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Balancing Short-Termism with Systems Thinking: The Enterprise

“If there is mounting pressure to deliver short-term results at the enterprise level, then the first step in resisting the pressures of short-termism is to correctly identify their source, but what is the root cause of short-termism at the enterprise level?”

Short-termism in big business is still under debate for some people. One of these naysayers would inevitably point out that if there was really an issue then there should have been a downturn in corporate profits over the last fifty years. We’ve been doing okay, there has been a suspicious lack of such a trend, but it is also self-evident that indigenous innovation has been dropping since the 1970s. Corporations aren’t coming up with as many truly new ideas. We aren’t solving the big problems. That’s perhaps why we are still driving on non-renewable resources and all our cellphones, movies, computers, and clothes seem to be the same. So, the symptom of short-termism is not a change in profits, but the level of innovation and growth in corporations.

There are still innovative ideas, but it seems to be the trend more and more for big business to acquire innovative small businesses rather than invest in becoming innovative themselves. This conscious decision to forego innovation is solving the short-term need to put out a new or improved product, but only temporarily. The small innovative company is absorbed and constrained by the same red tape. But there is only so much a corporation can acquire before it becomes too cumbersome to react accordingly to the market.

Corporations were not always fixated on the short-term. At one time, they were a positive force that invested in their workers and new technologies, everyone was prospering, but then slowly and over the course of a few recessions, something changed. With this change, the world seemed to speed up and organizations started playing with a quarterly mindset. They had very little consideration for innovation or issues that cannot be solved in the term of ninety days. By continuously absorbing smaller companies, we are just making it harder and harder to make innovative fundamental corporate improvements, but why? What is the root cause of this disease?

The corporations that absorb small businesses are eliminating the competition. They are identifying areas for profit and revenue, as well as expediting innovation, to the point that innovation-through-acquisition inevitably becomes the cheaper option. The reality is that the pain of not doing anything right away is just as painful as when the symptoms returns. Corporations maintain this toxic loop to maximize shareholder value as reflected in the current stock price. For as long as the stock market and the government continue to operate on the short-term concepts, big business will follow.

Breaking this rather dangerous cycle might be impossible, but the ramifications can still be alleviated by first admitting that these corporations are in fact applying a quick fix that creates bigger issues in the next decade. After admitting the we are merely easing the indicators, we can start considering how to enhance long-term incentives and making slow-gestating innovative concepts less risky. In the business world, this might be adjusted tax codes, a reevaluation of corporate governance laws, and spread out compensation packages, so that perhaps we can start solving some of yesterday’s problems with tomorrow’s innovative ideas.

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Balancing Short-Termism with Systems Thinking

“If modern economics pressures are demanding short-term results, then there is little to no time to focus on long-term growth, but how do you resist succumbing to false short-sighted solutions?”

The great wall of china took roughly 2,000 years to build. Today, it is absurd for a lot of organizations to prioritize long-term innovation or human capital investment over their quarterly earnings. And let’s face it, we will never get back to that 2,000-year mark when it comes to investments and planning, because modern economic pressures are continuously mounting to deliver more and more short-term results. It seems almost impossible to meet those short-term demands as well as achieve long-term growth, but by giving into purely the short-term, and therefore, pushing for a shorter and shorter planning phase, are we metaphorically shooting our own foot?

Inadequate planning was a contributing factor in the levies breaking in New Orleans during Katerina as well as the Galaxy Note 7 occasionally catching fire and exploding. Samsung could have had stronger quality control procedures and safety testing, but obviously, jumped a few steps to meet the market window. This malady of short-termism has infected us all; Corporate giant must acquire to survive, small business fighting fires without long-term goals, as well as high school students that can’t think past their next tweet, much less their long-term career aspirations.

The average person spends most of their time planning to the next month, maybe some the next 90 days, with little to no judicious investment in the future repercussions, and it should be said that that is no more sustainable in the long-term, than planning for the next few millenniums. It seems we must force ourselves to get better at making decisions based on long-term considerations by strategically balancing cost/resources as well as supply/demand at work as well as at home. To change our collective orientations and resist the pressure of short-termism, we must first correctly identify the root cause in any given situation, so join me in the investigation and take the first step to a well-planned future.

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Building a Healthy and Thriving Organization

“If an organization is a system like the human body, then it too needs routine checkups, but what symptoms denote an unhealthy or toxic system?”

