In the fall of 2008, I took a class titled “Managing Technological Innovation”. It was one of my favorite classes, partly because of the professor, and partly because of the ambiguous content. I’m an engineer by undergrad training, so I’m familiar with structure, rigidity, black-and-white answers. I quickly learned that business isn’t like that (in previous classes, yes, but more so in this class). I started the master’s program with the ability to see that there are shades of gray, and classes like this help me reinforce that learning.
In any event, the semester-long project for this class was great: pick a topic, find another class member who digs your topic, and go into the deep end. The ground rules were simple: it had to have a management component, it had to be around technology, and it had to be innovative. So, it was seemingly broad and easy, but also so broad, it was hard to pick a specific topic.
I was lucky: I had a topic about which I was passionate (social networking) and a great project partner, Katrina Gosek. Katrina blogged about this already, so for a full understanding, read both posts. Our project topic revolved around the idea of brands really wanting to get knowledge from the end-customers, but not really doing anything about it. Or, trying to set up some sort of funnel, but not getting the information in that funnel to the right people. We thought, ‘what if there was a way to get this great customer feedback, real-time, right into R&D and marketing to make the adjustments? What if it didn’t sit in an unmanaged queue, doing nothing , but costing a lot to procure? What if we could use social networks and social media to manage innovation?’ We set out to model such a business process. We essentially created a loose business plan (minus the profit/loss numbers) that describes this.
Here’s the backdrop…
The Problem: Meet Brand 1.0. It’s a “traditional” brand that does not see the direct link from technology to user social networks and thereby mismanaging innovation within its organization. Brand 1.0 creates a product and pushes out a message about that product. It assumes that it knows its customers and that its customers will receive the message and the product as Brand 1.0 intended. Brand 1.0’s command-and-control strategy all too often leads its products to failure once they reach the marketplace — or, if the product is a success, Brand 1.0 can’t put its finger on why. “What just happened?”, Brand 1.0 often asks, “Aren’t we in control of the message about our product? Aren’t we in control of our Brand’s reputation?” Meanwhile, the blogosphere is abuzz with how bad the product is — or, alternatively, the product takes off and is a success, breaking all sales projections. “You’re not in control anymore, Brand 1.0”, the blogosphere, replies. In either case, Brand 1.0 has lost control of its message and its product’s reputation. How can Brand 1.0 get its reputation back? How does Brand 1.0 become Brand 2.0 (a brand that does leverage social networking and social media) and meet its customer where they are?
To watch a 90-second video that captures the essence of this issue, go here to launch the video in your browser. Then, watch the 60-second video that we created as the solution. The remaining pages describe the detail behind this entire idea, including: internal and external value; value engineering; related technology streams; the entire ecosystem of players; and even a suggested management team.
Disagree with anything you read here? Let me know in the comment section. Like what you see? Let me know that, too.