I don’t think I am alone in this, but 2019 feels like a lifetime ago. It was August of that year that we first introduced our Product Innovation Quotient, a tool to help organizations assess their product innovation capabilities. Since then, our thinking has evolved—and so has the assessment.
Today, we have a more robust assessment that is still simple to complete and understand—and digital. We’ve renamed it the Product Innovation Maturity Diagnostic. You can take the assessment on our website. We’ll send you the results via email once your scores are calculated by our team.
A Model for Product Innovation
Modern product innovation and management is an organization-wide competency – not a single person’s job.
With this in mind, we created an organization-wide model - what we call the Productize Pathway - for how to develop and bring products to market successfully. It encompasses activities from data analysis, market research, finance, product development, sales and marketing.
We've created the Vecteris Product Innovation Maturity Diagnostic to measure your competencies across the six phases of the Productize Pathway:
Few teams are strong across all phases of the Productize Pathway. Knowing ahead of time where you may need help (either in resources or in training) will help save you time and money allowing you to reach success faster.
We designed the Product Innovation Maturity Diagnostic to walk you through each stage, outline best practices and help you determine which areas you should focus on improving first.
It is so much easier to innovate new products or services when we stop trying to be perfect.
This can be really hard for those of us who have perfectionist tendencies. If you are familiar with the Enneagram, which is a personality framework, I am a “One.” The One-type is literally named the “Perfectionist”. The upside is very high standards, commitment to improvement and strong internal drive. But it also has a strong downside.
For example, many organizations lose money on new product development or get lapped by competitors because they take too long getting a product to market. Worse, they invest too much time and money in a product with a poor market fit. These organizations often use long waterfall development processes with “stage gates” to advance to the next investment level. It can take many months, if not years, before they start receiving real market feedback on their ideas.
Successful product innovators adopt a more rapid, experimental approach to product development and develop a test-and-learn mindset in their new product teams. This approach comes from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, which posits that iterative, agile techniques should replace traditional, linear waterfall development or R&D stage gates. Ries saw similarities between the more agile, iterative way of operating and the Toyota Production System, known as Lean Manufacturing. Hence the name “Lean Startup.”
Ries proposes that organizations adopt a MVP or Minimum Viable Product approach to product development. An MVP is defined as “the smallest experiment that either proves or disproves [our] assumptions about a business idea.” Ries calls it a “build, measure, learn loop.” Breaking that down we:
It allows us to test our products in real life with real buyers and users to validate their core value. The MVP is a version of our product (or product idea) with the right balance of features to satisfy early customers and provide learning. It contains the minimum number of cost-effective features to deploy while fundamentally allowing us to test our product and validate the product’s core value.
A real-life example of the MVP in action comes from Vecteris client, The Garage Group. The Garage Group is a consulting organization with decades of experience helping big companies innovate like startups. In 2020, they set a goal to use technology to scale their services to a broader audience.
Their MVP brought together their experience and their intellectual property into a five-module Entrepreneurial Learning Program. Since its launch in August of last year, they have worked through several “build, measure, learn” loops to better understand positioning, pricing, and packaging. By bringing an MVP to market faster, they got real, in-market feedback on the product’s need with a minimum investment. Now, they can quickly iterate for further development.
MVP tests like these are designed to prove or disprove a wide range of hypotheses about the product, such as technical feasibility, market demand, or pricing. (If you want to learn a little more about MVPs, you can check out our blog: What Kind of MVP is Right for You ).
The point is that our products do not have to be perfect to go to market. A Lean Startup approach is a new way of working for many of us. But the payoff can be huge. A recent survey of 170 executives who work in R&D, strategy, and new product development roles at large public companies found agreement on several benefits of taking a test-and-learn product development approach:
Many leaders and organizations struggle to adopt this approach because it means changing what we mean by “done.” It also requires building our capabilities to quickly collect, aggregate, interpret and apply customer feedback to the MVP (and future versions) to evolve our product as quickly as possible. Testing and learning at speed takes a lot of work. It takes highly specialized analytical skills and a deep understanding of smart product development. This is where many organizations benefit from outside help.
Find out what to look out for next when innovating new products and services in 2021. Read our white paper on the Top 7 Product Innovation Mistakes to Avoid in 2021.
Organizations that struggle with new product innovation typically don’t fail because their leader isn’t a visionary. It’s not that the team isn't creative or smart. It's because, as humans, we favor routine. Innovation takes most of us outside our comfort zones and often requires new skills and behavior change.
