LeapInsights http://leapinsights.net Fri, 06 Jan 2017 15:55:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 What does the customer really know? http://leapinsights.net/what-does-the-customer-really-know/ Sat, 01 Oct 2016 14:41:56 +0000 http://leapinsights.net/?p=249 read more]]> What’s your favorite product? What’s your least favorite product? Why? We’re all customers and we all like to think that we know something about something, right? In “Knowing your Limits,” I noted how important it is to talk to the customer and that if we don’t we’re liable, and likely guaranteed, to develop functions in our products that customers don’t want and miss functionality that they do want. Talking to customers is an essential part of building quality into our products and services.

“But wait,” you say. “I’m a professional in my field, have years of experience, I do talk to customers and I know the industry. I know what customers want.” Really? OK. And I’m not calling into question anyone’s experience and intelligence—the business world is full of smart, hardworking people who know their business. Besides, almost everyone at some time or another has said the phrase “Customers don’t know what they want!”

Is this true? It might be. There’s sometimes an element of truth in a generalization like this… so let’s say it’s true. Customers don’t know what they want. There, I’ve said it and we should all feel better knowing that I’ve laid it out there for anyone to read. Fortunately, it’s not the customer’s business to know what they want. Customers have entirely too much to do focusing on their core business. Instead, it’s our responsibility to create products and services for them to use. In fact, the customer actually knows something MUCH more valuable than what they want. What is it?

If you’re like me, you’ve been on your fair share of planes. I remember working for IBM several years back and hearing about the ‘privilege’ of flying for the company. “Bring the spouse, wear a business suit and drink some champagne.” How about today? Does flying feel like a privilege to you? If not, why? Let me guess, it starts with standing in line at the counter, then you have to pay to check a bag (I hate that), followed by a long wait in a security line where you have to take off your shoes (maybe your belt), put your valuables IN your laptop bag then take your laptop OUT of your laptop bag (while waiting for the person in front of you who always seems to be in the middle of their first trip). Oh, and don’t forget to keep your boarding pass with you going through the security gate (which they just looked at 5 feet behind you). You get to ‘re-dress’ on the other side and then get on the plane. Flying cross-country? Thanks to the pull-back in flight schedules, your plane is packed, so you may have to curb check the bag you didn’t pay $15 for (funny how it’s free when they NEED you to check your bag). Finally, you have to pay for everything from a soft drink to a pre-packaged cold meal. Sound familiar?

OK, OK, enough. What is it that I know as a customer of the air-travel industry? Not what I want…in fact, I don’t truly know what the right experience is that minimizes the pain of travel while mitigating the security risks of flying! What I’ve been sharing with you for the last paragraph is the pain that I experience as a result of flying. I don’t think that there’s an industry in existence that has strayed farther from the customer experience than the airlines and their regulators. What’s more, it’s not my job to solve the problem! Let’s say you design airplanes, build buildings or create million dollar software. Have you flown on one of your own planes, worked in one or your own buildings or professionally used the software you create? If not, though you may know your industry and a lot about the commodity features that are fundamental requirements for customer acceptance, you are likely missing out on a golden opportunity to put the finishing touches on your products and differentiate what your offer from competitors. Knowing your customer’s pain directly by speaking to them makes you the one responsible for providing solutions, a special opportunity to solve the problems that no other company in your industry knows about. You have the secret information that every product designer searches for already sitting on your plane, in one of your buildings or at a desk using the program you’ve created.

Better yet, they may use your competitor’s products. It’s common practice for customers to tell ANYONE that will listen about the problems they are experiencing with the products they use everyday. You can bet that if they tell you about problems with your competitor’s products, they’ll be just as happy to tell your competitors about yours. Lucky for you, your competitors probably aren’t talking to their customers either or, if they are, it’s only a sales person who gets a lot of other complaints and they all wash together.

Let’s say you believe all of this and decide to spend more time talking with your customers. GREAT! What do you talk about? Focus on their daily processes and where your product fits in. Understand where they have staff manually working on things that are shortcomings of products they already use. Be sure to validate the fundamentals, to ensure the market hasn’t changed! Most importantly, don’t only focus on the feature/functionality of your products! Remember that someone in Sales has to sell your product, your customer will have to go through your implementation process and then, when something goes wrong, will have to call your company for support!

