Five behaviors of great product managers and innovators
In this discussion we visit two topics—one to help you be more successful personally and another to help your organization be more successful. The first examines five behaviors to be a better innovator. The second is breaking through barriers in your organization that limit innovation and the effectiveness of product managers.
Our guest for this discussion is Scott Anthony, a Senior Partner at Innosight, based in the firm’s Singapore office. If you are unfamiliar with Innosight, this is the innovation consultancy created by Clayton Christensen, the father of disruptive innovation and Harvard Business School professor.
The insights that Scott shares with us are from a new book he co-authored with a title that is perfect for this podcast—Eat, Sleep, Innovate. As Everyday Innovators, we see innovation opportunities each day, and that notion is conveyed well in the Eat, Sleep, Innovate title too!
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[4:28] How do you define innovation?
Innovation is something different that creates value. It’s purposely a broad definition. “Something” can be more than just new products or technology; it can also be new ways to market, new ways to organize meetings, etc. “Different” reminds us that while big leaps forward are great, you can also make something different by simplifying or making it more accessible. “Creates value” means that innovation isn’t just the idea; you have to do something with it to increase revenue, profits, engagement, etc.
[5:04] What are the five basic behaviors of innovators?
- Curious—questioning status quo
- Collaborative—if you want a great idea, you need to work at the intersections
- Customer-obsessed—so you can find problems worth solving
- Adapted to ambiguity—because every idea is partially right and partially wrong
- Empowered—you can’t innovate until you go and do something
[5:35] What are some hacks for being better innovators?
[5:47] Hacks for being curious: Make it a regular habit to ask prompting questions that can open up avenues for innovation. Stay positive. Reframe worries as opportunities.
[8:37] Hacks for being collaborative: When you’re solving a problem, find someone who’s already solved it. You might find a source related to a different context, but once you have inspiration you can bring it to your context.
[10:53] Hacks for being customer-focused: Increase the amount of time you spend with customers. If you don’t understand what your customer values, you run the risk of innovating for innovation’s sake; you’ll come up with something cool that no one cares about. Great innovators have an empathetic understanding for the person they’re trying to serve. Understand the job they’re trying to get done or the problem they’re having. Use the many available tools to help you understand the problems you’re solving.
[13:25] Hacks for being adapted to ambiguity: Follow an emergent strategy, meaning you discover truth through controlled experimentation. Early in innovation, your idea will be a little bit right and a little bit wrong, and you won’t know which part is which. The tendency is to solve this analytically, but you’ll make assumptions and miss something. Instead, recognize the few things you know and the many assumptions you’re making, and find the most effective and efficient way to experiment. Experiments don’t have to be complicated. Look for low-risk ways to test your idea. Create models or simulations.
[18:11] Hacks for being empowered: Ask forgiveness, not permission. Figure out how to do stuff in a scrappy way in a constrained environment. Get other people behind you by telling the story of why your idea is compelling.
[22:06] What are tools for overcoming barriers to innovation?
Defeat the shadow strategy with BEANs. The shadow strategy comes from institutionalized inertia, which is the enemy of innovation. Innovation is doing something different that creates value, but organizations aren’t wired to do something different; they’re wired to do what they are currently doing better. They perpetuate today rather than create tomorrow. Even if your intended strategy is to do completely different things, the shadow strategy is causing you to make decisions to keep doing the same thing.
Defeat the shadow strategy by planting a BEAN—a behavior enabler, artifact, and nudge. A behavior enabler is a tool that helps you consciously think about changing your behavior—it could be a ritual, checklist, or community. Artifacts and nudges remind you to change behaviors that you do without thinking. In our book, we have 101 different BEANs that encourage innovative behaviors. Some of my favorite BEANs are:
[25:28] Adobe Kickbox: Participants in the Kickbox program get a physical box with behavior enablers like checklists, and artifacts and nudges like stories about people who have used the Kickbox, and a $1000 prepaid debit card.
[26:16] OXO glove collection: The kitchen equipment company OXO has an artifact of lost gloves to remind themselves that their customers have all different hand shapes. It’s a visual reminder that they need to think about their customers when they’re designing products.
[27:01] Open innovation at DBS Bank: Over the past few years, DBS Bank transformed into a digital pioneer. They used BEANs to encourage open innovation. As their chief data and transformation officer and co-author of the book says, You can only change what your company does if you change what your people do. BEANs are so simple, but if you systematically encourage specific behaviors, it works.
[29:02] Shine a spotlight on what’s working: Rather than trying to find problems to fix, look for how you’re already being innovative and do more of it. Realize that you already have innovation stories and replicate those.
Action Guide: Put the information Scott shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Eat Sleep Innovate on Amazon or at EatSleepInnovate.com
- Visit Innosight’s website
- Connect with Scott on LinkedIn or Twitter
“For every one of our failures, we had spreadsheets that looked awesome.” – Scott Cook
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 using the social media buttons you see below.