use the Agile process that enables our target audience to participate throughout the entire lifecycle and see progress every two weeks. The product (or service, project, etc.) can be refined with each iteration, giving us flexibility with inevitable changes.

Refinement. Once you have the ideas, you need a mechanism to narrow down the choices. We incent our target audience to vote on them. Again, the Agile process enables our audience to remain involved in the process beyond ideation. Because we are using the same audience from the ideation phase, we can ensure we are capturing the voice of the market, not just the voices of our executives.Product Development and Your Customer's Voice

2. Alignment

Now that you have a list of plausible ideas, you need a mechanism to align them with your strategy. With clear strategic goals and set criteria, you can score the ideas based on key metrics, such as revenue, market share, new markets, etc. You must decide what's important and then measure the ideas to find the absolute best ones for your company. Make the criteria visible to the company so everyone can understand how each idea was scored.

3. Capacity

With your best ideas in hand, it's time to estimate your capacity to develop them. "What if" scenarios allow you to imagine specific situations and how they would affect resources, revenue, time lines, and other criteria. With this data, you can make sound decisions to prioritize ideas based on real information. Many companies still do this process manually in spreadsheets, adding tab after tab with capacity and financials. But if something changes, which it always does, it's ridiculously time-consuming to make those changes to static spreadsheets -- even with pivot tables. An automated process saves countless hours of time and risks for errors.

4. Measurement

After you develop and release the product (or service), you need to measure the results. What was the actual versus estimated revenue? How long did the project take? What did it cost to get it on the market? Actuals help you improve the next planning cycle. Comparing actual results is much easier and accurate when it is done with a product development tool rather than spreadsheets and manual reports.

5. Repeat

Although your process should remain constant, your plan will constantly change because there are so many dynamic factors in play. The ability to see where you started and track your progress throughout the product development cycle enables you to make adjustments towards best practices.

Creating a process for capturing the voice of the customer is essential to developing the products people want. In fact, we followed this process for our latest software release and incorporated 320 customer-driven enhancements.

I want to hear from you. What are your methods for capturing the voice of your customers? Share your experiences and best practices -- leave a comment below.

Innovation Tools: Enablers or Derailers? 4 Easy Steps to Keeping It on the Rails

"Innovate or Die." It's the current battle cry for businesses trying to get or stay ahead of the competition and remain viable in the market. But how do you avoid innovation for innovation's sake, and instead drive measurable business results through innovation processes and tools?

Birds of a Feather Innovation Leaders Workshop
Birds of a Feather Innovation Leaders Workshop

I learned the answer to that question (and more) at the Birds of a Feather Innovation Leaders Workshop in Chicago a few weeks ago. The event was sponsored by Brightidea and hosted on the Kraft campus. The speakers were great and I especially appreciated their willingness to share what did and did not work in their innovation endeavors. Here's the Cliff's Notes version in four easy steps:

  1. Prepare to Innovate!
    Often companies jump right into idea collection with their employees and customers, desperately searching for the next big thing without giving any consideration to organizational preparedness. I think it was Yoda who said: "There is great responsibility in receiving the idea." Okay, maybe it wasn't Yoda, but it sure sounds like him because it is so profoundly true. For successful innovation, it's necessary to ensure the organization:
    1. is in the right mindset (that of problem-solving)
    2. has supporting processes and tools in place
    3. is properly structured/staffed to execute the processes and administer the tools
    4. is culturally prepared to respond.
    Whatever you do, don't skip these steps! It will sink the innovative spirit of the organization and backfire in harmful ways. I'm not saying you need to spend months and years getting ready to innovate; I'm just recommending that you have answers to the above questions to ensure you are equipped to handle and implement the changes innovation programs can bring.

  2. Focus! And Capture Needs BEFORE Ideas!
    There is a time and a place for the electronic employee suggestion box and open innovation. But having a short-term (2-4 week), focused innovation campaign that gives people a specific problem to solve often leads to more valuable results. And by narrowing idea capture down to a specific problem to solve, it's much easier to define metrics (hard or soft) to determine success and benefit.

