Product management leaders are often responsible for driving innovation within their products. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as product managers have a deep understanding of their user personas and potential voids in the market. This knowledge can sometimes lead to breakthrough ideas.

When faced with challenges, we conceive innovative solutions that change the way we live our lives. But innovation doesn’t happen in a silo. Those breakthrough ideas with the market knowledge that leads to innovation, innovation come from collaboration. Product innovation is a team sport, involving many people throughout an organization.

What is innovation?

The process of translating an idea or invention into a good product or service that creates value or for which customers.

To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves the deliberate application of information, imagination, and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.

Innovations are divided into two broad categories:

  • Evolutionary innovations (continuous or dynamic evolutionary innovation) that are brought about by many incremental advances in technology or processes
  • Revolutionary innovations (also called discontinuous innovations) which are often disruptive and new.

Framework for meaningful innovation

Technology moves fast, really fast. From a product management perspective, organizations may struggle to innovate because their product management teams focus on day-to-day, failing to prioritize activities that deliver new solutions to the market.

The think about products or technology. Innovation is bigger than a product or a technological platform. And in truth, it’s the innovations to organizations and management that precede product or technology innovation anyway. Great leaders don’t innovate the product; they innovate the factory.

David Burkus is a best-selling author, award-winning podcaster

Identify trends

Daniel Burrus mentions in his book Flash Foresight: “The only way you can possibly get ahead of the curve is to solve tomorrow’s problems today.”

Like it or not, your industry is changing. Everything changes; it always has, and it always will. You can keep up with and be part of the changes, or you can overlook and ignore changes and let others pass you by.
Product Manager needs to recognize soft and hard trends so that we understand the new emerging trends of tomorrow to make smart decisions as we lead our products in that direction. Often these trends are invisible in plain sight if we fail to recognize. Kodak, is one of the best examples of what happens when we fail to recognize the trends.

Ways to Identify and Evolve With Industry Trends

  • Take advantage of industry research and trends reports.
  • Regularly follow publications and influencers in your industry.
  • Use different tools and analytics systems to identify the direction trends are heading.
  • Make it a point to surround yourself with smart people.
  • Build and maintain a close group of advisers.
  • Ask the right questions and listen to your customers.
  • Learn to accept–and even embrace–change.

Focus on vision, not the product

Truly innovative companies do not aim to be innovative. Rather they relentlessly strive to follow a unique strategy, says Jeffrey Baumgartner.

Vision is the key driver for innovation. Visionary companies tend to have much more specific strategic aims. For instance, Google’s original strategic aim was to produce the most relevant search results by using a special algorithm in its search engine.

Let us look at Blockbuster, Blockbuster’s vision to provide home movie entertainment is still as valid as ever, but their delivery method became obsolete when Netflix took advantage of new emerging trends, like the constant increase of network bandwidth, to provide streaming media.

Similarly, Yellow Pages’ vision to provide access to business and contact information is still valid today, but their delivery method became obsolete when internet gave us instant access to all that information and more through our browsers.

Investing for tomorrow with today’s revenues

We need to stop calling everything breakthrough or disruptive, especially in internal company discussions. It is more than OK to have a balanced pipeline of big and small ideas, and we need to get comfortable with that again. If we demand nothing but disruption or breakthrough, (delivered tomorrow and on small budgets) then that is all people want to work on, and to accommodate this, everything gets labeled in those terms. But language matters, and once we start calling good but smaller ideas breakthrough, we lower the bar. This is a recipe for mediocrity and is one of the reasons why so many companies struggle with too many small initiatives and not enough big ones.

Pete Foley is a Consultant, Innovator, Artist, Scientist, Photographer, Musician, Accountant, and Blogger, with 25 years experience of Innovation and Behavioral Science in the Fortune 50

It’s important to understand that all challenges surrounding innovation are not technology related, there are challenges are related to investment for innovation. As a product leader, we are responsible for product revenue and product profitability. Sales teams would focus primally on today’s revenues where are product leaders would look for the future. The organization that lacks vision often tend to be sales driven rather than market or user-driven.

This is an extremely critical and very difficult pattern to break, but it’s an important one if we want our organization to succeed.

Product leaders play a key role in leading a meaningful change through investment in tomorrow. Product leaders with an eye on the vision, paying attention to the trends would be able to keep pushing products forward away from being obsolescence.