An organization is a system of moving parts like the human body, and like the human body, sometimes an organization becomes unhealthy, and is therefore, in desperate need of a checkup. Performance improvement strategies are synonymous with providing organizations with this required checkup. At pmNERDS, we enjoy a good checkup, there is a flow and pattern to the actions, after doing for a while we start to perceive the issue before we have the proof. Performance reviews of organizations provide clarity, and over time it is clear, communication is a common point of tension in unhealthy organizations. No matter the situation, people want to have a purpose and need to be appreciated.

In the human body, cells are constantly communicating, and when a cell does not respond, fails to send the message, or responds incorrectly, much bigger issues begin to appear as a result. Diabetes is a result of cells in the pancreas not releasing or unable to receive the necessary signal, known as insulin. Multiple Sclerosis is a nerve cell communication disease in which the affected nerve cells cannot transmit a signal correctly and a similar argument can be made for cancer, excitotoxicity, asthma, as well as others.

A system becomes toxic and unhealthy when there is a breakdown in communication, which enviably leads to a lack of sensitivity and common commitment. This is true even at the individual level, our interactions with others triggers instinctual responses. It can be a positive response, being open and transparent during a meeting encourages others to be the same. This produces higher levels of understanding, collaboration, and trust. On the other hand, not delegating decisions to anyone, creates a precedent for others to do the same. This produces breakdowns in communication, high levels of territoriality, and misunderstanding.

Just like our bodies, an organization needs to be monitored for communication breakdowns. It is everyone’s responsibility to create a healthy work environment, even if that sometimes means getting an annual checkup to preemptively scan for any ambiguous symptoms present in the system. Performance improvement activities are a way to get ahead of the illness or the infection before it even has a chance to take root in an organization. We are here to make you even better.

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Create and Leverage Templates

If project managers co-develop standard practices and templates, then practice adoption and baseline performance would be higher, but with so many varying opinions, a ‘We’ culture is required.

Gary stares at his computer monitor, bewildered, as he scrolls through a large folder of project template files, “Just ask the top project managers to share their templates”, he mockingly mumbles to himself. With project performance varying greatly across the different project management teams, Gary, as part of the Governance team, has been tasked with establishing a standard set of project templates to improve project performance across his business unit. Just like a fancy dessert, without a recipe or set of repeatable steps, consistent results aren’t guaranteed.

Creating templates that are leveraged across the organization is something that requires consolidation of input from many sources. Just asking the top performers to give you their templates and combining those into one set of templates, is a daunting task that will not get much buy-in from other project managers. You will get better adoption and leverage of these templates if members of the project management team are involved in developing them. Using a “We” thinking approach and leveraging their diverse knowledge, skills, and experience, you can define much more competitive standard practices and templates.

Even though Gary has been given the authority to define the standard templates, he knows that if he builds them on his own and dictates them to the rest of the organization, not only will very few people adopt them, but they will be much less effective than templates co-developed with the entire team. To lead this initiative, he needs to exercise “We” leadership principles. Key aspects of “We” leadership are to share power, be inclusive, seek feedback, break down silos, celebrate diversity, and encourage discussion.

1) We start by first defining what the characteristics of a good project management process are. 2) Rank these factors based on importance using a simple pair-wise comparison method. 3) We need to define the project phases and their objectives/deliverables. What must we achieve before we move on? 4) Brainstorm on the different tools, methods, templates that could help achieve those objectives. In portfolio management decision making we refer to this step as listing alternatives. Since we don’t have unlimited time, we need to decide out of all the practices we could include in our template, which ones will provide the most value to us.

Using the factors of a good project management practice we defined earlier, we can rank the impact of each proposed practice. When selecting from these ranked practices, the team should keep in mind their current practices and try not to introduce an overwhelming amount of change.These selected practices are included in the baseline template that will be used going forward. This establishes the standard set of practices that Gary was tasked to produce.

By leveraging these standard templates, project performance is no longer solely dependent on the individual managing the project. If we follow the recipe, our desert will turn out well. Performance of your project management teams can now be predicted, measured, and improved. By establishing a fair and inclusive process, that leverages “We” thinking, you can capitalize on the diverse knowledge and experience of your team to create competitive templates that the team is excited to leverage.

