Innovation and Product Management

Innovation is the name of the game as far as companies in the 21st century are concerned. To compete effectively in the marketplace of this decade, companies need to either innovate or perish. Hence, innovation is the latest buzzword among the corporates. The innovation cycle as applied to product management consists of three stages:

  • The Idea Generation
  • Idea Conversion, and
  • Idea Diffusion

For effective innovation to work in favour of the company these three stages have to be managed well and this is where the product manager comes into the picture. The product manager has to ensure that there is no breakages in the innovation value chain as represented by these three stages. Hence, the role of the product manager is to make sure that the entire chain is strong since any chain is as strong as its weakest link.

The linkages between the three stages of the innovation cycle are described here. First, the idea generation stage is the phase where the emphasis should be on generating ideas from various sources and from within the business units and from across the company and even from the customers and end users. The idea conversion stage is the phase where the lists of new ideas thus generated have to be screened for commercial viability and the kind of business that they bring to the company. The idea conversion stage is also the phase where the ideas generated have to be vetted for their technical feasibility and whether the company has the resources and the bandwidth to take the ideas to the next stage and from there the product development phase.

Finally, the idea diffusion stage is the phase where the ideas thus sourced have to be vetted and funded and approvals taken from the various internal stakeholders as well as external ones. The idea diffusion stage represents the end point of the idea stage and hence the product manager has to ensure that all these phases work together in one single unified link so as to minimize the friction between the various components in the chain.

Hence, this innovation value chain is to be managed by the product manager who has the responsibility in the overall sense of bringing the product to the incubation stage. Any company that is not able to manage the innovation value chain should consider setting up a product management team or hiring a product manager to manage this innovation value chain. The point here is the innovation value chain must be strengthened and a cohesive and coherent value proposition has to be evolved. For this, the product manager is required to take overall control of the product management function a subset of which is the task of managing the innovation value chain. In conclusion, the weaknesses in the innovation value chain must be eliminated by careful and thoughtful application of the management principles and this is where the product manager with his or her expertise in the process can help companies innovate better, faster and emerge stronger.


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