On an episode of the Innovation Talks podcast, I had an insightful conversation with product leader coach Tami Reiss. Among other things, Tami helps guide product people through career decisions and explore the various opportunities in the product sector.
During the conversation, I noticed a trend: A lot of the career guidance she referenced also applies to decisions that organizations make about their products. Let’s examine her tips for success and how product people can use them to accelerate innovative product development.
1. Ask the right questions for successful innovative product development
When Tami consults with product people, she asks them to answer three critical questions often associated with careers, but they’re just as helpful in the realm of product development:
Where are you now? (H3) This may seem easy to answer, but many organizations don’t have a clear idea of where they are on individual products and projects and where those products fit into the overall mission of the company. It is critical to have clear visibility into product portfolios, adjacent projects, resource allocation, etc.
Where do you want to go? (H3) Product development cannot be stagnant — you should always be thinking forward. But remember that your next move should always align with the company’s mission. If not, you’re not likely to get where you want to go.
Where should you go? (H3) Continuous and often unexpected market changes force startups and legacy brands to reevaluate their direction. Your disruptive product today may be obsolete sooner than expected. What’s your next move? Having a vision of where you want to go is essential, but it’s just as critical to have the flexibility to change paths when it makes sense.
2. Follow new product development data
In our discussion, Tami also talked about how important feedback is from a career standpoint. Using personal net promoter scores (NPS) that determine how likely others are to recommend working with or for you can be helpful. We can also extend feedback to new product development.
In the previous section, we talked about determining where you want to go and where you should go. Access to the best innovation data will help you differentiate between the two — or determine if there’s a difference between “want” and “should.”
For example, external data from partners, customers and the market can help guide you toward important product decisions. Internal data — like the data we referenced in the “Where are you now?” section can also move you in the right direction.
3. Conduct a calendar audit
When Tami works with product people, she asks them to conduct a calendar audit, a concept she learned from a college professor. As Tami pointed out in the podcast, “Look back on your calendar and see how [you are] investing your time. And is it invested in the strategic ways you want to? Are you putting effort into the things that give you back the value that moves you forward toward your goals or not? And if you aren't, what needs adjustment?”
Successful new product development requires the same kind of scrutiny. Contrast and compare product roadmaps to determine what activities moved you toward — or away — from your innovation goals.
4. Be open to criticism and new ideas
We all know that getting an outside perspective can help give us a more realistic view, especially when you’re deeply embedded in a situation. In fact, Tami articulated this point perfectly, saying, “What's amazing to me is how the people we work with and the people we interact with know things about us that we may not even know about ourselves.”
As discussed in this space, customer input is invaluable in creating market-disrupting products. Great ideas don’t become great products unless they solve a real customer problem. And what better place to get the necessary insight than from customers?
But that insight can also come from within your organization, which can offer objective opinions. They can poke holes that may be less obvious to your team. Some criticism isn’t sound — there are areas your team knows better than anyone. But seeking out and being open to receiving feedback will keep you honest and help refine products that insulation won’t.
5. Embrace change
What changes more often and faster than technology? Cutting-edge product development flexibility. As Tami pointed out, change is an opportunity for growth. As traditional physical products integrate with technology, a single development can quickly open new opportunities for innovative product development. Think about smart products. A washer is no longer a washer — it’s a connected piece of tech that can help you reduce your carbon footprint.
By maintaining flexibility and embracing change with open arms, you avoid falling into the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” trap that stalls innovation.
Incorporating all of these critical lessons requires the right product management solution. Learn how Sopheon’s Acclaim Products can unlock the data and insights you need to access the data and insights necessary to bring the best products to market faster and more efficiently.