 

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Your Profile, Friends, & Conversations

“If I complete my profile in the community, then it will be easier for me to engage like-minded people in conversations, but I will need to spend some time in the community.”

The pmNERDS’ Community platform uses your profile like a civic record. It stores your login credentials which is kept private and general information about you that you publish for other members to see.

This is the record that keeps track of how many community participation badges are awarded to you, and certification levels you have earned. If you participate in the open innovation activities in GrandView, this is how we keep track of what assets you own; that way when the product or service begins to produce revenue, you can receive your share.

This profile record also maintains a list of people you are currently friends with. You may engage in conversations with friends after logging in, in fact, most of the community activities are restricted until you login.

Not only are your list of friends maintained on your profile record, but also the list of mentors and coaches you have, and those you are mentoring. Once your profile page has been completed, conversation and collaboration becomes easy. Just as watching the grass move when the wind blows, the life force of the community can be detected in the amount of conversation occurring.

Community membership is free, access to the technology used in supporting this community is free. By creating an account, you create a profile, which helps you interact with others. We bring the technology, you bring your experience and personality. If you build value, perhaps you can invite your friends and colleagues to even get more value from the community. Each of us help form a living community.

Join the Free Community Today!

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Social Learning Activities

“If I use a blended learning course, then I can gain the best of all worlds, but it is still very lonely, and I just don’t get as motivated to complete the course as in a live course.”

I get my personal energy from engaging with other people. I learn by study, and then explaining to others. I do my best work, when others can see me. Ok, you might not be like me, but others are. Most of us, for one reason or another, thrive in a social environment where idea exchange is regular. Real learning occurs when people are impacted at a social level.

With pmNERDS courses, they’re designed to engage collaboration. This engagement is accessed over the web with mobile devices and/or workstations. Conversation can be formalized in forums and blogs, chats in the community, or even more public through social media. You control how ‘alone’ you want/ or don’t want to be.

Start learning by participating in the community. Respond to the comments of others, ask questions, share experiences. Read forum and blog posts, make comments and engage in discussions. Within specific courses, participate in workshops where students review each other’s work and use feedback to improve work quality. Participate in course forums and discussions. As you engage with others, you will find that you have lots to offer, and decide to create a course of your own.

With all this talking, don’t you want to do something? If so, plan an event. pmNERDS loves to plan and manage events. Regardless of how big, or how small, in the community you can create a group and plan it. That’s right there is no limit. Plan a canoe trip or a mountain hike. Produce a play or rock concert locally, or across the World. It’s all just a project that the community works together on.

By surrounding yourself with others who are learning, learning will become part of who you are, the material your studying becomes part of the bigger you, the deeper you. The you who plans projects, manages those projects, and completes those projects. While talking about social change, a past US President commented, “What better people are there to take an idea and turn it into reality than project people.” That’s us!

At this point, you don’t remember your studies, you experience it!

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Open Market

“If I create innovation assets, then I can sell them for real money, but I need a place to sell my assets.”

GrandView is an Open Market for buying, selling and trading innovation assets. We provide an Open Market with no barriers to free market activity. There are no licensing requirements, education requirements, or practices that interfere with people participating. Our Open Market does create some competition and you do have to join the pmNERDS community to participate, but membership is free. In an Open Market, there is a difference between barriers to entry and costs of entry.

Barriers to entry are imposed upon a market process. Because they are a political phenomenon, they’re unrelated to the cost (in terms of resources used) of a particular product. Unlike costs of entry, barriers can prevent value-added enterprises from satisfying unmet needs. They’re an unnecessary obstacle. i.e. PMI certification, college degrees, licenses or other certifications. In GrandView, we aim to remove or at least reduce the impact of traditional barriers to entry.

Costs of entry are also an important part of the market process. They represent the scarcity of both time, supply of innovation assets, and trained resources. Our community addresses some of this. Collaboration on the development of assets can further reduce these entry barriers. Our aim, is to reduce these barriers until the only barrier is your time investment. It’s true, if you decide to, you can accelerate time to value by investing in training to move your enterprise ahead faster.

Because GrandView is an Open Market, there are no barriers to entry, in political terms and financial terms. The only, not so political requirement, is community membership. This is necessary for security and member identification. It is through your membership that we identify who develops what, and who to pay.

