Welcome to the one year anniversary of this podcast. I’m excited to review the key concepts I found most useful for product managers and innovators from the last 52 episodes. I heard Tim Ferriss do something similar on his podcast and thought it was really helpful and I think you will find it valuable for this podcast. Also, I want to share a product mastery roadmap I have been working on – a roadmap that tells you how to go from a product manager to a product master.
Before jumping in, I have some exciting news to share – thanks largely to this podcast, I was named a “Product Management Top 40 Influencer for 2015” on the Product Management Year in Review site. I’m honored and humbled to be on the list. I have had the pleasure of interviewing some of my fellow influencers. Others I have not yet interviewed but do follow, including Eric Ries, Steve Blank, and Guy Kawasaki.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Product Mastery Roadmap™
The Product Mastery Roadmap™ shows how a product manager becomes a product master, dramatically increasing the number of right products created – those that customers want and love – while also increasing your influence in the organization.
The Roadmap goes through four levels towards mastery – Competent, Proficient, Expert, and Master. The first level, gaining competence, is where most product managers need to start. At this level you learn details of ideation, product development, and evolving products once they are launched. This builds your base towards product mastery.Download the Product Mastery Roadmap™ and learn how to go from product manager to product master.
Product Management & Innovation Year In Review
TEI 002: The Product Manager’s Two Most Powerful Questions: Ask “What Else” and “Why” for Understanding Users – with Industrial Designer Darshan Rane.
Understand what users need and value by:
- asking “correct” questions – the ones that avoid assumptions
- “walking in their shoes”
TEI 003: Innovation Lessons-Learned Creating StudioPress–Test Feasibility, Identify Trends, and More – with Copyblogger Product Officer Brian Gardner
Test product concepts and the business model with customers before beginning development. As an example, Brian asked people if they would buy a WordPress theme before he started creating it.
TEI 005: How Relying on Aggregate Marketing Data Can Doom New Product Development – with CEO George Farkas
Watch out for those who say “we know what the customer needs” – the way to know is to iterate and co-develop prototypes with customers.
TEI 007: Simple Steps for Using the Minimal Viable Product Approach to Create a Product Customers Love–with Mixergy Founder Andrew Warner
Andrew shared his minimal viable product (MVP) approach he used for creating a training product. The MVP was built entirely around a set of landing pages and used the approach of getting customers first and then developing the product.
TEI 008: Customer Research Approaches – with Market Researcher Brian Ottum, PhD
Be sure you know the characteristics of a product that provide customers real value, and how customers make trade off decisions, e.g., diapers that don’t leak are much more important than diapers that look like underwear.
- Best qualitative research tool is ethnography – observing customers.
- Best quantitative research tool is conjoint analysis.
TEI 009: How a non-profit used an idea management system to create life-saving products–with Product Development Manager Geoff Peters
Details on an ideation process using a classic idea management system:
- 2-day innovation retreat generated about 1200 ideas
- Ideas reviewed and synthesized, resulting in 35 product concepts
- Tested concepts externally with a new market (not existing donors) on the basis of importance and willingness to provide financial support
- Top 10 concepts were tested internally for feasibility and top 3 were pursued further
- Graphics and descriptions for each product were created and tested with focus groups of potential donors
- Product managers were assigned to run with the most promising concepts
TEI 010: Using Lean to Run Experiments and Deliver Customer Value-with Ash Maurya
Ash Maurya is the author of “Running Lean: How to Iterate from Plan A to a Plan that Works.” A “Lean” approach is defined by Ash as one that maximizes quickly learning about the riskiest aspects in product concepts.
- The core issue in product management is not “Can we build the product” but “Will customers care” if the product is built.
- The Lean approach involves running small fast experiments to test what customers want and what creates value.
TEI 013: Getting the Product Manager / Developer Job You Want–with Recruiter Paul Freed
TEI 020: How to Get a Product Management Job – with expert interview coach Gayle Laakmann McDowell
Both episodes are helpful if you are a product manager looking to make a change in employment or if you are in another role wanting to move into product management.
TEI 014: How to Break Into Product Management or Change Industries-with Product Manager Lee Martucci
Along with the previous two, Lee not only provided many insights into what product managers do, but also how to successfully move from one industry to a different industry (e.g., telecom to building products).
TEI 015: Using the 4 Lenses of Innovation – with 2015 Global Leader of Innovation Award winner Rowan Gibson.
His latest book is “The Four Lenses of Innovation.” How do we come up with the important insights that lead to breakthrough ideas? That is the purpose of the “4 Lenses” – a focus on the front end of the fuzzy front end.