Ask about pricing or at least talk about value. It’s OK! If you set the stage as an R&D session, not a contractual obligation, you can see where manual processes equal overhead dollars for your customer. Elimination of manual work can translate into revenue for you. The customer can help you understand the value of the solution once you know their pain. Ask them about other implementations with your (or a competitor) company’s products. Find out where their pain points are and design for good implementation. Finally, find out how the customer prefers to deal with customer service. You can be the one who creates a great product that is ALSO easy to sell, implement and support!

Knowing Your Limits…Part 2 http://leapinsights.net/knowing-your-limits-part-2/ Fri, 02 Sep 2016 01:43:03 +0000 http://leapin.server291.com/?p=188 read more]]> In Part I of “Knowing Your Limits” we talked about the problems that can arise when we depend only on our internal partners, or ourselves to come up with good ideas.

What were my colleagues and I really trying to figure out in all those meetings?  Who were we trying to help?  Who were we trying to pretend to be?  That’s right….our customers—cash managers and corporate treasurers.  We were all certified, had experience in software design, and some of us had decades of experience in the subject.  The one problem?  None of us were actually cash managers.  We were bankers.  We’d always been bankers (or in my case, something else entirely).  Even with our years of experience could we effectively impersonate our customers?  Why do we even try?

I have a term for this….professional conceit.  We honestly believe that we CAN be someone, or at least impersonate someone, that we are not.  In retrospect, I’m a little embarrassed at having even tried.  I was a health care consultant!  Yet don’t we try to impersonate our customers every single day of our careers?  We’re professionals, paid to be experts in our field.  Experts must know their customers, right?  We’re paid to know, and we are conditioned to think that we can.  How many times a year do we say, or at least hear someone else say, “I put myself in the customer’s shoes…”?

Is it really necessary to impersonate customers?  As one of the top banking services providers in the industry, we had over 100,000 corporate customers.  Why waste time pretending to be someone who we might just trip over walking out the door of our own building?

Consider for yourself whether or not you have let professional conceit seep into your daily work.  If so, the house you’re building for your customers might just be C+ work…and every day they live in it, they will likely shake their heads and wonder “how in the world did they think this was quality?”

Knowing Your Limits…. http://leapinsights.net/knowing-your-limits/ Sat, 06 Aug 2016 11:45:19 +0000 http://leapin.server291.com/?p=162 read more]]> I enjoy working on my house. This is a good thing because the person I bought it from (also the person who had it built and, I think, had a  direct hand in many of the ‘finishing’ touches) only did about a C+ job on most  of it. Each time I get into a project, I inevitably find a lack of attention to  detail that reminds me of why I have to redo the work myself, causes me to shake  my head and wonder how in the world he thought that it was quality work?

Just a few examples:

  1. When tiling the kitchen floor (a nice touch), rather than pulling off the baseboard then re-attaching after the tile was down (probably the EASIEST part of any house project), he simply cut the tile and laid it right up to the baseboard, pinning it between the tile and the sheet rock wall. When I decided to put bead-board on the wall during kitchen remodeling, I needed to remove the baseboard but had to chisel it out. This turned a two minute job into a three and a half hour ordeal.
  2. When putting granite countertops into the kitchen (seemingly a  nice touch), he used half inch thick granite glued to a wood slab. For the edges of the counter—since you can’t round out 1/2” granite—he glued semicircle edges onto the vertical face of the counter edges. They looked nice, until they started to fall off onto the aforementioned granite tile. You can’t truly appreciate what happens to granite edge-rail when it falls from approximate 3 feet onto granite floor tile without witnessing the thousands of shards of stone that you find in every nook and cranny of the kitchen.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but my favorite builder didn’t really know what he was doing. It’s easy to find examples of this in our everyday lives. Certainly there’s no shortage of people in business who, in 2008, demonstrated to the world in a way that will be recorded in history, that they do not really know what they were doing.

