Tag Archives: product development

Favorite Things of 2012

1 Jan

KARMA

8 Sep

In late August of 2005 a small band of characters gathered in Austin, Texas to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the founding of their innovation consulting firm. Kalypso had just completed its first year and we were still alive. We were an ambitious bunch with dreams of changing the world and the consulting industry. In reality, we had no idea what we were doing. We weren’t making much money, but we were certainly having fun.

This weekend we are celebrating our eighth year of craziness at Kalypso’s KARMA 2012 in Washington, DC. We have moved from the capital of Texas to the capital of the United States. (Some would say that is a step down.) There are 130 people here from countries all over the world and the energy and enthusiasm is infectious. The Kalypso Difference is on display as our work hard, play hard mantra is put to the test. The two major political party conventions have nothing on this event. I’d vote for us.

What is KARMA? Well, karma is what you make it. For me, Kalypso’s KARMA is a celebration of our shared values, a recommitment to our mission of delivering on the promise of innovation, and an opportunity to spend some quality time with our colleagues and closest friends. I love every minute of it.

The story of Kalypso is the story of its people. The annual human histogram at KARMA highlights the dynamic growth of the firm and is a source of tremendous pride in the accomplishments and development of our team. We celebrate promotions, recognize success, and announce the recipient of the coveted “Kalypsonian of the Year” award. Who will it be this year?

KARMA is still what you make it. This year we are making it bigger and better than ever. We continue our quest to change the world and the industry is taking note. Let your voice be heard. Vote Kalypso!

Overdose on Youth

8 Mar

A couple of decades ago I started my very first consulting assignment at a large manufacturing company. The firm’s innovation-driven glory years in the 70s were distant memory by the time I arrived. The business advantages the company had previously enjoyed were gone, but the people were not. The memorable visual impression of a sea of gray hair (all male) in the employee cafeteria was a symptom of the problem. The company had simply grown old and sclerotic. It was eventually sold off from its parent, declared bankruptcy, reneged on retiree benefits, and is currently being run for cash by a vulture.

As a consultant I have the privilege of working within dozens of client organizations in industries ranging from high tech to telecom to life sciences to consumer products. Each of these companies has a vibe and a personality that creates an atmosphere that runs on a continuum from vibrant and dynamic to dead and dying. While I am certain that a good organizational behaviorist would be able to construct an academically sound comparative analysis of company cultures, there is one correlating factor that is easy to identify and easy to get right. It is the proportion of the workforce that is under the age of 30.

If growth from innovation is your company’s stated strategy then you should be overdosing on youth. If you want ideas to flow and concepts to flourish, you need to hire people with energy, enthusiasm and passion to push them through. I am obviously not suggesting that you institute mandatory retirement at thirty. We need the valuable guidance and wisdom that comes from experienced professionals (like you and me), but we should balance that with people that have a broader sense of the possible and the motivation to achieve what may seem impossible. Load up on smart, talented, energetic youngsters and provide them with some freedom to give your organization an innovation boost.

The popular press is filled with articles on the challenges of multi-generational management. Many of these articles point the finger at younger people as spoiled and unmanageable. This has not been my experience. Youth is like an innovation performance enhancing drug that will make the pulse of your organization beat a lot faster if taken in large quantities. My advice is to overdose.

Predictions for R&D

5 Feb

Predicting the future in an ambiguous world is inherently risky. My track record in 2011 was mixed. The primary prediction was that companies would loosen up spending in R&D while constraining growth in headcount and other fixed costs. That was spot on with what actually happened in most industries. What I got wrong was the response to that squeeze. My assumption was that progressive executives would explore alternative product development models and new approaches to utilizing external expertise. While I am often too optimistic about how fast these things will happen, I also believe that people were finally expecting things to get back to normal, so they were not as motivated to explore new and radical solutions.

As the economic environment continues in an extended period of uncertainty, I believe that we will see accelerated adoption of innovative R&D models. In 2012, I expect to see even greater spending in R&D and product development in those industries where the underlying business is growing moderately (seems like just about everywhere outside of housing and construction). If hiring and headcount growth continue to be constrained, then I predict that we will see more:

  • Corporate Venture Investing – Working and investing outside the company to identify new ideas rather than remaining exclusively focused inside the four walls.
  • Private Expert Networks – Expanding available brainpower in product development by accessing external expertise with low fixed costs that are discretionary in nature.
  • Reverse Innovation– Developing new products in and for emerging markets at value price points that are also attractive in the developed world.
  • Social Product Innovation – Taking advantage of the power of social computing platforms to transform the way products are developed by increasing collaboration both inside and outside of company R&D departments.

If these tactics are broadly adopted, my predictions for 2011 will finally have come true a little later than I originally anticipated.

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