- First Lens. Challenging Orthodoxies, which is questioning entrenched beliefs and assumptions and then exploring new and unconventional answers. These are people who don’t want to just play the game, they want to reinvent the game. An example is Elon Musk, not just transforming the automotive industry with Tesla electric cars, but also commercializing the space industry.
- Second Lens. Harnessing Trends – recognizing the future potential of emerging developments and leveraging those trends to open new opportunities. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is a good example of “harnessing trends” by seeing how the growth of internet usage would impact commerce. Amazon has continued to harness trends by developing eBook readers, streaming media, and becoming the hub of the smart home with its Echo system.
- Third Lens. Leveraging Resources, which involves understanding our limitless capacity for redeploying skills and assets in new ways, combinations, or contexts. Rowan shared that Walt Disney, the person and the company, are good examples of leveraging resources. The experiences created by animated movies was extended to theme parks, musicals, ice skating performances, cruise ships, and more.
- Fourth Lens. Understanding Needs – paying attention to issues and frustrations others have ignored and experimenting with new solutions to problems. A way to identify unmet needs is to ask what is wrong with a product or service from the perspective of a customer. Sherwin Williams reinvented the paint can for their Dutch Boy product line, replacing the inconvenient metal can that had not changed for 100 years with a plastic container that has a screw off cap, holding handle, and pouring spout.
TEI 019: Applying the 5 Steps of Design Thinking – with Entrepreneur and Vango Founder Ethan Appleby
Ethan Appleby is a Design Thinking practitioner and coach. He used Design Thinking to create the last company he founded, Vango, which makes it easy for anyone to select and purchase original art. Design Thinking involves 5 steps:
- Empathy: learning about the audience you are designing for – interview, observe people, take pictures. Be curious instead of leading the conversation to a conclusion you already formed.
- Definition: constructing a point of view organized by needs and insights, based on your results from step 1.
- Ideation: a group brainstorming process to generate ideas using the “yes and…” technique to build upon each others’ ideas and create as many as possible in short sprints. Another tool is to ask “how might we…” focused on specific constraints. A sprint is a few minutes of individual ideation followed by sharing of ideas, then using “yes and” to build on ideas. Additional sprints are conducted on other needs and insights and to further explore specific ideas. Constrain ideation to 3 hours.
- Prototype: building a representation of one of your ideas to show others. When you build something you discover more about the problem. Keep it simple – playdough, clay, tape, etc.
- Testing: Show prototype to potential users and customers to get their feedback. The goal is to continue learning about the customers’ core problem and solutions that provide them value.
TEI 022: How 3M Triggers Innovation through Organizational Development – with practitioners Kimberly Johnson and A.B. Reynolds
From interviews with 3M innovators, they synthesized 3 themes that foster organizational innovation:
- Conditions must exist to allow individuals and teams to create innovative products.
- Leaders must spot, support, and invest in valuable innovations.
- As the product matures, leaders must optimize the innovation and eventually harvest the business or choose to renew the organization with a new set of products.
TEI 025: Enabling Future Innovation Leaders (FIL)
In episode 023 I introduced you to Sam Froggatte, the CEO of Eyeline Golf, which is a company that specializes in creating and selling training aids for anyone to improve their golf play. I met Sam near the end of the FIL class, with only two weeks to go. He had the need to prototype a piece for a putter trainer. We gave the FIL students the option to work on the idea, and they ran with it. Working in small teams of 2 or 3 kids, they developed four distinct designs and 3D printed each. After discussing the pros and cons of each with Sam and what he wanted to accomplish, a design was selected, refined, and over 100 units printed to be tried by PGA players. This was a wonderful real-world product design experience for the students to learn from.
TEI 027: If You are a Product Manager, You Need to Know about PDMA–with Charlie Noble
A discussion with the Chairman of the Product Development & Management Association (PDMA), Charlie Noble. PDMA is the professional association that first opened my eyes to the discipline of product management.
TEI 035: AIPMM is the Professional Association for Product Managers – with Therese Padilla
The Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM) is another professional association I have valued, as well as contributed to, and is specific to product managers, marketing managers, and innovators. I interviewed the president, Therese Padilla, to learn more about this important organization.
TEI 028: Creating an Innovation Group in a Large Organization–with VP of Innovation Jeff Honious
A discussion about creating a small an agile innovation group in a large global company. A key activity for Jeff is making connections across the organization – connections between people that can lead to improved products and new products. The innovation team has two primary responsibilities:
- (1) build innovation capability across the business by helping groups set up their innovation process, provide training, and use tools.
- (2) provide resources for strategic projects with specific expertise and added capacity for developing products.
