With websites, e-books, old fashioned books, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and blogs, there’s a seemingly limitless flood of information on every facet of business. There are heaps on innovation, new product development, lean, sales and marketing, manufacturing, and strategy; and within each there are elements and sub elements that fan out with multiple approaches.
With today’s search engines and bots to automatically scan the horizon, it’s pretty easy to find what you’re looking for especially as you go narrow and deep. If you want to find best practices for reducing time-to-market for products designed in the US and manufactured in China, ask Google and she’ll tell you instantly. If you’re looking to improve marketing of healthcare products for the 20 to 40 year old demographic of the developing world, just ask Siri.
It’s now easy to separate the good stuff from the chaff and focus narrowly on your agenda. It’s like you have the capability dig into a box of a thousand puzzle pieces and pull out the very one you’re looking for. Finding the right puzzle piece is no longer the problem, the problem now is figuring out how they all fit together.
What holds the pieces together? What’s the common thread that winds through innovation, sales, marketing, and manufacturing? What is the backplane behind all this business stuff?
The backplane, and first fundamental, is product.
Every group has their unique work, and it’s all important – and product cuts across all of it. You innovate on product; sell product; manufacture product; service product. The shared context is the product. And I think there’s opportunity to use the shared context, this product lens, to open up design space of all our disciplines. For example how can the product change to make possible new and better marketing? How can the product change to radically simplify manufacturing? How can the product change so sales can tell the story they always wanted to tell? What innovation work must be done to create the product we all want?
In-discipline improvements have been good, but it’s time to take a step back and figure out how to create disruptive in-discipline innovations; to eliminate big discontinuities that cut across disciplines; and to establish multidisciplinary linkages and alignment to power the next evolution of our businesses. New design space is needed, and the product backplane can help.
Use the product lens to look along the backplane and see how changes in the product can bridge discontinuities across sales, marketing, and engineering. Use the common context of product to link revolutionary factory simplification to changes in the product. Use new sensors in the product to enable a new business model based on predictive maintenance. Let your imagination guide you.
It’s time to see the product for more than what it does and what it looks like. It’s time to see it as Superman’s kryptonite that constrains and limits all we do that can become Popeye’s spinach that can strengthen us to overpower all obstacles.
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Mike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.