Why does this happen? What’s the root cause? It’s really not so hard to explain and I believe it is a learned behavior—one that you might even exhibit in your daily work. I once worked for a company that designs software for Treasury Professionals who manage money for their own companies (much like you or I manage our money to meet expenses, make investments, pay down debts, etc.) Having just been hired into the job, fresh out of a career in health care consulting, I was immediately put into a design role on a few multi-million dollar projects to provide new and  innovative services.

To gain a perspective, I immediately went out and became certified in both domestic and international cash management. I was proud of my designations and had studied hard to earn them.

My colleagues and I then gathered in various conference rooms for hours at a time attempting to ascertain which features and functions our customers would use and those that would set us apart from our commodity competitors in the corporate banking services industry. We had great people in those meetings. We had experienced people. We had people from several areas of banking, including operations, technology and customer support—all in the effort to give us a nicely rounded perspective on what customers want.

This, I suspect, is a scene not unfamiliar to many of you and is repeated far and wide, regardless of industry, all over the world. We all read journals, hire consultants, talk to our sales people, go to conferences, participate in sales calls, etc. in a concerted effort to give us the “idea” edge over our competitors.

Back in the 60’s a reporter asked then University of Texas coach Darryl Royal why his team didn’t pass the ball more often. To this, coach Royal responded, “When you pass the ball, three things can happen (complete/ incomplete/interception) and two of them are bad.” So what happened with me, my colleagues and our projects? We did some good work—some really innovative work. It was one of the best in class products of its kind in US domestic banking. But it wasn’t perfect. Pieces of what we built were of no real interest to customers. We also missed things that customers would have been interested in using—three different outcomes, two of which are bad.

These outcomes are probably not uncommon in many product development endeavors. But does this have to be the case? Are we forever relegated to tearing out unnecessary functionality and making up for what we’ve missed? The answer is….NO. What’s more, the root cause is simple and the solution is maddeningly obvious.

More to come in the next segment!!

Whatever happened to the fundamentals? http://leapinsights.net/whatever-happened-to-the-fundamentals/ Fri, 15 Jul 2016 19:21:56 +0000 http://leapinsights.net/?p=318 read more]]> In one of the great sports movies of all time, Hoosiers, Gene Hackman/Norman Dale implores his “shoot first” team:  “I’ve seen you guys can shoot but there’s more to the game than shooting. There’s fundamentals and defense.”  There’s only a handful of movies that, as I channel surf on occasion, I’ll always stop and watch, and Hoosiers is one of them.  After one recent, repeated viewing, I started thinking about how a statement like that might apply in the world of product development and innovation.

Think about your favorite sports athlete or, even the greatest athletes in your or our generation.  Take Michael, Magic or Lebron, Gretsky or Sydney Crosby,  Jack, Arnie or Tiger in golf, Roger Federer in Tennis, Barry Sanders or Gale Sayers in Football, Pele, Ronaldo, Beckham in soccer.  Think about what you’ve seen them do whether it’s Michael’s layup hand-switch against the Lakers, 63 against the Celtics, Tiger’s incredible chip-in at 16 in the Masters, Sydney Crosby winning Olympic Gold or the Stanley Cup, Pele’s bicycle kick, Federer’s between the legs winner.  These are some of the greatest moments in sports, made or created by exceptional athletes.  We’ve seen them consistently create and, in the process, make a lot of other professional athletes look slow and flat footed.

Yet, before they could do any of that, they had to learn, practice, repeat and repeat again all of the basic, fundamental aspects of their sport until they could, almost literally, do them in their sleep.  Jordan knew the fundamentals so well that he could plan for the spectacular.  Combined with hard-won physical talent and work-ethic, he is/was probably the best ever.  How many slap shots do you think Gretsky took in practice?  How much time skating, spinning, skating backwards in practice?  How many forehands and backhands has a player like Federer taken?  Almost uncountable, yet, had they not mastered the fundamentals, they would never have been able to reach such creative heights.

