This is a question I get a lot – from friends, acquaintances, family members, people I meet at conferences, or other people I encounter throughout my personal and professional life. I usually have trouble explaining it to those who are unfamiliar with the world of product development. My one-line response is usually: I’m a project manager for a new product development and market research firm. Most people have heard those words in that combination before, but don’t fully understand what it is, so it’s hard for me to go into any kind of depth.
I think I have my explanation of what I do down to under 5 minutes. I thought I’d share it on here.
Essentially, new product development is taking an idea and turning it into a product or a service that a company sells. There are different steps they take along the way: such as refining, prototyping, packaging, and developing a marketing plan before a company launches a product and it appears on shelves. The process is usually a bit different each time, depending on the product or service being developed.
My company, Innovation Focus, helps before that process takes over, in what is called the “front-end” of new product development. The “front-end” is the getting started period of product development, where a company doesn’t know what products or services they should be developing. The company knows it needs these ideas to help drive their growth, reach their financial goals, and define their future. This is when they call us, and we facilitate them through our process.
We use qualitative market research techniques to talk to target consumers. We talk about their lives in general, then focus down on specific areas of interest for our clients. We look to identify their unmet needs and ways they need help in that area.
From this research, we look for themes to emerge from the data we collected, and turn those themes into opportunity areas for our clients to create products and services to help these consumers. We really try to bring in the voice of the customer and connect our clients to it.
We use these opportunity areas as inspiration for ideation sessions. These sessions are targeted to generate beginning product and service ideas for our client based on the findings from our research. We facilitate a creative problem solving technique to generate these ideas. Typically, we end up with 100 or more new product and service concepts.
We use criteria determined before the session to identify leading concepts that best match the company’s goals. We prioritize these leading ideas and build action plans around them. A portfolio of these ideas is then handed off to our clients to develop using their new product development process. Occasionally we go a little further with the concepts, such as concept writing or refinement, but typically this is where our project work stops.
I’m a project manager within this process, meaning I’m involved in pretty much every aspect of the projects we run. I manage the recruiting companies that find the people we interview, the facilities where we hold our sessions, and the outside guests that come to our sessions. I work with cross-functional client teams and internal project teams as well as the outside resources listed above. I am responsible for time, travel and cost budgets and making sure the project runs smoothly without losing sight of our client’s end goal.
I am also trained in leading our creative problem solving process, and have training the Osborn-Parnes creative problem solving model. I’m have led consumer interviews in the past and am refining those skills. I train our other project managers in project management. And I help with the marketing, branding, copywriting, sales and administrative aspects of the company.
Okay…..so it’s a little more than 5 minutes. I need to work a bit to get it down. I think this is the best explanation of what I do so far, and people seem to nod their head in agreement to it (if they haven’t walked away before I’m finished.)