You might be asking yourself, is GrandView going to be a competitive market, of course. There is a presence of competition and self-interest among individuals, but we also recognize there is a blurry line between competition and cooperation. The concept of cooperation is embedded in the meaning of the word “compete.” A valid meaning of competition would be "to aim at together," "to try to reach together," and "to strive after together." While teams and virtual companies are cooperating with each other to take a new product or service to market, individuals compete by developing competitive innovation assets. There is a competitive advantage to the person who creates assets more efficiently with higher levels of perceived value. More of their assets will be purchased and used in tangible products that are sold. Each individual develops a brand or reputation. Their assets may carry higher perceived value, and are sold at higher prices.

In GrandView, we want people to be competitive, since competition creates the best products to meet the needs of the customer, but also be cooperative. The type of cooperation implicit within competition does not require that competitors be warm and friendly toward each other, but it does allow them to work together to create a better product. Cooperation gives us a situation in which the participants seek out win-win outcomes from working together. We want to think of GrandView’s Open Market as a blend of competition and cooperation.

Join the Community today and start learning how to build assets, contribute to the market, create virtual companies, sell to a global market, and generate personal revenue!

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Alden Ibbetson
I've actually been on those mountains! Love the picture! Who can I speak with to learn more information about grandview? When I go... Read More
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 11:56
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Blog Posts

“If I comment on blog posts,
then I contribute to the intellectual content of the community,
but this takes time and could be embarrassing.”

We have all heard that there is no such thing as a dumb question, and we have all heard a dumb question as well. If you feel you may have a dumb question, then just rephrase it. If your concerned about the “Deep sea fishing rights of teenagers?” you could ask, “What about teenagers?” and that may seem like a dumb question. I find that most dumb questions are really good questions, but suffer from poor abridgement. My advice is think about the context of your comment, but don’t give up on making the comment.

We need your questions, ideas, reactions, doubts and yes, even argument and rebuttals. The comments on the blog post is of much more value than the original post. Please help build this value by commenting on the posts. In our community, it’s the Conversation That’s King.

Now, where do these blogs come from? Our Integrated PM consultants, Course Designers and Instructors, Partners, Guests and Approved Bloggers all post blogs. This is an Open Community, and we want to hear from everyone. For security reasons, we do control who has access to posting a blog, but that shouldn’t constrain any members from commenting on existing blog posts.

Yes, there are some rules of etiquette that we hold everyone to, but rather than listing each expected behavior, I’d like to just say respect each other. We should be able express our thoughts without personally criticizing others. We must respect the right of others to express and even compete their thoughts and new ideas against our statements. But, never should we have to tolerate personal attacks. These will be promptly removed. If you would like to volunteer as a community Blogger, or Instructor reach out to us and we’ll get you started.

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Call For Papers

“If I write-up a study of our experiences with Integrated PM, then it could be published in the R&D Journal of Integrated PM, and be improved upon for all our benefit, but I don’t have the quantitative data that is expected in a scholarly R&D Journal.”

The difference between qualitative and quantitative studies is more than just levels of abstraction. Turns out acceptance is another difference. We need papers utilizing the power of qualitative assessments. Let me explain.

Integrated PM research is a project value realization activity, and project value realization is a philosophy concerning how to create competitive advantage using projects. As a philosophy, project value realization competes against other philosophies that make different prescriptions for business success. Notable among competitors to the project value realization philosophy are

  • the marketing philosophy (success comes from focusing on markets and customer’s needs to guide business decisions),
  • the innovation philosophy (success comes from technology leadership),
  • the quality philosophy (success comes from building the highest quality products),
  • and the financial philosophy (success comes from making the most efficient use of resources).

At pmNERDS, we believe that Integrated PM is a combination and acceptance of all these philosophies as essential parts of the entire system. Because Integrated PM research reflects an enterprise wide business philosophy, and because this philosophy focuses on learning, organization change may be required when the firm desires to improve its project’s performance with respect to Integrated PM research. Put another way, to be truly effective, Integrated PM research cannot be treated as an isolated function assigned to specialized staff. It must be a cultural orientation that suffuses the organization.

For Integrated PM research studies, the core competence is problem formulation skills. Most business situations do not present themselves as clearly delineated problems but as tangled messes that might be approached in a variety of ways. To succeed in an Integrated PM research study requires that the author clearly articulate the problem to be addressed and the specific kinds of information needed.