Are you certain that you and your employees are true masters of the fundamentals of development and innovation?  If you’re in innovation and product development, I’m already skeptical.  There are great innovators, great thinkers, fantastic execution-minded individuals and we teach, talk and encourage our people to be that kind of person in the office.  But have you taught them to dribble, pass, defend, putt, chip, drive, serve, volley and hold onto the ball?  Do they really know the basics or are you simply assuming they do?  Do you “expect” your culture to instill that in them?  You likely do, but, in my experience, I’d bet against it.

Here’s a test, and there’s another one built on this very website…if you are confident that your people know the fundamentals then simply ask them “what are the fundamentals of product development and innovation?”  Any of the athletes above would know their fundamentals and, I’d claim, any professional athlete in any sport would know.  I’ll bet you get a lot of different answers to a very simple question from your professional innovators and, I’d claim, that’s not good.  Ask them for definitions of some of the fundamentals they cite.  If they don’t recite it like they’ve said it 500 times a day, they’re probably just good with words.

What are the fundamentals?  I’ll assert that it’s a fairly short list:

1.  Customer – if you hear someone say this as a fundamental, buy them lunch, but, first ask them for a definition of customer.  If you get anything different than “the people who keep our company in business” save your money.

2.  Ideas – whether is a direct customer expectation or other, these are what we try to turn into our product/service offerings.  Where and how we get them, to me, always starts with #1.

3.  Business Requirements – there are many kinds of requirements and each company likely refers to them in a different way, but, at some point, a business requirement is the translation of the “idea” into the written word.  That’s not a definition, it’s more an attempt to bridge the various ‘names’ that you or your colleagues might provide.  Whatever word your company uses…do you all agree on the definition of what it means?  Should you?  Should we as an innovation community agree on a definition?  Do you know how to differentiate a good one from a bad one?

4.  Quality – what if you work in a services environment?  How do you define quality?  If you’re not sure, try starting with a clearer understanding of the expectations that you’re setting with your customers.  Success is achieved, in nearly all cases, by accurate expectations.

5.   Execution – If you can’t build or craft it, what good is an idea?  Are ‘stage gates” enough?  There is a best way to dribble, there’s a right way to shoot or kick.  There’s a way to execute that requires more detail than you are likely providing to your professionals

6.  Sell – the value of your product must be easily identifiable and explainable.  If you utilize #1 in your idea process, then this is the 2nd customer related phase.  If you utilize them in Execution as well, it’s their 3rd.  The more you utilize your customers, the easier it will be to define the value of your products and services.

7.  Implement – your customer needs to be able to easily ‘get up and running’ on your product or ‘engage’ your service.  We spend so much of our money in the ‘feature/function’ phase, we often forget to plan for how the customer will first see and use our product.

8.  Service – Since we rarely anticipate things going wrong as we’re building our products/services, our customer service is almost always reactionary in nature.  Build quality, based on the fundamentals in #3 & #4, to reduce the need here.  Plan for how you’ll handle things when they break down in advance.

Start by defining your fundamentals and then find out how many of your people agree or have even ever thought about them.  If you or they haven’t mastered them, creativity is going to be a continuous challenge for them, you and your organization.


You might be customer focused but… http://leapinsights.net/you-might-be-customer-focused-but/ Fri, 20 May 2016 22:10:00 +0000 http://leapinsights.net/?p=348 read more]]> icebergIf we each had a nickel for every time a co-worker, a leader or an email mentions how “customer focused” they are, we could probably create our own company that actually is.  It’s an over-used phrase and, unfortunately, it’s almost never actually true.  Not to say that most people aren’t committed to being responsive to your customers and do the best you can to create positive outcomes.  Unfortunately, your level of customer focus doesn’t end up counting for a whole lot if the organization itself doesn’t really understand what “customer focused” means.

Let’s talk merger.  There’s two “customer-focused” organizations, Company A buys Company B and intends to crush Company C with its new combined strength.  Thousands of customers are moving from Company B’s products to Company A’s products.  For argument’s sake, let’s assume that each and every product manager in the combined company is completely customer focused.

