Recently Guy Kawasaki wrote a blog entailed The Art of innovation.
In it he lists 11 principles of innovation he has learned over his career. I looked at these principles and tried to determine if product managers could use them in their pursuit for innovation in their sphere of influence. Often executive teams of businesses can only exercise these principles and the product teams are hamstrung by very limited budgets and time frames. I have listed the titles of the principles below and added a few words of italicized text from the blog (you need to read his blog for the full description) and then rated if a product manger had influence in that area.
1. Make meaning. Determine how you can change the world — Notwithstanding you own personal life objectives, as a product manager (PM) this is obviously the mission of your business and how they address this. Low influence by most PMs.
2. Make mantra. Your mantra should be a three- to four-word mantra that explains why you make meaning. Same as 1. Low influence.
3. Jump to the next curve. True innovation occurs when you jump to the next curve — or better yet, invent the next curve. This is definitely an important area for PMs to identify the next curve. High influence.
4. Great products are DICEE: Deep, Intelligent, Complete, Empowering and Elegant. This is the PM soft spot and where they become super stars. High influence.
5. Don’t worry; be crappy. Don’t worry about shipping an innovative product with elements of crappiness. Yipes! This is a tough area for PMs. Shipping a product that has crappy bits will normally result in the PM getting some crap feedback. This needs the business team’s buy-in and their appetite for risk. Medium influence.
6. “Let a hundred flowers blossom.” The lesson is to sow fields, not flower boxes, and to let a hundred flowers blossom. This is probably a wider company program rather than within a single product or portfolio scope. Low influence.
7. Don’t be afraid to polarize people. The worst case is to incite no reactions at all, and that happens when companies try to make everyone happy. This is definitely the job of the PM to identify the profiles of the product audiences. Very few products can address the novice to expert spectrum of possible users. You need to nail the target population and make them smile – others may need to wait awhile. High influence.
8. Churn, baby, churn. I’m saying it’s OK to ship with elements of crappiness — I’m not saying that it’s OK to stay crappy. Oh yes, this is another PM soft spot. Get it out there and keep improving often. The team knows what needs to be improved and customers will give you a “buy” if they see incremental improvements to the new approach. High influence.
9. Niche thyself. The holy grail of innovation is to create a product that is unique and valuable. Hmm, this seems a little obvious but/and PMs have High Influence.
10. Perfect your pitch. There are three keys to a perfect pitch. This is a product marketing aspect and PMs have a big influence on the messaging, if not the final pitches. Medium Influence.
11. Don’t let the bozos grind you down. The bozos will tell you what you’re trying can’t be done, … This is about the toughest part of innovation – the folks that want to play “devil’s advocate”. This is the polite way of disguising their bozoness. Guy does not suggest the approach to the bozos. Mine is usually asking the devil’s advocates to become guardian angles and helping the team because there is lots of DAs out there already trying to out sell us. Medium influence.
So the final tallies: 5 high, 3 medium and 3 low.
Based on the above, my belief is that a PM is probably one of the most influential players in these innovation principles. I cannot identify other roles that may be bigger influencers. Can you?