Before we start working with organizations on creating processes to support innovation, we encourage the leadership team to first examine their culture and skill sets to make sure that they have the people and environment to be successful. Or, what we call focusing on people before processes.
Here are the 7 things we recommend leaders do:
1. Start with a Strong, Well-Articulated Vision
The CEO and leadership team must first articulate a strong, clear vision for the innovation strategy. A great example of this comes from Jennifer McCollum of Linkage, Inc. Linkage is a leadership development consultancy that specializes in assessing, training, and coaching leaders. While the company had evolved over its 30-year history, it still relied on a people-intensive, highly customized services model. So, Jennifer began to develop a strategy of “productizing” its services to help the organization scale and grow.
Jennifer started by anchoring the organization around the ambitious vision of impacting leadership effectiveness and equity in 500 organizations by 2022. Setting this goal would require the organization to innovate and get out of the business of highly customized services. This very clear vision is memorable, measurable and is what is guiding the entire organization through a true transformation of its business model.
2. Plan for Behavior Change from the Top Down
While a strong vision is necessary, it is not enough. Leadership teams must also model innovation-friendly behavior. For example, the Linkage leadership team developed The Linkage Way, an outline of specific behaviors to help change company culture one behavior at a time.
Behaviors such as:
To help reinforce the behaviors, each week a member of the leadership team shared their experience witnessing or practicing one of the organizational behaviors. The Linkage Way is now rolling out company-wide. Employees from all divisions and at all levels share their experiences with The Linkage Way organizational behaviors on the internal chat board.
3. Hire and Develop the Right Skills
Organizations also need to acquire the right skills either through training and development or hiring. For example, bringing in new talent and also working with outside consultants and trainers to teach the rest of the team critical product innovation skills.
What do we mean by “product innovation” skills? These competencies include being able to:
We also recommend finding people who can work with uncertainty and doubt such as “Chaos Pilots,” a clever label for people who can “create structure within chaos and take action.”
4. Make Room for Diversity of Thought
Once organizations start to bring in new skills, we have to make sure that new hires don’t suffer “organ rejection” from the rest of the organization. When you commit to bringing in new skills, you also need to commit to welcoming and leveraging the diversity of experience and thought. We recommend investing in training leaders on how to practice inclusive behaviors including how to create “psychological safety” on teams. Read more about building an agile team in this Harvard Business Review article.
5. An Organizational Structure that Facilitates Collaboration and Agility
Even if organizations have brought in the right skills and are inclusively allowing these skills to flourish, functional silos can kill innovation. You can read more about this in The Silo Effect by Gillian Tett. Innovation tends to flourish in cross-functional teams because these teams have more diversity of perspective and can act more rapidly to develop and test product ideas.
6. Company-Wide Technical Acumen
For most organizations, “new product innovation” means using technology to create new products. As such, technical acumen, also known as digital fluency, is an incredibly important competency. Not just for our teams tasked with innovation but for the entire organization. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) describes the importance of digital fluency well: “If the growth in digital talent outpaces the ability of the rest of the workforce to keep up, the company as a whole will be left behind.”
7. A Test-and-Learn Mindset
Last, but definitely not least, organizations need to develop a test-and-learn mindset that is applied at every stage of the new product development process. Read more about this approach here.
A test-and-learn product design process is a new way of working for many of us. But the payoff can be significant. A recent survey of 170 executives who work in R&D, strategy, and new product development roles at large public companies found agreement on several benefits of taking a test-and-learn product design type of approach:
Consider asking for help
True innovation is hard but a necessity in a fast-changing environment. It requires getting outside of our comfort zones as well as new skills and behavior change. We are here to help.
Find out what to look out for next when designing tech-enabled services in 2021, read our white paper on the Top 7 Product Innovation Mistakes to Avoid in 2021.
We recently published a blog about how innovation thrives in uncertainty. Uncertainty introduces constraints which, in turn, force us to get scrappy and inventive. But many of our clients are concerned that it is hard to innovate and collaborate when many teams are still working from home.
Technology has made working remotely much easier. Tools such as Slack, Zoom, Google Drive, etc. improve communication and sharing. Tools for project management, such as Asana, Basecamp, Monday.com, give everyone a view of project status and needs. Tools for real-time visual collaboration, such as Miro and Mural, are effective for helping remote teams generate and build upon ideas in real-time.
For remote innovation, we use three types of tools: realtime whiteboards, collaboration apps and video/audio recording. Each allows our teams to connect and share ideas easily.