TEI 029: Reflections on Being a Serial Innovator in a Large Organization–with Steve Pierz at Caterpillar
Steve shared the struggles of a serial innovator. He reminded us that innovators fail – just don’t fail spectacularly. Quickly run experiments and learn from them. The paradox of innovation is that we ask incumbents to innovate, yet their basis of knowledge only supports incremental innovation, not radical innovation. It takes new ways of thinking for radical innovation. External influences are needed.
TEI 033: Fostering Innovation via a Startup-With Tim Bates
How large companies are acquiring startups and creating internal incubators as an innovation catalyst.
TEI 039: What Product Managers Need to Know about IP Protection – with Dan Brean
An excellent intellectual property (IP) protection primer.
- Utility patents are most common and cover the utilitarian value of a invention – something that performs a useful process.
- Design patents cover the ornamental appearance of an object or user interface – the aesthetic aspects of a design. Many inventions fall under utility patent and design patent protection.
- Trade secrets is anything that is kept confidential and has a commercial advantage to it. A famous example is the formula for Coca-Cola’s Coke beverage.
- Trademarks protect brand names or logos or other characteristics that specify a brand.
- Copyright protection is for artistic works.
TEI041: Using Story & Prototyping in a Design Thinking Framework – with Designer Mark Zeh
Mark was at IDEO for a number of years. He uses a Design Thinking product development framework that contains four components: (1) identify customer needs, (2) the cycle of build, test, iterate, and refine, (3) validate and communicate what you found to the organization, and (4) a product development process. The activities need to be performed in this order– jumping ahead only leads to problems.
TEI 045: Understand What Customers Need Before Developing a Product – with Tony Ulwick
Clayton Christensen said Tony’s approach to innovation “bring discipline and predictability to the often random process of innovation.” The category of innovation is known as ODI, Outcome-Driven Innovation, and it was created by Tony. When ODI was published in the Harvard Business Review, they declared it one of “the ideas that will profoundly affect business as we forge ahead in today’s complex times.” Tony also authored the best-selling book What Customers Want, explaining how the jobs-to-be-done framework is transformed into practice with ODI.
TEI 046: Building a Global Innovation Capability at a Large Enterprise – with Caterpillar Director of Innovation Ken Gray
Ken is creating new viable businesses for Caterpillar. While the Innovation group will continue looking at innovations related to existing machines, the goal is new business development. Ken structures his work into three innovation categories:
- Core – doing what Caterpillar already does but doing it better. This is supported by fostering innovation culture, refining processes, and providing the right tools.
- Adjacent – finding opportunities that are logical extensions of what Caterpillar does today or can be created by spanning business units. The Innovation Division’s responsibility is to be the connector and accelerator.
- Transformation – entirely new places for Caterpillar to go that you would not expect to be part of their business, similar to the purpose of Google-X for Google. Ken’s group is identifying potential opportunities that Caterpillar is not in and the opportunities for monetization.
TEI 048: Guiding Innovation at IBM and other Large Organizations – with CINO Linda Bernardi
Linda’s unofficial title is Chief Disruption Officer – changing the organization for real advancement and innovation. She made an important point that pursuing innovation will disrupt an organization.
TEI 051: Creating Strategic Narratives and Imagineering Your Innovation Process – with Joe Tankersley
Narrative is story and is the most effective way to explore possible futures. We use scenarios to consider the range of potential futures – the worst case, the best case, and what may occur under specific circumstances.
TEI 052: The Simple Approach for all Product Managers and Innovators to be Effective Communicators – with Curtis Fletcher
All presentations or speeches can only accomplish one of two things – you’re either trying to train or trying to persuade your audience. There are no other types of presentations. The SCORRE system for structuring a presentation is:
- S = Subject – the subject of the presentation, e.g., Customer research.
- C = Central Theme – the specific aspect of the subject addressed in the presentation, e.g., What you need to know to effectively conduct customer research using ethnography.
- O = Objective – a structured sentence that is a proposition to your audience, e.g., Every product manager can effectively conduct customer research using ethnography by following 5 simple steps.
- R = Rationale – the points of the Objective, e.g., The first step to effectively using ethnography is….
- R = Resources – supporting elements that help to explain the rationale and make them memorable to the audience, e.g., A story that illustrates the first step is….
- E = Evaluation – reflections on the effectiveness of your presentation, e.g., Next time I speak on ethnography I want to include the pictures from our last user observation….
- Verify before building – build the product customers want, not the product you want to build
- Innovation culture – how to foster it and leverage it
- Creating an innovation group in large organizations
- Design Thinking and Lean Startup thinking
- Use of storytelling in designing products
My favorite innovation quote for the year was shared by VP of Innovation Jeff Honious in episode 028. It is a good reminder of the challenge potential reward that awaits the product manager and innovator…
“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.” -Niccolo Machiavelli
Listen Now to the Interview
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product managers and innovators. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.