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    2013 Is the Year of Innovation: Learn How to Lead Innovation

    Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity. -Michael Porter, Strategy Guru

    Innovation has been a buzz word for a few years. Not only is it still part of the business lexicon, it is increasingly recognized as the key driver of economic growth and job creation. As an innovation enabler, equipping organizations and individuals with the knowledge, processes, and tools to transform ideas into products, I was recently interviewed on the Product Management Talk radio show. An archive is available at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/prodmgmttalk/2013/01/14/how-ideas-become-products-managing-innovation. 

    Below are a few related topics in question and answer (Q&A) format from the discussion concerning why innovation is now critical and how you can learn to be an innovation leader.

    Q. What is your perspective on innovation?

    A. My focus of innovation is in the classic business sense—new product development that transforms ideas into market-winning products.

    Q. How have economic difficulties impacted innovation in organizations, and what has changed as a result?

    A. As the economy slowed, organizations moved to defensive positions. The focus was on survival, and cost cutting has often been the key organizational strategy. While some organizations continued innovation efforts, the cultures of many organizations shifted and emphasis was on current revenue instead of future revenue produced from new product development. While many organizations consciously made this trade-off, there was an unintended consequence, which is a shortage of innovation talent. Organizations were not rewarding individuals for innovation and new product development. Consequently, many younger employees are not familiar with innovation practices, and as baby boomers retire, there has been a decline in those who can lead innovation efforts.

    Q. Do you see a shortage of innovation talent today?

    A. Yes. Because of the economic conditions discussed above, there are fewer people who can contribute to and lead innovation projects. Organizations have researchers, scientists, engineers, and developers who are critical for creating new products, but the facilitators and executors are less present. Further, this comes at a time when innovation is now critically important. Organizations have survived the last few years by focusing on their cash cows, cutting cost, and increasing productivity. Cash cows can produce large revenues at high margins but they won’t last forever in the marketplace. Eventually these products reach the end of their maturity curve and decline in the market. New products are needed to replace the revenue. Further, many organizations have been successful with their strategies to survive the economic downturn and have large cash reserves, some of which will be used for new product development.

    Q. Is this why 2013 is the year of innovation?

    A. We are at or nearing a tipping point. Innovation is the driver of economic prosperity and job creation. Organizations recognize their need for new products and they have the financial resources to make investments in innovation. I have seen recently seen a drastic increase in individuals and organizations seeking the tools and knowledge to lead and participate in new product development projects.

    Q. How does someone become an innovation leader?

    A. There are two internationally recognized professional organizations that have collected the body of knowledge for new product development and innovation. Both also offer professional certification that helps individuals and groups stand out in their organizations as innovation leaders. The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) has the New Product Development Professional (NPDP) certification, which reflects six areas critical for new product developers and product managers to understand. The Association of International Product Marketers and Managers (AIPMM) offers the Certified Innovation Leader (CIL) credential for professionals involved in and responsible for product development and innovation management. I helped to lead the team that developed the CIL credential for AIPMM. Both the NPDP and CIL are excellent bodies of knowledge to know and the certifications are valuable resume enhancers. Both are further explained on my website: http://www.productinnovationeducators.com.

    Q. What subject do you teach at Kaplan University and how do you integrate innovation topics into the classroom?

    A. I teach information technology (IT) project management for Kaplan University. The purpose of IT is to create business opportunities and solve problems—both require innovation. I also encourage my students to learn more about innovation by getting involved and following the discussion of the two leading professional groups on LinkedIn. They can be found by searching for “Product Development & Management Association” and “Association of International Product Marketing & Management” in LinkedIn groups.

    About the Author

    Chad McAllister, PhD is an innovation enabler, equipping organizations and individuals with the knowledge, processes, and tools to transform ideas into products. As Chad’s career progressed through engineering, product development, business development, professional service, marketing, sales, and executive team roles, with experience in start-ups and ultra-large organizations, he has gained a rather rare holistic perspective of business that he gladly shares with others. The common thread throughout these roles has been product development and innovation, with over 25 years of experience. In addition to teaching for the University, he provides innovation training and consulting.

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