Each product manager looks at his or her customer list for impacted customers.  They identify customers for their product line, identify the differences between their old product and their new product, create a clear, concise communication relating to those changes, the customer’s important dates and communicates that out to their customers.  Great right?

Well, yes, except that every other product manager is doing the same thing.  So is each customer’s sales and relationship personnel.  Pretty soon, the customer has a pile of “customer focused” communications on their desk a foot tall and…Company C gets a great lift because neither Company A or B is customer focused at the organizational level.

If the organization doesn’t understand the end-to-end and just counts on their people to be customer focused, then they’ll likely be focusing on the sight of their customers leaving in droves.  This scenario has been played  out many times.

Ever visit a hospital?  The registration person is focused on you, the doctor is focused on you, the surgeon is focused on you, the nurses and post-care people are focused on you, your insurance company is focused on you…until the EOB’s and bills start rolling in.  “This is not a bill,” “insurance pending,” “patient amount due,” one from the hospital, one from the anesthesiologist, one from the doctor’s group, one from the post-lop doctor’s group…each of whom are customer focused, yet the ‘organization’ is not and you are bombarded by paper.

What’s happening?  They are making it hard for you to understand what to pay, so you don’t. If you’re typical, you just wait it out until you figure out which ones are real.  All the while the hospital and all of its associated partners complain about the length of time it takes patients to pay.  They factor out the receivables to collection companies, sacrificing 15-30% of the revenue–not because their people aren’t customer focused, but because the organization isn’t.

It’s not hard to see the customer focused individual in any company.  Unfortunately, those are just the tip and the rest of the customer’s experience is probably under water…

An Attitude of Craftsmanship, Published in PDMA Vision, Q2. Additional thoughts… http://leapinsights.net/an-attitude-of-craftsmanship-published-in-pdma-vision-q2-additional-thoughts/ Wed, 17 Jul 2013 20:48:14 +0000 http://leapinsights.net/?p=344 read more]]> Recently, my article, “An Attitude of Craftsmanship,” was published in the PDMA (www.pdma.org) Visions Q2 issue.  Read it here!

Key points:

  • In order to do craftsman level work, you must have great knowledge of the work to be done, more than just a feel or even just experience.
  • Your brain makes habits, often bad, as soon as you attempt to perform work
  • Focus allows you to spend the time necessary to complete the work
  • Focus facilitates ‘progress.’  Progress is the main motivational factor in knowledge worker morale and motivation
  • The point of focus is not to hurry, but to spend the right amount of time doing the work well.

I hope you enjoy it and I would welcome your comments on any of the following thoughts (or any other!):

  1. Do you and your colleagues really “know the work” that do on a daily basis?
  2. If you have a “method” to getting things done well, could you actually write it down?
  3. Do you feel that are able, in your work environment, perform the work you are asked to do at a level of quality approaching “craftsmanship” or excellence?
  4. If not, what impedes that ability?
  5. Can organizations develop the elements of craftsmanship in a similar manner as an individual?  Can they create ‘habits’ within the employee base that strongly support true excellence in products/services?
  6. Do you feel like you have the opportunity to focus?
  7. Do you have the internal discipline to focus when afforded the opportunity?



You should want to know if… http://leapinsights.net/i-would-want-to-know-if/ Tue, 14 May 2013 17:31:04 +0000 http://leapinsights.net/?p=328 read more]]> When redesigning and implementing a first of its kind product development process in a previous job, my team and I experienced a wide range of emotions, reactions, resistance and, ultimately, acceptance as we worked to institute a far better way of developing products and services in our division.  Along the way, I received a lot of compliments on how things were working, the reduction of stress associated with really understanding how things should work and the quality that was being produced by our very capable Product, IT, Operations and supporting teams for our customers.

I always like the nice comments, but, as I told my team then, my audiences now and my customers…”I can’t really do much with a compliment.”  They feel good, sure and it’s an honor when somebody actually goes out of their way to deliver good news.  I would never want to discourage that!   It doesn’t happen often enough and it’s an area in which we can all likely develop.  Real improvement, however, only comes from a clear knowledge of the issues that are still present.

