Posted by Tom Grant on March 11, 2009
In response to the last couple of posts about invention and innovation, Jennifer says:
While this is an interesting thread to read, and can definitely cause many long hours of debate sitting in front of the fire with our pipes et al, it seems that it might be missing the mark with product management.
Yep, I agree. Which leads me to the next point I wanted to make in this series:
Inventors in development need innovators in product management.
While the two groups often don't get along very well (product managers are naysayers, development is just doing its own thing, etc.), the partnership between them is essential. Someone with a cool idea and enormous technical skill is usually the first person in a new product group, or a new startup company. However, that inventor can benefit immediately from someone who's a professional reality checker and opportunity finder--a product manager.
I'll have more to say later about the sources of ideas for both invention and innovation. For this morning, since I have to run in a minute, it's enough to point out that the frequent frictions between development and product management are not only unnecessary, but pernicious. Tech companies need to bring new products and services to market as quickly as possible, which is really another way of saying, "We need really good inventors and innovators."
That may seem like a small semantic difference, but it's really a critical conceptual clarification. Too often in this industry, excellent inventors style themselves to be innovators, which they're not. Happily, they work with product managers (and product marketers, and consultants, and arguably a lot of other people involved in the diffusion of inventions), who are more than glad to help. If the two groups aren't working well together, the core problem is often the organization's ignorance of the invention/innovation distinction.