Giddy, Dawson’s new venture, connects product managers and entrepreneurs to smash the status quo.
Back in episode 110 we learned about FirstBuild, the innovation lab of GE Appliance. It allows them to test ideas and solve problems that would be considered too small or risky by GE Appliance.
They have built a platform that is fueled by an open community of consumers and problem solvers.
What would happen if that capability was used by other companies to tackle any type of product concept? That is what Taylor Dawson is discovering. When I talked with him in episode 110 he was the Product Evangelist for First Build. Now he is the CEO of Giddy, who is providing a First Build capability to any large company. That is like being able to create a successful innovation lab overnight without actually building one.
This also means that Giddy will be deepening and rapidly increasing their own learning started at First Build. That makes them the leader for the rest of us to learn from.
Specifically, in this discussion you will discover:
- Why it’s important but almost impossible for large organizations to innovate like a startup.
- The advantages of an open innovation lab.
- What makes the FirstBuild innovation lab a success — which are ideas to help your organization be more innovative.
- The benefits of leveraging Giddy for increasing product success.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
- [2:38] What is FirstBuild and why did GE Appliance decide to create it? We were interested in doing innovation more like a startup, drawing from the book “The Lean Startup” and Eric Ries. We tried something called Fast Works and didn’t get the results that we wanted, plus we were met with a lot of resistance that prevented progress. In light of that, we set up a micro-factory, which allowed us to build 1-1,000 of any appliance we could imagine. We called it First Build. We opened the micro-factory up to the community at large around open innovation. With this playbook in hand, we set a goal to launch 12 products per year — going from mind to market in only three months. This approach allows us to quickly find out where the market is and support products that are growing while getting rid of those that aren’t.
- [7:32] One example of this is the Paragon cooking system. What is that and how does it illustrate this open innovation concept? The concept is based around equilibrium and temperature. You set the desired temperature, then place your food in a bag and submerge it in water. When it’s finished, every molecule will be at that temperature. When we released it, there were already other competitors in the marketplace. What we brought to the table was adding Bluetooth technology that we’d already used in other appliances. We’re now looking at ways to have the cooktop communicate with the pan so you’ll know exactly what temperature everything is. We started with one area and found there’s a great market for temperature control in the kitchen.
- [10:19] What are some of the traps that prevent companies from innovating? A lot of the things we’re doing are not that unique when taken on their own. What really sets FirstBuild apart are the values behind that work. Confidentiality is one of those values because ideas should be protected. Another one is that most companies only go after big opportunities and ignore the rest. The other value is the well-worn process of deciding which projects should be funded. We realized that those principles that help companies become successful also hold them back from innovation.
- [13:00] How does FirstBuild avoid those traps? First, we opened up our process. Anyone can come and see what we’re doing at any time, which defies traditional confidentiality. If you have an idea that you’re trying to build support for in the marketplace, there’s no sense in hiding it. Great ideas die in the dark. We’re also not interested in going after the big markets; we’ll let GE Appliances take care of that. We deliberately decided to go after the early adopter market. We want to make a profit in the first 1,000-10,000 units and judge the possibility of moving these products into the mass market. We also say that we’re not going to spend a lot of money to get these products off the ground. Most of the products we launch are failures and that’s okay because we don’t have a lot of resources invested in them. This flies in the face of the skill set that most product managers develop. It makes you feel uncomfortable, but you can use that feeling to your advantage when it comes to innovation. It’s all about learning.
- [19:42] FirstBuild is now branching out into something called Giddy. What is it? Giddy is phase two in what we think will be a long journey. When we started FirstBuild, we found that there was a lot of interest from people wanting to know how we did it. Giddy will be partnering with other companies to help them build their own micro-factories and maker spaces. We’ll also connect innovators with product developers who can help bring their ideas to market. It’s a software platform that connects the product development community with companies that are looking for new product concepts.
- [21:45] How could a large company utilize Giddy? This is a great way to utilize those ideas that you don’t know what to do with. Companies are great at maintaining the status quo, and these divergent ideas don’t always fit into it. We can help them figure out a way to find another line of value to add to their portfolio. A company can come to us with a problem; we’ll help you write a design brief and create a challenge for our innovation community. You’ll select a winner and take that idea forward on the next steps to production.
- [23:42] How do you know the Giddy model will work? The most valuable interaction we had with the community at FirstBuild was when we issue a challenge to create a new product concept. The Opal Nugget ice maker is a great example of that. We started the product development through a design challenge only 120 days before we launched the crowdfunding campaign. We said to our community that we’d heard a lot of interest around nugget ice and we asked people what a countertop nugget ice maker should look like and gave them three weeks to come up with an idea. The winning design had a clear pitcher on the front so you could show off the ice and help tell the story of the Opal brand. The time from start of the challenge to first prototype was 6-8 weeks. We made a video of that prototype and put it on IndieGogo and the rest is history. We see this model working well for other companies. Most companies struggle with getting enough creative concepts up front because they have limited staff resources. The Giddy community changes that.
- [31:52] Who is the likely candidate for Giddy from the innovator side? We have users across the spectrum. One example is a biomedical engineer who currently works for a large corporation but has a few other ventures he’s working on. He has a lot of ideas but doesn’t have the capacity to do anything else with them. Giddy is a way for him to think about new things and meet like-minded people. Another example is an industrial designer who is a few years into their career and is looking for some more variety in the work they’re doing.
- [33:58] What about from the company side? We want to make innovation accessible to “the rest of us.” These are entrepreneurs with great ideas, but limited resources. Being able to team up with passionate people is huge for them. Giddy will have different levels of participation from individuals all the way up to Fortune 500 companies.
“Wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown.” – Kevin Kelly, 1997
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it.