Social Product Innovation Challenges: How to Develop Your Strategy

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A couple weeks ago I laid out the framework for the most common challenges companies face as they get started with their social product innovation initiatives. The most common challenges fall into five main buckets – strategy, people and culture, business processes, technology and sustainability. So let’s take a deeper look at developing a social product innovation strategy, the typical challenges and some ideas for overcoming them.

Kalypso did some interesting research in 2010 to understand how social media is impacting innovation and product development. We surveyed over 90 manufacturing and services companies and followed it up with in-depth interviews of select businesses. Our first question was around strategy. We asked them if their companies had a strategy in place to use social media for product development and innovation.

Over 2/3 (70%) of those we surveyed said they were either using or planning to use social media for product innovation. Of those, only 1/3 (33%) had a plan and only an additional 21% were developing their strategy. This left 46% acting with no strategy in place. This told us that the use of social media in product development and innovation is in the early stages. Companies are piloting and experimenting – taking action despite lack of strategy.

When we refreshed our research in September of 2011, we actually saw that the number of companies using social media for product development had declined. We believe this is due to those pilots and experiments failing to create value. The other interesting thing we found was that the percentage of companies developing plans jumped from 18% in 2010 to nearly 30% in 2011. So it looks like companies are in replanning mode after realizing that a lack of strategy can easily result in a failed project.

So how can companies that are replanning, or creating a strategy for the first time, succeed?

Align with Business and Innovation Strategies

Keep in mind that social strategies, processes and technologies should enhance and extend the product development and innovation processes already in place, from idea generation and crowdsourcing through product development and management of in-market products. No need to create brand new initiatives here; social product innovation strategy should support the business and innovation strategies already in place.

Create a Cross-Functional Team

When developing your strategy, a great place to start is by forming a cross-functional team – find some peers from within product development and product marketing who are interested in using social media for innovation, and approach the marketing teams already using these tools to collaborate on ideas.

That team works together to create the strategy and plans for Social Product Innovation, including:

  • How are we going to use social media to inform your product innovation, product development and product management processes?
  • How does this link to business and innovation strategies?
  • What external parties need to be included?
  • What internal departments need to be included?
  • Who will the owner(s) be?
  • What are the goals? (crowdsourcing ideas, team problem solving, knowledge sharing, resource identification, etc…)
  • How will you measure success?

Aligning your social product innovation strategy with the overall business goals and strategies, and building a cross-functional team to define and drive it will help create ownership and buy-in from various team members and their departments and will ultimately help ensure success of the program.

Have you had a social product innovation initiative fail? What do you believe was the cause of the failure? If you have a strategy and a team, who’s on your team?

My next blog post will cover challenges and solutions in the second main bucket: people and culture.

About the author:


Amy Kenly has over 14 years professional experience in innovation, product development and PLM. Kenly, a regular speaker and blogger on social product innovation, has been selected by PDMA to author a chapter on “Social Media and New Product Development” for the upcoming third edition of the PDMA Handbook on New Product Development. Kenly leads Kalypso’s Social Product Innovation practice, which has recently published the white paper “Social Media and Product Development: Early Adopters Reaping Benefits amidst Challenge and Uncertainty.” To access the white paper and research findings, visit kalypso.com/spike.

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