  3. Brand It, Baby!
    One way to get people excited about driving innovative results is by branding and marketing your innovation tool and specific campaigns. With today's technology, there is no excuse for rolling out a vendor-branded software tool. Presenters at the conference had full-blown advertising campaigns, including videos to explain the objective and generate hype, and logos with associated color schemes to skin the software. Re-branded programs and tools had names like "Think Tank" and "Idea Kitchen" to really capture the attention of idea submitters. Some companies even sponsored specific "Innovation Days" around a particular campaign to encourage involvement and ownership. Don't fall victim to assuming that "if you build it, they will come." (Field of Dreams; not Yoda.) By branding your innovation program, you're sure to drive quality ideas that deliver results… because it is, after all, about the results.

  4. Show Me the Money!
    Sometimes solving a problem and the feeling of accomplishment in contributing to the success of the company is a reward in itself. But for most of us, a little incentive or some recognition for the great, problem-solving ideas we submit goes a long way. You know how it feels when you put thought and effort into something and it seems as if your idea has dropped into a black hole where there is never so much as a reply or simple, "thank you." It sucks. And why would you waste your precious time on something to which management is only giving lip service. Whether feedback comes in the form of public recognition for being a top innovator (that's FREE for all of you penny pinchers keeping track at home) or in the form of a big fat check (option B, please!), it is critical for the success and sustainability of your innovation program to reward good ideas.

So there you have it, Product Pulse Peeps…innovation in four simple steps. Implementing an innovation tool and program isn't hard, but you can't skip any of the steps if you want to drive real results. As it relates to innovation, Yoda would say (and this time, you can look it up!): "Do or do not. There is no try."

Chief Customer Advocate Reporting for Duty

There were many great takeaways from my recent 2-day session with Pragmatic Marketing. Their expert team, including John Milburn, a friendly upbeat guy with 20 years of product management experience in the tech industry including long stints at Tivoli and VTEL, has more than 10 years of experience working with over 70,000 professionals globally in product management training.

Let's start with the most important thing: The FOOD at the AT&T Conference center on The University of Texas campus (where the class was held) is excellent! This information is neither here nor there but if you get the chance, check out the conference center or hotel as an option next time you're in Austin.

From a more business-oriented standpoint we learned:

  • Product management's primary job is to know and speak for the customer.
    • The following quote (with a few modifications) by Peter Drucker was used multiple times: "The aim of product management is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself."
  • Product management's main responsibility is finding their market's problem. To do this, product managers should:
    • Contact customers (both their own and their competitors'), evaluators, and prospects.
    • Use various research methods including discovery (onsite interviews, focus groups, secondary research) and validation (surveys, choice models, experiments).
  • Too often product management gets overwhelmed with tactical instead of strategic activities.
    • As Milburn noted in class, if product management doesn't do its job then the other departments will fill the void. Other groups have their own goals and ideas so if the product management team is not there to speak for the customer, an inside out product could result (one that solves a space problem but not a strategic one).
  • By focusing on my customers' needs and wants, product managers can help their company build solutions that the market will buy, and what is profit if not the ultimate goal of any company?

After spending two full days getting my head stuffed with information (and my belly stuffed with yummy food), I was raring to go out and apply all these new tips and energy to my job. I was eager to see how much of what I learned in class was applicable to real life.

So far, most of the points ring true. I've spoken with multiple customers about their needs and concerns and gathered a lot of useful information. I have also met a good portion of the executives, sales, marketing, and development teams and worked with them on a hodgepodge of projects. It will be interesting to see how well I remember my role as Chief Customer Advocate once I get inundated with a lot of tactical stuff. I will try my best to focus on strategy, Milburn and Drucker!

I am new to product management, but there were people in my session with years of experience, and we each felt that Pragmatic Marketing taught us something useful. Just goes to show that no matter where you are on your career path, there are always opportunities to better understand the marketplace and your role in it. And, that information is almost as satisfying as the AT&T Conference Center's dessert bar!

Will Your Product Development Portfolio Over-Deliver on Customer Benefits?

