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The Cost of Reactive Innovation

Last week we met someone at an industry technology event who works in marketing. She said she was sent to "check things out" because she's being asked more frequently to share her opinions about emerging technologies that fall outside of the scope of marketing. We recognized her "type" immediately.

Most organizations have a person that has been tapped as the technology expert. Maybe they are truly expert at understanding technology. Maybe they just spoke up too many times during a meeting. Either way, that person is the company's solution to vetting external products and services that smell anything like a computer or involve a network.

The problem is, this person usually has another job. They work in marketing and have goals assessed on marketing results. Or they work in business development and they are evaluated on partnerships and revenue. Rarely, does this person have a goal that says "vet external vendors for their product fit with our strategic plan".

Instead, these people are asked their opinion based on what we call "outside-in market research." Their perspective is formed from trying to develop pattern recognition or from trying to tease apart trends among the dozens of companies they're asked to look at each year. No one organizes these meetings, so one day they're asked to review a social media company and the next day they're trying to make sense of an IoT company. It's purely reactive and it's not a formula for success.

A successful formula is a proactive "inside-out market research." It involves creating a playbook and a set of strategic goals for the organization and thinking through the enabling technologies to get the organization where it wants to go. It involves designating an internal champion, a Chief Innovation Officer, to manage that process and work with external experts with deep domain expertise and market data. We believe each organization should have a person in this role.

Through inside-out market research, your team will learn to compare and contrast vendors in the market. You'll gather the customer references and best practices that increase your probability of success. You'll let your other employees go back to their jobs, and you'll be operating much more efficiently.

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