If someone was to pick up a project study you might think that factor analysis was a more important component of commercial Integrated PM research than focus groups. In fact, statistical techniques have their place, but are more likely to be seen in academic than commercial research contexts.

There are good historical and sociological reasons for the relative neglect of qualitative Integrated PM research techniques. First of all, the path to promotion and prestige in academic social science rests on the ability to master arcane statistical analysis. Ph.D. programs in projects and in supporting disciplines such as psychology and economics heavily emphasize training in statistics and associated mathematical subjects such as probability theory.

The best journals feature the most elaborate and advanced statistical treatments. Publication in such journals is sine qua non for promotion and tenure. As a result, most instructors teaching projects, particularly those teaching in the better graduate programs, owe much of their career success to their facility with and mastery of statistical analysis. It should come as no surprise if their course syllabi and the textbooks they choose also emphasize the analysis of quantitative project research data.

In IT, as in academia, there is also a bias towards quantitative data. In most technology firms, especially those that sell business to business, management staff consists of engineers and scientists. These are people whose career success may initially have rested on the mastery of the intricacies of the physics that underlie electrical engineering. This background leads quite naturally to a demand that Integrated PM researchers deliver precise numerical estimates.

Unfortunately, training in the physical sciences is not always a good preparation for training in the social sciences. Human data are different from physical data. Most notably, measurements on humans are subject to much greater uncertainty than the measurements taken on things, and are much more mutable- what is true today may not be true tomorrow, and what is true for this client may not be true for another client. Qualitative techniques are ideally suited to grappling with uncertainty and novelty.

In summary, the discipline needs Integrated PM research papers that corrects for the unequal and subordinate emphasis typically placed on qualitative techniques. Members of this community are in particular need of the potential benefits delivered by qualitative research. That is, technology managers, PMO Directors, Marketing Directors, are less familiar with non-quantified but disciplined social science research.

Perhaps more important, quantitative Integrated PM research techniques are often unsuitable for project markets, inasmuch as they may presume a sample drawn from a large homogeneous population (projects are most often fragmented and small), easy -to-explain product functionality (project products are complex), and a stable competitive and pricing environment (projects change rapidly). All these factors play to the strength of qualitative techniques.

Please then, don’t hesitate in submitting your research, there are additional blog posts that can help point you to research methods, and section editors who have volunteered to help bring your ideas to the rest of the community.

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Open Access Journals

“If I publish my research papers in the R&D Journal of Integrated PM, then other members of the community can base future research on my finding, but people outside our community won’t see it, and the benefit of publishing my studies is directly proportional to the number of other researchers reading it.”

You bet, there have been many different models for publishing journals containing research and development material. With electronic publication, we are no longer limited to a single publishing model, and it appears that for the foreseeable future a variety of different publishing models will operate in parallel. While still accounting for only a fraction of the overall scholarly publishing system, there are currently in excess of 2,700 Open Access Journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals. OA Journals operated by groups of colleagues, will never be the dominate form of scholarly publishing; but at the same time their numbers continue to grow, as does the quality of material they contain and their acceptance among scholars.

One of our reasons for going this direction is to provide information access to those who otherwise would not have the resources to acquire such resources. One of the most striking differences between paper and electronic publication is the cost of distribution. For paper journals, the cost of distributing each copy is significant and the only practical means of funding these journals is through subscription fees. With electronic distribution, the cost of dissemination disappears, making it possible to distribute journals freely to anyone who wants to access them and find other means of funding the operation of the journal. Calls for distributing at no cost and finding other means of funding began almost as soon as journals appeared in electronic formats.

The R&D Journal of Integrated PM is built on an open access journal framework which provides access to the OAJ community and is part of a global network of indexed journals, and can be accessed at most universities worldwide. There are five main purposes for pmNERDS to sponsor this R&D Journal on Integrated PM.

1) Most would agree that OAJ provides the most comprehensive, up-to-date and authoritative archive of information in a given scholarly field. Obviously, the accuracy and quality of the material contained in this archive is of central importance. Peer review services are one of the most important mechanisms for validating the information contained in these journals.

2) Communication among professionals working in the same field is another important objective. Within the Center of Excellence, Communication is King. The R&D Journal provides the foundation for that initial discussion which leads the practices of both innovation and learning.

3) The Journal also plays an important role in maintaining community standards on how research and practice development are conducted.