Written by Steven Cristol, Founder and Managing Partner
of Strategic Harmony® Partners

Steven Cristol

It's a notion counter to everything in our marketing bones, but sometimes our obsession for delighting customers can actually be too much of a good thing. From a product portfolio perspective, I wouldn't go quite as far as the recent Harvard Business Review article, "Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers" (Jul-Aug 2010 issue). But this is a serious product development issue: with limited resources, every time a product or service over-delivers on one customer benefit, it increases the probability of under-delivering on another. And lurking in that resource misallocation is vulnerability for your brand.

At the simplest level, over-delivery is providing any customer benefit in excess of what is required to attract and keep customers. So how do you know -- before the product is built (and long before customer satisfaction research sometime after launch)? The answer is quite straightforward if you already score your product development projects in terms of alignment with specific customer benefits (drivers of brand choice that define ideal customer experience -- e.g., easy to use, reliable, etc.) and if you know your current competitive standing on each benefit (e.g., superior to competitors, inferior, or parity).

Armed with those basics, you can look at how all product features on a roadmap (or headed for it) are aggregately aligned with each benefit. When doing this, we often see that the bigger product improvements are on one or more benefits where the company is already the clear leader. Meanwhile, that same roadmap is under-delivering on benefits where competitors are at parity or even ahead. Analyzing total roadmap delivery by benefit also helps prevent over-delivering on, say, the #4 most important benefit to your customers while under-delivering on #1 -- another all-too-frequent outcome without such analysis. 

Human nature: we love doing things we're already great at. But when this happens in excess in product development, the brand often ends up extending its lead on customer benefits that it's already comfortably superior on while opening itself to competitive attacks on other key benefits. So by all means let's delight customers with next year's new products. But let's do it in proportion to the relative importance of each customer benefit and where your brand needs the most help competitively.

The Next Generation of Disruptive Renewal: This Is Your Father's Intercom

Of all the things I expected to get out of last week's Thanksgiving holiday, a lesson that underscores Forrester's concept of 'disruptive renewal' wasn't one of them.

The holiday saw me and my husband at my parents' home. We had rolled in late the night before, said our good-nights and trundled off to bed. 7 a.m. the next morning we were greeted by opera blaring through the intercom system, a holdover from the house's build in the 60s. Good morning, indeed. The fact that I knew to expect this wake-up from many years of experience did not make it any more palatable.

Fumbling for my morning cup of Joe in the kitchen -- center of the house and also location of the main control panel for the intercom -- I was startled to see innovation had sprouted from this thing that had so aurally colored my teenage years. Perched on a small, purpose-built shelf integral to the console was an iPod. The aria that had roused me from my beauty rest was not issuing from a more-often-than-not staticky FM station, but from a selected track on Apple's slick offering.

(This led me to the inescapable conclusion that my parents are hipper than I suspected, which somehow made me feel even older. Mom and Dad are shopping at the Apple store. What's next? Abercrombie and Fitch?)

It brought to mind the Disruptive Renewal report recently issued by Mark Mulligan of Forrester which he blogs about here. In it, he makes the argument that disruptive technology -- connected devices that empower consumers to make all new kinds of choices about how to interact with your products -- can spell the future for your company or ring its death knell.

Forrester calls this disruptive renewal, which it breaks into three stages: that of disruptive empowerment, when new technology enables customers to make choices about how to interact with products; discontinuous change, when they re-evaluate traditional products and expect more from them; and the critical split of transformational innovation or terminal obsolescence, when businesses either react by transforming to meet (or exceed) the expectation -- or fail to do so, and just plain fail.

The power paradigm, as we know, has shifted. What was once the domain of the manufacturer has irrevocably moved to the consumer. Smart vendors -- like the hero of our little tale, the manufacturer of the intercom system -- hear and respond. Those who don't are likely to get outmaneuvered, become sidelined and irrelevant.

Is your company in danger of this? Forrester tells us that that enterprise products are as impacted as consumer products -- you don't shed your expectations as you walk into the office, do you? But in an October 2010 survey of 200+ product strategists, Forrester found that only 26% think their companies are responding effectively to disruptive technology, and only 5% think they are responding highly effectively.