Compliments deliver validation.  Problems deliver opportunities–but only if the leader really sees them as opportunities to be explored, not nuisances to be hidden or ignored.

The thing is…every company has problems, and there’s likely many more in any company than any leader would like to admit.  They’re everywhere.  The good news for any company is that all of your competitors have problems too, so you’re not really in hole, you just need a better flashlight to find your way out.

In my opinion, what separates truly great companies from mediocre ones are the companies that embrace the knowledge that they’re not perfect, actively seek to open up the black box and dig into the issues.

I believe in that old Toyota tradition of celebrating the person who stops the assembly line to report a problem.  I used to publish harsh reviews of our process (anonymously for the submitter) in our newsletters so that others with hidden opinions would feel comfortable with the idea of complaining. I would always rather get active resistance than passive.  Find ways to get the passive resistors to bring their concerns out in the open.  I used to engage the active resistors in experiments.  They’d challenge an idea and together we’d design a few different tests to figure out the right way to do things…and I’d let them pick the experiment to run.

I have come to think of contrary opinion as “an opportunity to experiment” rather than something to fear or hide.  I never cared if I was right, only that we agreed on the right way to move forward.  Vocal resistors can become the best vocal supporters.  They’re also often, by nature of their willingness to challenge, conduits through which passive resistors funnel opinions.

My real point is this:  if you’re a leader and you’re not actively searching for problems in your company with the intent, not to blame, but to improve, you are not really leading.  If you know problems exist in your ranks, people are unhappy, etc., and you don’t provide an outlet channel, you are risking a lot.  Provide a safe and blameless channel for people to provide feedback.  Embrace their issues or even just the possibility that their complaint has some grounds, no matter how painful it may be to you personally, or the underlying problems are more likely to eat at your organization than accidentally disappear.

The problems are going to be there whether they are brought out in the open or not.  Turn on the light and your company, division, and/or team(s) will help define a new path to productivity.  Take up a new motto:  “WANT to know…”



Upcoming Publication: An Attitude of Craftsmanship http://leapinsights.net/upcoming-publication-an-attitude-of-craftsmanship/ Thu, 11 Apr 2013 03:26:24 +0000 http://leapinsights.net/?p=308 read more]]> Here’s an excerpt from Doug Powell’s latest article in Visions magazine, PDMA’s quarterly innovation and product development journal, due out by mid-April:


Image 1 - Cornish - smallRecently I had my piano restored by a local expert, Hamer. We purchased it eight years ago from a church that was getting a new one so that our children could begin taking lessons.  Turns out that it’s over a hundred years old, built by a New Jersey company, Cornish, in the year 1900.  Our first question for Hamer was, “is it worth saving?”  After an initial assessment, he explained that it was absolutely worth saving due to the quality of the materials and workmanship he observed and because much of the interior was still very well preserved.  After giving us the basic parameters for restoring, it he removed the front panel and gently lifted out the piano’s “action” which is the set of dampers and hammers that, respectively, end a note and start a note, and left for his shop.  A month later, accompanied by a clean and restored action, he returned and began the process of reinstalling and tuning it, all-the-while allowing me to watch and listen as he described the many inner-workings of our piano.

It struck me as I watched him polish the nearly 200 wire tension screws, align the dampers and hammers, and adjust each string to its perfect pitch, that I was in the presence of a real craftsman.  I wondered about craftsmanship and how it might relate beyond the work I was witnessing – to my own work and to that of others.  Can one be a craftsman of marketing, innovation, product design or risk analysis?

Image 2 - Dampers - smallTo answer we must first ask “what is craftsmanship?”  In my experience, “craftsmanship” is almost always only associated with hand crafted physical goods or services like furniture, carpentry or, in my case, piano restoration.  My definition of craftsmanship is rooted in two fundamental concepts…excellence and focus.  Excellence implies not only quality, but quality in the highest degree, satisfying both the base quality expected by the customer as well as a very high internal bar comprised of additional latent elements that won’t necessarily be expected, but greatly appreciated.   A craftsman possesses both great knowledge of the work necessary to produce excellence as well as the attention to detail necessary to recognize it from the beginning to the end of his or her work.  Finally, to attain focus, a craftsman must have the passion and patience to execute the detailed work to be done and possess the ability to focus on that work.


