Sunday, March 01, 2015

Product Leadership - Building Successful & Innovative Products

One can learn good management theory and principles in MBA colleges. One can learn creativity and design in design institutes. But no one teaches how to create successful products!

Creating successful new products requires a right marriage of right brain thinking:  creativity/design, and left brain thinking: Process, science/maths, rational management. Apple Inc. is a perfect example of left brain right brain thinking - Jonathan Ive the designer and Tim Cook, the operations manager. Steve Jobs the business leader.

Every company that develops new products needs product leaders managers who can get the right balance between creative people and managers to create successful products.

Product leader has to bring in few tricks: "Design thinking" and "Lean Development"  techniques to rapidly experiment with solutions.

The secret for success in new product development is to understand that developing new products is not much about product development! Instead, it is all about creating customers!

Creating customers is all about understanding customer needs, desires, & problems, and solving it profitably. If the number of customers are large enough, then you have created a successful product.

Since there is a very high level of uncertainty in creating new customers, one needs to be agile & lean when it comes to trying out new designs - i.e, ability to move/change/adopt quickly. Since things are at flux and needs are constantly changing one has to be lean - i.e., use minimal resources for experimentation.

Startups generally are good at new product development - mainly because they are not focusing on sustaining customers. They are creating new customers. They have few resources & are forced to be lean and they are agile. Enabled with rapid decision making leadership, who is not afraid to experiment or fail, Startups are constantly figuring out how to create a customer.

I always say "Without a customer, you don't have a product. You only have a prototype!"

I have worked in startups and have seem several other start ups and established companies follow a similar process towards new product development. Often

Step 1: Develop an Insight: 
Identify what the market needs or desires. Start with talking to customers, question customers current levels of comfort & needs. Observe customers and learn. Network with similar minded people. Also be ready for surprises. Lastly experiment - to get deeper insights about problems that is worth solving.

Step 2: Define the Problem: 
To develop a successful product, one needs to know what is the real problem that needs to be solved. Competition could also have the same insight - but had failed, because they did not solve the right problem.  Discover the customers' need or problem first, and then make sure you are going after a problem worth solving.

Step 3: Solution: 
Develop a prototype first. Check if the prototype meets the minimum requirement in terms of solving the customer problem. Practice agile & lean principles to rapidly develop prototypes - instead of developing full scale products. If needed, develop multiple prototypes, each to solve many aspects of customer problem. Iterate until you develop an awesome product - the one that delights customers.

Step 4: Develop Business Model: 
The finally solution must be priced to market. Carefully examine the entire cost structures, validate go-to-market strategy. If the need be, one has be creative in pricing the product. A differentiated pricing strategy that makes it easier for customer to acquire the product.

Closing Thoughts

Product Leaders must push the design and management teams to go beyond the obvious. Force the team to Think differently or experiment. Accept failures during prototype stage - and fail fast. Once a failure is identified, pull out the product and iterate until the product succeeds.

Leaders must embrace uncertainty in the product development, Challenge the problem statement until every stakeholder is convinced of the problem, Set a high pace for development, and be bold in experimentation.


Click Perfect said...

Your approach to this topics is unique and informative. I am writing for our school paper and this post has helped me…… Thanks.
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Dhiraj Kumar said...

Thank you so much.This is really awesome information.
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