4) Recognition and reward might seem unimportant to some, put the submission of papers would justifiably stop if there wasn’t a benefit for doing so. The distribution and acknowledgement of achievement is an important role of the R&D Journal

5) Not all the information in the Journal strictly focuses on scholarly research. The Journal also acts a means of tying our Center Of Excellence together. The Open Access Journal provides many benefits to the community and the research contributor. We are constantly adding new capabilities to the journal in terms of submission process automation, reviewing, publishing, and distributing content. Feel free to reach out and volunteer to review submitted articles, and proofread submissions.

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IT to help in Market Sensing

In the past, IT has been only a support function to the firm's innovation value chain, where as today we're seeing an increasing number of primary innovation activities being performed by IT. Peter F. Drucker forecasted this trend more than 20 years ago (in his paper titled 'The Coming of the New Organization' 1988), and we're seeing the forecasted trend take shape in reality more and more every day.

InformationWeek Feb 11, 2013 identified what they call the 'Spend Trend'. Since December, 2009 we've seen this trend fueled by the rise of social media's importance to marketing. In the year when marketing budgets were being cut by as much as 50%, we saw 30% rises in social media spending! Yes, looking back, that was the elbow of this trend.

InformationWeek published the results of a survey, I believe to have been conducted by the CMO Council State of Marketing 2012, of more than 550 senior marketing executives.

They stated, "IT leaders must map what marketing does these days to the emerging technology that backs various functions." Clearly putting IT in a support role within the Innovation Value Chain. That's not to say InformationWeek sees IT in only a support role. They went on to observe the following conditions.

At pmNERDS we have recognized similar trends since 2009. We thought a few follow-up questions might help illuminate what we refer to as the 'grey-line' role. This is a new role performing the activities found in a grey area; being influenced by modern trends and causing role migrations in both directions from the Business Analyst and the Product Manager to a grey-line role in the middle. We surveyed 700 Business Analysts and 700 Product Managers at the beginning of 2013, trying to identify the top activities being performed by the grey-line role.

It appears the migration of the business analyst to the grey-line role within an innovation team isn't complete yet, but the trend is still in progress.

The migration of the Product Manager to a grey-line role within an innovation team is less far along if you look at the Product Manager moving toward the grey-line role, other research shows the main trend is for Product Management to be moving in the opposite direction. In any case, certainly there is a grey area where the activities of the Business Analyst and the Product Manager overlap.

We believe that at least in the near term, the role of Business Analyst and Product Manager will become a more specialized role of data synthesis, and a new role (the grey-line role) found within the Innovation Team will be the Information Specialist that Peter F. Drucker saw, who specializes in the gathering and analyzing enterprise, customer, and market data.

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The Great Migration

Is it a melting pot? Is it a unified group who stay true to their origins? It's too early to say.

Really kind of an exciting period to be alive.

One thing for sure is that the roles surrounding product innovation are changing. All industries are being impacted, and the world landscape will never be the same. Old business objectives for these roles are merging with objectives of other roles. Yes, in some ways there is a melting pot, in other ways differences between the roles seam to never change. Over the last 25 years, my colleagues and I have observed this migration of roles. Some of the great leaders of the last century could predict this migration, but weather you saw it looking forward as they did, or if you are now seeing it for the first time, this is a global migration.

You don't want to see this migration in hind sight; having been left behind, not even recognizing it as it passed you by.

In this migration, disciplines coming from very different backgrounds come together to form what Peter Drucker predicted would be the 'Knowledge Specialist'. It turns out that there are at least two types of 'Knowledge Specialists', involved in product innovation today.
There are those who take enterprise data and using analysis break down the data into its basic form and then with statistical analysis, simulation, and animation help interpret that data into meaningful and useful ways. People who come from asset management, financial management, document management, access management, resource management, demand management, client management, project management, performance management, change management, business information, and portfolio management are now migrating into this new product innovation support role. This is one of two destinations within the great migration. Even within each of these disciplines, the original starting point can be all over the map. As IT organizations become more centralized, they are able to leverage information and resources across the enterprise, product-lines, and product assets to gain cost-efficiencies.