Tools such as Miro and Mural act like the whiteboard in your physical meeting space to help visually share ideas.
We use Miro with our clients but both tools are great. Both provide short YouTube videos to help you get started as well as plenty of templates to use. There are many features, which can feel overwhelming at first, but you won’t need most of them. I like that multiple team members can create together as if we were in the same room.
How we use Miro to co-create with clients.
A few months ago, when the world was different, we scheduled an in-person co-creation session for a client that is considering how to help nonprofits improve their earned revenue sales results. With COVID-19 putting a stop to travel and stole the opportunity to work face-to-face, we turned to Miro.
Thirteen people joined our Miro whiteboard to share their challenges, group challenges into categories, and vote on their most pressing challenges. It was fun to see collaboration happening live as sticky notes and dots flew across the screen. And the best part, after some productive discussion, it took only 20 minutes to identify and agree on three top challenges.
For the next session designed to focus on concept ideation, we gave the attendees homework to look for inspiration in other areas of their lives and bring it back to the group. They sent their inspiration to us in advance via email or text so that we could add it to our Miro workspace. We then used that inspiration to co-design new products or services that can solve the top challenges. During the actual session, the teams also drew their designs - in real life with markers on paper. They texted us a picture of their drawings which we also added to Miro for the other team members to see and discuss.
Miro gave us the capacity to interact at very near the same level as we could do in person. It did, however, take a little advance work to nail down the logistical and technical details.
To use new tools effectively, you need to prepare everyone.
We held mini-training sessions to make sure everyone could log on and get comfortable with Miro. We held ours immediately before jumping into the first session. We could have done one-on-one or small group sessions in the weeks leading up to the meeting date. We felt that this group would pick things up fast, and they did. But we kept a Miro cheat sheet in the Miro session (in a nearby “frame” as Miro calls it). Anyone could quickly refer to it if needed.
We also assigned Tool Champions who were there to support anyone who was struggling with Miro during the session. The Tool Champions didn’t need a bunch of extra training on the system to be good champions. Rather, they were people who were generally comfortable with technology and good problem solvers. We could have used a number of other team members, but we decided on champions who weren’t in the trenches so that no one felt torn between contributing and helping.
Use communication tools as a virtual water cooler
While we love structured innovation sessions, like the co-creation example above, we also know innovation develops organically all the time. For example, at the proverbial watercooler conversation when there is space for unstructured or casual conversations between colleagues. We can recreate the watercooler though, even in a virtual environment.
Using communication tools like Slack for team chats is a great way to create a space for banter and chit-chat that can lead to inspiration. At Vecteris, we have a channel for sharing life updates, inspirational quotes, jokes, and other non-project things so we can feel connected to each other. It’s in these conversations where people feel engaged with their team, serendipity can happen and new ideas blossom.
Slack also becomes the place where your team can quickly ask questions, come up with solutions much like you would walking out of a meeting or passing each other in the hallway. Teams can problem solve and connect in a shared virtual much like used to it a shared physical space.
Use recording tools to share learning (especially from customers)
A really good use of tools to support remote innovation came up recently in a peer group meeting. We host regular Product Leadership Peer Groups with product managers across a wide variety of industries to share ideas and talk through pressing issues. One of the product leaders talked about how great it has been meeting with customers on Zoom because lots of people can listen in live or playback the recorded call.
For product teams, hearing customer feedback is key to just about every stage of product innovation from ideation to iteration. Now they get the feedback firsthand, instead of through the reports from people who were in the meeting room. A few other people mentioned that they pass around recordings too because different people have different thoughts on what a customer says. The product manager isn't the one source of truth for customer feedback. It’s also great for motivation because the team gets to see how their work is benefiting the customers, company, etc.
If you aren’t a fan of Zoom, there are lots of recording tools out there like Otter.ai, Loom, and Ringr. Some of which can be used for non-video calls. Because, after all, not everything needs to be done over video. However you decide to record the call, just make sure you get the customer’s permission to do so.
But watch out, tools can also kill innovation.
Encourage employees to take advantage of the flexibility offered by remote working, not just clock time on the computer. That way they can work when they are most productive and creative. And as David Mack of SketchDec puts it, “When surrounded by Slack pings and deadlines on your laptop, it’s easy to be stuck in execution mode. Time spent with the express purpose of creating a list or doodle board of ideas is essential.”
