Product and technology roadmapping is increasingly identified as a critical tool to a company’s innovation efforts, but at most companies the quality of these roadmaps varies across the board. As innovation executives try to remove as much guesswork as possible from their crystal balls and chart their next several paths to new markets and growth, many resort to blindly throwing darts at their targets. The critical piece they are missing to help illuminate the correct course of action and investment for their business is metrics.
We talked to Wayne Mackey, a principal at Product Development Consulting and co-author of Value Innovation Portfolio Management, about what can be a critical ‘blindspot’ for many. Specifically, how do good metrics give you the confidence in your planning process and investment decisions?
According to Wayne:
“If we‘re not measuring our roadmaps, then they’re just wishful thinking.” That was the short, but to-the-point company president’s kickoff for his R&D investment planning session. Are you measuring the “critical few” predictive metrics that drive your technology, project and portfolio performance? Getting them right is a fundamental business need of every R&D organization. If we don’t consistently fund the right portfolio of projects, executing them well won’t make us successful. If we don’t consistently execute our high value R&D projects well, our portfolio of investments will be squandered.
At some point we have to pause to sharpen our ax if we have a mighty forest to cut down. As an R&D leader, the wrong metrics are your dull ax, causing critical decisions to be based on missing or conflicting data while the marketplace has become unforgiving of even the smallest miscalculations. Too many companies have too many metrics that are too disconnected from the “real” work of the enterprise. Available “early warning” information is either not captured or not acted upon.
Dr. Robert G. Cooper has been around the innovation block more than a few times, and visits companies around the world collecting data about how they attack their market opportunities. In his recent article that appeared in IESEinsight, he provides data that shows:
In the development portfolios of companies, the % of new-to-the-world products is down by almost half, while improvements and modifications to existing products have nearly doubled.
Based on his extensive experience, Dr. Cooper has identified key elements that are common to companies that are effectively delivering the type of bold innovations that lead to the breakthrough market success that can really propel corporate profits and overall market relevancy. In short, these five vectors are:
- Developing a strategic focus
- Fostering a fertile climate and culture
- Generating, capturing and handling ideas
- Designing a Next Generation Idea-to-Launch system
- Deciding the right investments and picking the winners
Each vector builds upon the other and, if enabled, can provide companies with the tools and momentum to more quickly identify and take advantage of the highest payback opportunities. See the link below to download Dr. Cooper’s article which greatly expands on the five vectors concept and details how these factors link to today’s innovation challenges.
San Francisco State’s Dr. John Sullivan raised more than a few eyebrows at this year’s CoDev conference with his “shock jock” approach to telling executives why they fail at attracting top innovation talent. A few of the gems/bombs he dropped along the way included:
What will you do when the best innovation candidate comes in with a tattoo on their face, body piercings they want to show you and tells you the way you do things is “cute” like the way their grandparents did stuff? Will you hire that person?
And, describing the feeling that a software company’s recruiting billboard, featuring an abstract line of code, was supposed to elicit in the right candidate:
It’s supposed to give the right person a “math [edit: rhymes with election].”
Hyperbolic statements aside, Dr. Sullivan fully succeeded in grabbing the attention of everyone in the room and continued with his very candid talk about the ruthless and often comical recruiting practices of top technology companies. Practices which range from sending personal video messages from the CEO on a free iPad to targeting the winners of a rival’s corporate awards banquet and soliciting them at the bar. Dr. Sullivan hammered home his point that if you want the best innovation talent, the type that is essential to creating billion-dollar industries and market dominance, then great courage and creativity is needed to both attract and, more importantly, keep these people.
In his post-CoDev article published on recruiting industry community site, ERE.net, Dr. Sullivan lists 30 specific actions to consider: “Hiring a Targeted Innovator Requires Bold Approaches“