I get it: it's daunting. The power shift. The weeding out the good ideas from the bad. The sheer costs associated with transforming how you respond. But take another look at our hero -- an iPod adaptor, a shelf, a calculated risk that their target demographic and Apple's intersect enough to make it worthwhile (also supported by the Forrester report, by the way), and boom, they've catapulted themselves from 1960 to 2010 and into relevance, and ya gotta think it's worth it, don't you?

Move Over P&G and J&J: Now There's Something a Little More "Quirky" in the Mix

Consumer Goods Growth & Innovation Forum Review -- Part 1 of 3

The 2010 Consumer Goods Growth and Innovation Forum just concluded in South Beach on Friday with a big bang… including a spontaneous and refreshing F-bomb from an amazing new innovator. But, more on him in a moment.

This year's conference, produced by CGT, had a theme of New Product Resurgence: Bringing Back the Consumer and Driving Growth. The conference presenters represented a who's who list of consumer product giants, including Kraft, Mars, Colgate-Palmolive, and Kimberly-Clark. They covered a variety of topics on everything from Brand Management to Developing Leadership and Talent. The sessions and personal exchanges amongst the 50+ executive attendees were rich, engaging, and motivated towards sincere, helpful solutions based on real-life experiences.

One of the biggest highlights of the event was the presentation of the Innovation Awards. Some of the winners included the new Liquid Pencil made by Newell Rubbermaid, the new Jeans Diaper made by Kimberly-Clark, and the big, grand prize winner: MooBella Ice Creamery Machines. While all of the attendees were given a Liquid Pencil (I used mine to draft this blog post -- thank goodness it erases!), we were disappointed that there were no MooBella samples to enjoy. (Hint, Hint for next year, Bruce!)

For me, the two presentations that stood out the most were Ben Kaufman, Founder and CEO of Quirky, on Group Think Tank, and Michael Becker of the Mobile Marketing Association on Reaching the Consumer Through Mobile Marketing because they demonstrated the true spirit of innovation, how quickly consumers are maturing, and how rapidly the products game is changing overall.

While Michael Becker's presentation on Mobile Marketing left many furiously adding items to their marketing To Do List (more on him in Part 2 of this Forum Review), I must first share my enthusiasm for the presenter who left my jaw hanging open. Please allow me to introduce to Ben Kaufman:

  • Ben started his first company, Mophie, the day he graduated from high school.
  • Six months later, Mophie took home the Best of Show award in the innovation category at MacWorld with his invention: the Song Sling for the iPod Shuffle.
  • The next year at MacWorld, Kaufman felt like he had to top the previous year's win, so he handed out pencils and notepads to attendees on the trade floor, asking them to come up with new product ideas for the iPod accessories. The crowd delivered with 120 unique ideas. The Mophie gang scanned them in, allowing over 30,000 people from around the world to collaborate to develop a brand new product in 72 hours: the Bevy.
  • Ben Kaufman was named the #1 Entrepreneur under 30 by Inc. Magazine in 2007.
  • Mophie got acquired around the same time and Ben immediately started his next company, Kluster, to develop the technology platform to gather direct consumer feedback from around the world.
  • Based on Kluster's technology, he then founded his current passion: Quirky. Ben wanted to share the thrill of taking a product to market with the world. So every week, ideas are submitted online, the community votes, submits product names, comes up with a logo, and by Friday afternoon a new product is born. Everyone who participates in the process shares in the profit. Killer, huh?
  • Oh, and did I mention he's is only 23. He'll turn 24 next month. Happy Birthday, Ben!

Kaufman's keynote presentation covered much of his personal history, which, in itself, is completely inspiring and fascinating. But he had some terrific lessons learned to share with the legendary experts in the room, especially as it relates to innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit. Quirky and Kaufman have tapped into the inventor in all of us. Consumer goods companies can certainly learn a lot about the products consumers want to buy from focus groups and customer satisfaction surveys. But the times… they are a changin'. And I believe that innovators like Kaufman are leading the way on how to do this in a new "quirky" way. (Oh, and yes, Ben was the one who dropped the F-bomb during his presentation. It was classic!) smile

Part 2: When Is a Phone No Longer a Phone? When It's a Way to Connect with Your Target Market!