In short, use tools well and wisely. Use them to bring ideas and people together, but don’t forget to give your team a place and the space to think.
There are a number of great resources out there to train staff on innovation if needed. Vecteris offers a Creating a Culture of Innovation Workshop to help leaders change the way they operate, organize, and think so they can create an environment where innovation flourishes. Let us know if you want to learn more.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear more about what you are doing now to encourage innovation remotely. What’s working? And what’s not?
The innovation I see right now truly is awe-inspiring. For example, distilleries making hand sanitizer, software companies reconfiguring software to help hospitals track and manage COVID-19 cases, massive in-person conferences going virtual, and restaurants turning into community kitchens to serve the needy. For all of the anxiety caused by the current health crisis, there is also a lot of creativity and innovation for doing good and keeping businesses afloat.
It’s interesting how a crisis – characterized by uncertainty and constraints – sparks so much innovation. When times are good, we often forget the proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention”. We mistakenly believe that more resources (time, money, talent) will help us innovate. But my current newsfeed, my client work, and the research all show that innovation can flourish in times like these.
For example, a meta-analysis published at the end of 2019 found that constraints help, rather than hinder, innovation. Oguz Acar, Murat Tarakci, and Daan van Knippenberg reviewed 145 empirical studies on the effects of constraints on creativity and innovation and found that individuals, teams, and organizations alike benefit from a healthy dose of constraints. In other words, the limits of time, money, and available materials that many of us are dealing with in the wake of COVID-19 should help us be more innovative.
As I’ve watched clients completely re-work their product roadmaps during the last three weeks, here are a few things I’ve observed about how to innovate well in a crisis:
1. Adjust Our Mindset
Innovating in a crisis requires shifting our mindset so we are not held back by fear. It is natural to have fear when there is massive uncertainty, revenue declines, and volatility. But fear is where innovation dies.
The good news is that there are specific behaviors that help us face, and move through, our fears. What I’ve observed, and personally experienced, is that we are better able to overcome our natural fears about the unknown when we do these four things:
2. Talk Directly to Customers
Innovation starts with identifying an urgent and expensive customer problem. There are many tools we can typically use to identify customer needs (surveys, focus groups, etc.). But our best tool right now is to directly talk to customers and end-users.
Speaking directly with customers is the fastest way to understand the challenges they are facing and what they need to address those challenges. People want to hear human voices now, too. I especially caution against email surveys, landing page or email testing right now because things are so chaotic that it might get lost in the noise. Instead, let’s use this time to talk to customers while also building connections.
3. Follow Your Process, Quickly
Just because we are in crisis does not mean we throw out good product innovation hygiene. We still need to validate the consumer need, test, and learn. We just massively fast cycle the process. Two-week sprints become one-week sprints (or less). The Director of the FDA recently spoke at a press conference where he said, “Innovation that normally takes years is being pushed to a month.” That doesn’t mean they are throwing due diligence out the door. They are just accelerating that diligence.
4. Build Flexibly
Once we start building a new product, the architecture should be as flexible as possible because things are shifting rapidly. For example, use a more modular architecture, place a premium on flexibility when making design decisions, and delay hard-coded decisions until products are tested.
I’d love to hear how your organizations are innovating despite having constraints and uncertainty– share some inspiration, please!
Many of the organizations we work with are founded by visionary leaders—people who can identify important customer problems and have the creative spark to deliver a successful solution to those problems.
Visionaries can communicate their great ideas and get people excited about them. While demonstrating exceptional resilience and adaptability as market needs change, new ideas seem to magically strike! It is exciting to work for a visionary as they can bring out the best in those around them by encouraging creativity and abstract thinking. And they have a knack for inspiring others to action.
But, at some point, these unique and special abilities can start holding companies back and, even, push loyal employees away. An excellent example of a visionary leader, or perhaps a caricature, is Elon Musk. As one of his former employees said about Tesla, "it was incredible," and "I’d never work there again."[i]
I am not going to speculate as to what it’s like to work for Mr. Musk. I can share, however, what I have heard from clients are the downsides from those who work for visionaries. Scope creep and turn-on-a-dime redirection, as the leader hops from idea to idea, is a common theme. They also talk about how visionaries get bored with the details and ignore the steps it takes to bring their ideas to fruition. Some around them start to feel defeated and exhausted.
Working with a visionary doesn't have to be a Jekyll and Hyde experience. If you’re someone who craves routine and order, and the constant barrage of ideas gives you a headache, you can still have a fantastic experience with a few simple tricks.