See the rest in the new digital Visions magazine at www.pdma.org.

Upcoming Publication: Session Followup – PDMA 2012 http://leapinsights.net/upcoming-publication-session-followup-pdma-2012/ Thu, 11 Apr 2013 03:18:18 +0000 http://leapinsights.net/?p=299 read more]]> Here’s an excerpt of the session follow up article for Doug Powell’s session at PDMA’s PIM 2012 on “Why Things Go Wrong in Product Development & How to Improve,”  for Visions magazine, PDMA’s quarterly innovation and product development journal due out by mid-April:


There was an energetic and responsive crowd in residence for my session “Innovative Product Development:  Why Things Go Wrong and How to Improve” at PDMA 2012. We covered a lot of ground in 45 minutes!  The key concepts discussed are summarized below:

The Basics

  • Determining Root cause:  Root cause opens up great opportunities for innovation. A root cause is the base issue and acts as a binary switch:  it causes the problem when present  or, in its absence, the problem disappears.
  • Change the question:  Ask “Why do we have the problem?” instead of “How do we solve the problem?”
  • A new request:  Change the phrase “Don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution,” to “Don’t bring me a problem, bring me a root cause.”


See the rest in the new digital Visions magazine at www.pdma.org.


Reflections on PDMA PIM 2012 http://leapinsights.net/reflections-on-pdma-pim-2012/ Sat, 24 Nov 2012 17:46:32 +0000 http://leapinsights.net/?p=242 read more]]> Overall, a great week!  Met many new and interesting people and had a chance to interact with some real thinkers!!  Attended the research forum as well, where academic researchers are trying to bridge the gap between theory and execution.  I think there’s a lot of room for growth here, but was glad to see that there’s some real, quantifiable work being done on researching innovation.

Sat in, for the first time, on a sustainable development seminar for an entire day.  It was, unfortunately (or, fortunately for me), not well attended, however I was able to get a full day of in-depth education from the 8-10 experts who were in the room.  Very enlightening.

It occurred to me as I listened to a Swedish chemical company, an American flooring company and a discussion on Nike’s approach with some of its shoe lines that, like the customer experience, sustainable development is a systemic way of thinking and spans the very beginnings of the product life-cycle to the final resting place of the product being designed.  It doesn’t do much good to design a recyclable product if its most likely disposal point is in a trash can.  You have to design for everything from the source components to the end game and, as some have been able to do, close the loop to actually collect the end product and feed it back into new products.  Starbucks has a cup now made from 10% recycled paper.  An amazing achievement, but, the paper company that produces the cups has to flush the 10% recycled pulp from its line every time it has to manufacture non-recycled material cups, which creates tremendous waste.  Fascinating stuff.  Really enjoyed my time with the PDMA sustainability group.

Heard some great keynotes from Abbie Griffin at the University of Utah on Serial Innovators and Robert Walcott from Kellogg School of Management on Innovation and Growth.  Design thinking seems to be the way at Intuit and Citigroup, which mirrors much of the approach we used at Wachovia to really improve our products.  Tighter integration with the customer, understanding their stories/problems, etc.

My session, “Why Things Go Wrong in Product Development and How to Improve,” was on the 3rd day and , thankfully, was heavily attended.  You always wonder, as a speaker, if someone else is going to steal your thunder, make your main point and, accidentally, obsolete what you are going to say.  It’s a bit like draft day.  You want other speakers to meld with your message, but not contradict or put out your message for you.  I had a really energetic group and we discussed innovation and execution, focus and root cause for a little over my allotted 45 minute time slot!  There’s a review of my session coming out in the very near future in the next print and online edition of Visions magazine, published by PDMA.

The organizers did a great job of recruiting and coordinating the speakers messages and, honestly, it was one of the best conferences I’ve been to in quite awhile.  Thank you PDMA!