The other type of 'Knowledge Specialist' who is now called an 'Information Specialist' focuses on the synthesis of information and insight provided by the Knowledge Specialist. This person takes the available information, adds to it by making decisions that produce various product information assets. People who come from business analysis, systems engineering, product management, product marketing, product owner, product strategist, operations manager, field marketing, customer support, and client services are now migrating into this new primary role of product innovation. As the second destination of the great migration, the original starting point maybe slightly more focused than the one mentioned above, but the training and experience of these people is just as varied and different. These 'Information Specialist' tend to cluster around one product as opposed to the 'Knowledge Specialists' who is leveraged across the enterprise. The other difference between these two roles is that where as the 'Knowledge Specialist' focuses on cost savings, the 'Information Specialist' is about product differentiation and increased value. Not always, but most of the time, investors find these two objectives pulling on each other, and requiring a balance.

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The Bandwagon, and Why Jumping On It Isn’t Always a Good Idea

It’s safe to say that everyone has jumped on a bandwagon at some point in their life. I can even say that, and I’m usually very leery of them, often times turning my back to them as they roll on by. But whether the bandwagon is for a person, sports team, a product, political movement, social movement or anything else really - we have all jumped on a bandwagon at some point in our life. And how can we not? We are constantly bombarded by dramatic headlines trying to lure us onto one.

Do any of these look familiar?

“Jeremy Lin’s Rise to the Top!”

“Everyone is losing weight on the south beach diet!”

“Celebrities jumping on the Kony Bandwagon.”

Neither good nor bad in their own right, but all of these stories are just a few examples of major bandwagons which have swept through headlines gathering momentum and a devoted audience worldwide.

Sounds pretty good right? If you are the person or product the bandwagon is all about, why wouldn’t you want it? Well I can think of a few reasons, but first want to look at what exactly is behind the bandwagon effect in the first place.

For the most part we are a species that likes to conform and feel more powerful in numbers. And we also feel more comfortable when making choices based on information we get from those we know and trust. When you are looking to buy something new – are you more willing to trust what a friend says about a product, or what the product pamphlet tells you? And that’s really the basis for any bandwagon which starts to roll – and the probability of adoption increases with the rate of overall acceptance by those we know and trust. If we see someone we know and trust liking something, promoting something,
defending something, then we will also feel compelled to do so – so much so that we will start to accept and promote things without even understanding what is underneath the surface initially presented. We attach to things without the supporting information – but what we’re really attaching to is the emotional wave of groupthink that is carrying it.

But are bandwagons always successful? Is becoming a fad or trend something a product should aim for? Some might say yes, or that it can’t really hurt - that they want the buzz, the quick revenue, the market’s quick devotion.

But I’m not so sure I agree. To me, bandwagons aren’t really built that well and usually fall apart soon after they start to roll. Remember that they aren’t built on market need, but mostly on emotion and surface level information received from others – so while bandwagons may form quickly, they often crash just as quickly, usually tossing the person, product, or movement they were built for into a ditch on the side of the road. Does anyone really follow Jeremy Lin anymore? And how often do people stay attached to the bandwagon team they cheered for through a playoffs series?

And there are those that say ‘who cares they enjoyed their time in the spotlight’ – and fair enough, they certainly did. But can that same attitude be applied when looking at the impact of the bandwagon effect to an actual product being sold in the market? In a competitive market, companies are always chasing each other – looking for the differentiation that will give them a competitive advantage. And then once that is found, everyone else scrambles to imitate it, fearing the impact on their bottom-lines if they don’t – in other words, they jump on the bandwagon. As an example, let’s take a look at how the introduction of the iPad impacted the market and Apple’s competitors. Once the iPad launched, many companies followed in imitation with their own version of a tablet. But what happens when quickly jumping on a bandwagon does not align with a company’s brand or strategy? Continuing with the iPad example, let’s look at how this affected RIM. By jumping on the tablet bandwagon, Blackberry seemed to have only damaged their brand further – both by jumping too quickly with a product that wasn’t comparable or competitive, but also with a product that did not necessarily align with the needs of their target market.

And looking internally within a company, what about the bandwagon effect within an actual product development lifecycle? Remembering that the foundation for the bandwagon effect is the desire to feel part of a group, does this sometimes stop us from halting the development of a product that shouldn’t go to market? Does the momentum of all working towards a common development goal, of supporting the group we work with, sometimes blind us to whether or not that goal is the one we should really be working towards? I certainly think it’s possible.

In summary, jumping on a bandwagon can often be a short and bumpy ride that often ends with a crash – and in product management, it can potentially take a company’s brand and market position with it.

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