How to Work with a Visionary
1. Share their passion, enthusiasm, and drive
First and foremost, you have to want to be on this wild ride. The energy pushed out by your visionary leader will either drain you or invigorate you. For it to do the latter, you have to believe in the vision and be committed to delivering on it by providing the structure that is missing, which brings me to tips two and three.
2. Get clear on the criteria for moving forward
As discussed earlier, visionaries are the idea people, or more pointedly, they are often the LOTS of ideas people. While each one of their ideas could be a breakthrough innovation, rapidly moving from one idea to the next is not always practical or profitable. It’s important to have clear criteria on when to move forward with an idea and when to ignore it. To do so, you need to define how to prioritize the work, and then stick to it!
At Vecteris, we use a simple prioritization tool with clients that measures new product ideas in four areas:
With a simple calculation, we prioritize the ideas and have buy-in on what is most important. And we don't waver from the results. We trust the process to keep us focused on what's best for our business, so we don't get side-tracked, bogged down, or de-energized.
3. Give actionable plans with specific steps, job responsibilities, and deliverables
People with big vision often see the goal, but the steps to get there are glazed over. They can get bored with or lost in the process. The end goal won't matter, though, if no one takes the project to completion.
Our leadership team has built an action planning process upon which we can all rely. [ii] During our weekly executive team meeting we:
We do this quickly, using the standard green, yellow, red designation. Any problems get moved to the “issue solving” section of our agenda so we can brainstorm and decide upon a solution.
Throughout the week, our CEO and any other team members add new ideas, suggestions, or problems to our weekly executive team meeting agenda. At that meeting, we take the time to discuss, prioritize, and plan as needed.
This approach has brought about a couple of great results: first, our broader team doesn't get distracted by un-vetted ideas or frustrated by continually changing plans. Second, the executive team has the accountability needed to make sure we get the most important projects done without distraction.
Last but, definitely, not least is not so much a trick or strategy as it's a reminder:
4. Be comfortable being honest
In any healthy relationship, be it personal or professional, honesty is vital. Your organization should have a culture of psychological safety so that you feel comfortable being honest, saying no, and questioning an idea without confrontation. According to Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School researcher and award-winning author, psychological safety “is the belief that the environment is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”[iii]
We’ve worked hard as an executive team to build this safety with each other and with our team. We know each other, and each of our team members well. Some relationships started before Vecteris, but many did not. But we've purposefully built trust that is rooted in understanding.
Without this strength of relationship and psychological safety, we'd become, or we'd surround ourselves with, ‘yes, men' and ‘yes, women' who wouldn't be capable of helping us reach our goals.
Working with a visionary can either be the most rewarding or most damaging experience (or both, as that Tesla employee found). If you are working for one now, try these tips to make the most of the experience.
If you would like a copy of our prioritization tool and/or the executive meeting agenda we to keep us on track just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy to share!
When my partners and I launched Vecteris a year ago, our primary purpose was to create a place where we love to work. We wanted to create an environment that inspires innovation, fosters collaboration, and welcomes diverse working styles and talents.
To build the culture we want, we’ve spent a lot of time this first year defining our core values and making a commitment to live them.
Five recurring themes emerged: fearless, generous, creative, committed and inclusive. The most important value for us to embrace this first year has been fearless.
Our mission is to help organizations successfully innovate. And, to successfully innovate, the leaders that we work with have to overcome their own fears of failure and change.
Also, each of the co-founders overcame fear to start Vecteris. Personally, I left a rewarding job and a secure paycheck that provided stability for my family. I had to learn new skills associated with the day-to-day operations of running a consulting business, stretching me out of my comfort zone. I started tapping my network to land our first few clients, which could have put those relationships, and my professional reputation, at risk if we failed. The list of fears I have faced this past year is very, very long.
The problem is that fear is a natural, fundamental human emotion. It is easy to say "face your fears." The hard part is learning the behaviors that help us face, and move through, our fears.
Yet, here we are, celebrating a year of facing fears:
Through my client work, my research and my personal experience, I’ve learned that the behaviors that help us successfully face our fears are different than what one might typically think.
When you picture a leader who is “fearless” what do you envision? Perhaps someone decisive, with a clear plan, hard-charging, competitive, risk-taking?
