Friday, February 10, 2006

People to involve in the process of Idea Management

As I always say, innovation is a team sport. You want to have a number of different roles represented at the fuzzy front-end (FFE), while also avoiding having “too many cooks in the kitchen”.

There doesn’t necessarily need to be one person for each of the roles, with innovation you often have people with multi-disciplinary backgrounds because of the importance of being able to bring as much information to the table as possible to see the big picture. The roles that are important at this stage are:
  • Lead User – Ideally, find one or more potential customers from the market who experience the pain to such a degree that they are actively seeking solutions and even developing their own prototypes. Look for Lead Users who come from different industries where there are similar problems to your target market. They often have inventive ideas to add.
  • Business unit manager / CEO – Doesn’t need to be involved in the day-to-day, but definitely needs to provide some management oversight to ensure the rules of the game are followed, check points met, and commitments are made to take the idea management process’s output to the next phase of development.
  • Senior technologist(s) – A handful (1-3) technologists who understand the company’s technology, or the target technology of interest. Try as best as possible to find people who can be freed up from their day-to-day responsibilities so as to be able to focus on the FFE process. Avoid types who are too cynical, you need creative technologists, or at least ones that will not only look at what the hard challenges are.
  • Marketing professionals (1-3) – You need bright marketing people, typically product managers who have a technical background. Go for hands-on, folks, not people managers. A marketing-based people-manager can make a good facilitator for the FFE process, however.
  • Intellectual Property Management - Have an IP lawyers involved to help identify potential patents to write to protect the opportunity.

A list of other stakeholders that should be kept “in-the-loop” regardless of their hands-on involvement in the process:

  • R&D managers
  • “Portfolio” managers
  • Strategic planners and analysts
  • Project / Program managers
  • Marketing managers and analysts
  • Business development managers
  • Brand managers
  • Knowledge management professionals
  • Quality assurance managers
  • Operations, Finance

A common thing that can happen is a lot of people want to be involved in this process. I have witnessed several postpartum meetings following a product development initiative where groups like Quality Assurance and Operations request to be more involved in the up-front design process so that testing and operations plans could be started earlier.


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