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For those of you who attended the Tom Grant webinar recently, thank you, your participation made it a success. As is usually the case, we received more questions than Tom was able to respond to during the duration of the webinar.
However, Tom has very graciously responded to your unanswered questions.
Also, a huge thank you to Tom from all us at @Accept360, if you ever have the chance to speak to him directly, he's the nicest person that you will ever meet. You can contact Tom directly at @TomGrantForr.
1. Regarding product innovation – What are the top 2 or 3 things, processes, practices, etc that are working in companies today?
Expanding the number of sources. Successful vendors are putting a lot more effort into capturing ideas from more people inside the company, as well as customers and partners.
Transparency. An increasing number of vendors see that they can't really be sure about the reception from customers (and partners) unless they're willing to share their current plans with them.
Mid-course corrections. The point of this transparency, along with similar measures, is to get the information needed to make mid-course corrections while innovating. (Versus the "release invention then figure out adoption" model.)
2. From the clients that you talk with at Forrester, how is the process or challenge of innovation today different from industry to industry?
A very good question! For many industries, the challenges may be the development of the underlying technology that will support an idea, or the necessary infrastructure for collaboration across different organizations. The alternative energy industry, for example, is certainly working hard to find ways to reduce the cost of manufacture for new technologies. At the same time, they're also involved in an innovation process than spans multiple organizations. R&D departments in private companies may be working on different aspects of the same technology, in conjunction with academic researchers.
In the technology industry, the challenges go beyond just finding the next Big Idea. As we discussed today, many tech vendors are, unfortunately, discovering their users for the first time. They've heard user feedback about their products, but they haven't fully understood the use cases, roles, business problems, and other human elements on the other side of the curtain.
The other noteworthy challenge for the technology industry, innovation-wise, is looking for ways to build the "minimally viable product." (I'm not the originator of that phrase; a very smart VP of PM whom I interviewed recently is the author.) In one of the slides today, I used the word parsimony as shorthand for this challenge. An industry that has been used to piling on features and capabilities is now discovering that some of the truly successful innovations have been the less complex but more focused technologies.
3. You talked about companies using social media to capture the wisdom of the crowd, are the proof points that these are better than other methods?
Social media don't replace traditional sources of information. Instead, they supplement the ones that vendors will continue to use. As for proof points, we have a lot of single-case examples of how vendors have cut the amount of re-engineering needed (Intuit) , improved the identification of the target market (Collabnet), and accelerated the time to market (Clickability). Future research will give us aggregate statistics on these and other measures.
4. How can you filter through all the social media information to glean innovation information?
Again, it's all about the question you want to ask. For example, if you're really interested in ideation, you'll focus on the channels where people might directly suggest ideas to you. Some of these involve direct conversations with customers (your blogs, forums, innovation sites etc.). Others are independent sources that nonetheless are very suggestive or inspirational. For example, when I was working on a collaboration product, I regularly rotated through different forums or communities for particular professions, to better understand their collaboration challenges. Hearing how health care professionals distrusted web-based collaboration tools, and why, led to a whole discussion in our group about the need for building more what amounted to product marketing about security collaboration, designed for audiences like these, into the product. With limited time and resources, we had to prioritize this project over other ideas we had-and customers would never see, if they felt nervous about using the tool in the first place.
I'm talking about an ongoing feed of information. If you have a particular question that you need to ask right away, the challenge isn't avoiding information overload. Instead, it's knowing where to look, so that you don't have to spend too much time and effort blundering around different types of social media, trying to figure out which one will provide the answer. Once you find some reliable sources (or you build them yourself), return trips for information become increasingly easier.