What I’ve observed, and personally experienced, is that we are better able to overcome our natural fears about the unknown when we do these four things:
Listen, Especially to Our Intuition
The most fearless clients I’ve worked with are fantastic listeners. Not only do they listen to their customers and employees, they listen to their inner voice. Often times referred to as “gut instinct” or “founder’s intuition”, these leaders have an inner voice encouraging them to take the unknown path and these leaders are following that inner voice, not ignoring it.
I’ve had a regular yoga practice for ten years and a regular meditation practice for two years. Both have helped me tap into my inner voice by quieting the chatter of my mind. Hearing, and following, my inner voice has helped me clarify my purpose, see opportunity, and ease my fears about venturing into the unknown. I firmly believe that without my practice of yoga and meditation, I never would have launched Vecteris because my fears would have been louder than the inner voice telling me to follow this path.
And the research supports this. Tibetan monks, who have mastered meditation, were found by neuroscientists to have abnormally high levels of gamma brainwaves, which are associated with our ability to synthesize disparate bits of data, solve problems, heighten perception, and boost consciousness.[i]The study found that meditation can actually rewire the brain to make better connections and generate ideas.
Other research confirms that some kind of meditative practice, such as yoga, prayer, running, even taking a nice long bath, aids the brain’s process of idea incubation which means these breaks are a key ingredient to productivity and creativity.[ii]
Ask for Help
I’ve found that fear is best overcome when we ask for help. I’ve observed that my clients who are best able to guide their organizations through fear of the unknown will often state an intention to innovate without also communicating a concrete plan to achieve their vision. Instead, they ask others to help them figure out how to make the impossible possible.
I recently had a conversation with one of my CEO clients about how best to help the senior leadership team embrace a new product innovation idea. This CEO was frustrated that the team seemed resistant to the changes the innovation would require and was wondering how to proceed. We discussed two options:
The CEO chose the first approach – having the team own the plan – and, although it took longer, it ultimately ended in a more ambitious (and successful) product.
My personal leadership journey is similar to this CEO’s. For me, asking for help meant giving up the idea that I needed to have all of the answers. As a classic ‘smarty-pants’ overachiever this has not been easy.
I’ve had to resist the urge to leap in with all of my ideas at every opportunity. I had to go back to listening (see above!) and opening my mind to others’ ideas. I’ve also had to get much more comfortable leaning into debate or discomfort and staying there. Gary Pisano wrote a great article for HBR that covers this topic. In it, he explains why healthy collaboration and comfort in debate is essential to innovation. “If people are afraid to criticize, openly challenge superiors’ views, debate the ideas of others, and raise counter-perspectives, innovation can be crushed.”[iii]
Let Go of Perfectionism
It is easier to face our fears of failure when we accept that what we do does not have to be perfect.
Getting comfortable with ‘good enough’ has been a game changer for some of my clients who are trying to innovate. Brené Brown nailed it in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, when she said,
“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame.It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, i t’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”[iv]
For me, this has meant launching our website, publishing blogs, and even delivering work to clients without endless rounds of editing and agonizing over typos or imperfect graphics. I certainly do not want to deliver a crappy product (and we do have a few editing rounds!) but I try to model for my clients and my team that, especially when we are talking about digital innovation, we need to rapidly iterate, rather than taking months of research and development to perfect. Again, as a classic type-A, this has been a hard lesson for me to internalize.
I consciously started a regular habit of writing thank you cards and keeping a gratitude journal in 2017, around the same time I started meditating. Both the thank you notes and the journal have helped to shift my mindset to one where I see opportunity, rather than scarcity. It keeps me positively focused. I believe that mindset shift has helped me have more courage to try new things, take risks and tackle my fears.
My successful clients do something similar. They have a very strong understanding of their assets and their strengths, and they focus on building on those strengths. When generating new product ideas based on a SWOT analysis, for example, they focus on their strengths and opportunities, rather than their weaknesses and threats. This helps them talk to their teams in terms of opportunity, rather than dwelling on the obstacles.
Recent research from Gallup shows that strengths-based workplaces are more productive, too: [v] “Organizations whose mission, values and processes are based on their strengths have:
Coming from a place of strength and gratitude helps to remind ourselves, our team, and our clients of the most important fearless act of all: believing that we are powerful beyond measure. Marianne Williamson' s wisdom below is still my favorite “face my fears” touchstone:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? . . . as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
Yesterday I had the honor of speaking with a group of local leaders about how to create more inclusive work environments (thank you, GCHRA!). We spent the morning discussing how diverse teams offer the ‘trifecta’ of great product management: more innovation, better problem solving, and greater customer empathy.