Managing Innovation and Product Leadership

Achieving product leadership and retaining the tag is not simple. Organizations that spend millions of dollars into R&D and innovations might feel that they have arrived when they successfully launch a new product. But the game is far from over. The race has just begun. They have got to continue to innovate and develop new product variations in the current stream and at the same time start working on new portfolio for the coming years before the current innovation or product becomes obsolete.

Most often the competition for organizations like Intel need not be from the other competitors, but from within. Intel and 3M are perhaps the best known innovation leaders in the industry. Intel made a strategic decision to pursue leadership in microprocessors and shifted from its successful domain of memory chips in 1985. Since then the company has been dominating the global market with more than 75% market share. The product development and senior management of the company believe that they are always running on a treadmill all the time and have the natural urge to move faster to produce the next fastest, smallest and best chip with higher speed.

The advertisement showing Intel’s third generation 386 chip having lived all of its nine lives, 486 having two lives and the Pentium processer having all of the nine lives balance best depicts the Organization’s attitude to brand and product leadership.

Building and sustaining product leadership calls for excellence in management as well as in R&D. In the current scenario, doing R&D on new innovative ideas is not simple. It involves millions of dollars, dedicated and customized facilities and the best skilled and creative staff to drive innovative ideas. Management has got challenges on many fronts. Getting the direction and strategy right for the Organization is perhaps one of the key challenges. If Sony created the best ‘Walkman’ and Intel introduced the fastest micro processers, it is because the CEO’s got their vision and strategy for the Organization right. They could visualize and give shape to the idea which could be the future. Andy Grover made that important decision to shift Intel’s focus from memory to micro processers in 1985 which proved to be the best decision.

Getting the right strategy and vision for the organization in terms of product leadership and attitude to innovation is not easy. Especially in the fast changing technology sector, Organizations find themselves facing competition from new developing technologies that can outrun the current product line and innovations. The situation for Intel is no different. Just when they have been investing into CPU and computer segment to innovate faster and higher speed chips, the technology seems to be showing a different direction altogether. The indications are that TV and communications seem to be taking over and replacing Home computers.

The creative engineering team at Intel might be focused on innovating to build the next generation micro processers, but it is the senior management that is able to scan the trends in the outside world and decide the direction in which it should invest and innovate. Essentially innovation is not limited to exploring new heights in the same segment or technology sector, but the Organization manages to view innovation from a totally different perspective. They pursue multiple avenues to gather ideas and information on the needs of the market, the suitable and emerging technology trends that can support its ideas and enable them to create a concrete product that is futuristic and more importantly they work with consumers extensively to refine their products and continue to pursue excellence in their chosen path.

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