The 3 top reasons why your products are not very innovative

Tino Jose
Oct 15 12 min read

Developing innovations and bringing them to the market is the dream of every company and every product manager.

To become the next Apple!

What makes a product innovative? In simple words, is it solves an urgent problem of your customer in a new way?

Discovering such potential and developing products for it are your core tasks as a product manager. But such a success is a long time ago… Your daily work is dominated by technical tasks, paperwork, and meetings.

How do you manage to become an innovation driver again as a product manager?

In the ideal situation, the product manager as an innovation driver

As a product manager, you sit at the interface between business strategy, developers, and customers and hold all the strings in your hand.

Decisions on new products depend largely on your market knowledge.

You are responsible for finding out what your potential customers are up against, what problems they have, and which products or services you can use to solve their problems. You are in constant contact with customers and other market participants, collecting facts and figures based on which you can later make decisions.

In this way, you identify trends and potentials and develop products that strike a chord with your customers. You are always one step ahead of your competitors.

Your colleagues and management know you as an innovator and for your flair and creativity. No new feature is developed without your well-founded opinion.

Your drawer is always filled with market problems just waiting to be solved.

Is this your reality?

If yes: Congratulations! You belong to a privileged minority.

Most people rather report experiences like these:

Reality: The product manager as a technician

When was the last time you spoke directly with customers, analyzed your markets in detail, or were given the time to strategically develop your product portfolio?

Instead, operational and technical tasks dominate your everyday work. Product managers mainly work at their own desks and have little contact with the outside world.

As a result, companies have little reliable facts, figures, and opinions from the markets and have to develop products from the gut.

Wrongly called innovations are often limited to developing individual new functions, implementing customer feedback, or simply copying competitors.

Why is it that desire and reality are so far apart in the role of a product manager?

In discussions with many colleagues, I was able to identify three major obstacles that product managers have to overcome.

The three top reasons why you are not innovative

Lack of contact with the market

  • Often only the sales department is responsible for customer contact. As a product manager, you may be regularly involved in pre-sales and attend customer meetings. But such opportunities are about the deal, rarely about future products, general problems or needs of the customer.
  • As a product manager, you can talk to customers and prospects, but you rarely make contact with non-customers or with markets in which the company is not yet active. Feedback from these groups, in particular, would be important to develop products that will open up new customer groups.
  • You conduct discussions with customers and market analyses in the run-up to product decisions. However, you do not know exactly how to extract and process structured information from observations or conversations. You lack methods and tools to gain well-founded insights.

Low willingness to innovate

  • Your management is afraid of innovations and the associated risks and bad investments. Instead of innovative products, it prefers to rely on proven solutions and wait and see what competitors do or how the market develops.
  • The risk aversion is often reinforced by the fact that innovations are understood as experiments or ideas that result from creative brainstorming. The process of developing innovative products based on facts and market figures is not a common management practice.
  • Existing market data is outdated and wrong assumptions are made which leads to wrong conclusions.

Incorrect understanding of roles

  • As a product manager, you are mainly responsible for operative tasks such as technical descriptions, resource planning, or support. The management is responsible for the strategic view. This understanding of your role has been “proven” over the years in your company and is no longer questioned.
  • Due to this prioritization, you do not have time for market observation or customer meetings, because operational tasks always have priority. Although you are expected to know your markets, you are not given resources for the necessary activities.
  • You have a technical background and feel most comfortable in this area. You recognize potential in your product management, would like to shape more and become an innovation driver, but are afraid of the risk of fighting for your new role and more responsibility in the company.

How to become an innovation driver again

As long as you keep sitting at your desk waiting for flashes of inspiration, nothing will change.

Your motto should be “Go out and learn in the market”.

Take regular time to talk to customers and non-customers. Get to know them, learn to understand them. Collect facts and discover problems that you can solve.

Take this task as your core task and create enough time for it. This is the only way!

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Written by

Tino Jose
Oct 15 12 min read

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