Product Doctor Julia Shalet’s passion for innovation was immediately apparent in the first 30 seconds of showing and telling INMA members how to make sure their new ideas don’t fail.
Her book, The Really Good Idea Test, sat on a shelf just over her right shoulder as she spoke. She puts it there because she says its her conscience. Using it as her guiding light to make sure she’s always keeping the customer at the forefront.
“I actually turned down a lovely bit of work the other day to help a big company test out a new idea, and I turned it down because they wouldn’t let me talk to customers,” she said during an INMA members-only Webinar on Wednesday.
It’s not just Shalet recognising the need to coach others having problems with success. Nielsen found 90% of new products fail because companies fail to understand what their customers want and need.
Perhaps the best piece of advice Shalet shared with INMA members is this: “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” She calls herself brave for embracing the nickname given to her of “product killer.”
Shalet believes any company should have a healthy mix of ideas and products across its portfolio, including:
Core: optimising existing products for existing customers.
Adjacent: expanding from existing business into “new to company” business.
Transformational: developing and inventing for markets that don’t exist yet.
She recommends companies dedicate 10% of their time and resources to transformational products and ideas: “This is the stuff you know nothing about. This is the riskiest stuff.”
Shalet also warns companies against being so afraid of cannibalising their core business that they don’t actually innovate at all.
She shared the steps companies should take or not take to see if they should kill a product or move it through the lifecycle stages.
“My definition of innovation is it happens throughout the product lifecycle,” she said. “That it’s about renewal and alteration. At the very core of it it’s about solving customer problems.”
Shalet added a stage to the beginning of the product lifecycle she named idea development.
“You don’t just go straight into introduction,” she said. “There’s a whole innovation system and process that needs to sit behind idea development.”
Shalet has what she calls an anti-waste campaign, aimed at reducing wasted effort, time, and money. If a media company has a strategy that does not support innovation, is risk averse, and fearful of failure or kills ideas before giving them a chance, a new idea likely will fail.
The sweet spot, she said, is to let people learn and try in smaller stages with smaller budgets. She likes to see product managers make decisions based on evidence and identify risks before investing. And to succeed, product teams must make sure their customers are prepared to take any action you expect them to.
Shalet said she wants product managers to answer these questions to see if ideas will actually succeed. She calls them the trio of product happiness:
Viability: Can you make a profit?
Desirability: Do people want/need it?
Feasibility: Can you actually deliver it?
7 Steps of “The Really Good Idea Test,”
Shalet’s book, The Really Good Idea Test, just earned her the Axiom Business Book Award. She shared with INMA members her seven steps in determining whether an idea is worth pursuing:
Measures and targets.
Analyse and decide.
“There are lots of things that waste time,” she said. “Hypotheses that aren’t clear enough, goals that aren’t right, people not sure it’s on strategy.”
That’s why Shalet likes to see everyone in every department on board with innovation. Chances are media companies don’t have an innovation lab or a separate department. She calls that “innovation theater” and offered up a better way to go about it.
“We need to be able to move quickly,” she said. “We need to be able to respond to the changing environment around us. Everything has changed. We all should become innovators.”
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