There’s one common frustration among product executives & innovation leaders everywhere. They are all facing a new product innovation talent shortage. And they need to know where they are going to get the people to innovate and develop the new products necessary to grow and stay relevant into the future.
For years, we’ve all known demographic-driven talent shortages were coming. But they are no longer coming. They are here. Most Boomers are past retirement age and either out or getting out soon. The far smaller Gen-X is beginning to retire earlier than expected. And the Gen-Z group entering the workforce is significantly smaller than the Millennials.
This is happening against a backdrop of unparalleled demand for technical talent as the nation reindustrializes. Unfortunately, it’s also happening during a growing disinterest in STEM studies and a reduced number of engineers and scientists graduating. The result is a generational brain drain among product development professionals like none of us has experienced in our lifetimes. And it’s not going to subside for decades.
While it might sound dire, there are real steps you can take to not only survive but thrive in this new environment.
Productivity, Productivity, Productivity
Yes, it’s all about innovation productivity, and in my book, Unlocking Innovation Productivity, I shared the 9 Accelerators you need to drive more new product growth without added staff. Here I’m going to focus on the two most important accelerators.
To be clear, sustainable productivity is not about getting people running faster on the same treadmill. That’s a road to nowhere and you don’t want to go down it. Instead, you’ve got an opportunity to rethink your innovation process using two fundamental levers.
Doing Better Projects & Doing Projects Better
Doing better projects is all about having the courage to focus on the best programs and say no to everything else. You will need some assessment tools as part of your governance process and our complimentary Clear Winner Accelerator template is a great place to start. You can get a copy in the free resources below.
You’re also going to have to come to grips with the fact that you can’t do everything. Even if they are all good ideas, limited bandwidth means you drive more value by rank-ordering opportunities. And the basis for that prioritization should be estimated value per unit of development time. The estimated value can be NPV, Lifetime Cashflow, or any other similar measure.
That way as resources finish up other programs, they next move on to the highest-ranked opportunity. That assures you the highest growth from the opportunities you have.
The other benefit of force ranking priorities is that the mediocre opportunities continue to get pushed down the list as better new programs are discovered.
Speaking of limited bandwidth, the single most important thing you can do to drive innovation productivity is to manage your resource utilization to no more than 80% of capacity. Allowing only 50% more work into your pipeline than your bandwidth can handle at full speed slows everything down by 40-50%. It also creates a chaotic environment with poor visibility and predictability. And who wants to work in a company like that? More on that here if you have time for a short video.
If you’re having a hard time getting your arms around managing resource bandwidth, our complimentary New Product Bandwidth Accelerator in the free resources section below can help you get started.
There’s more you can do as outlined in Unlocking Innovation Productivity but these two accelerators are usually the best place to start. And as you make progress with this, success breeds success. So the other benefit is that your new product group becomes a more attractive place to work which helps with retention and recruiting.
Innovation Talent as Your Competitive Advantage
Few companies have the discipline necessary to implement and stick to even one of the things I’m talking about. And that’s good news for you. Because if you do them and do them well, you’ll survive the innovation talent shortage. But beyond survival, you’ll gain an advantage that allows you to thrive while the competition flounders!
Some Free Resources to Make Sure You Thrive
If you could use a little help to improve your inputs, get our complimentary Clear Winner Accelerator assessment tool to make sure the programs you work on have the hallmarks of a winner.
If execution is where you want to focus, download our free New Product Bandwidth Accelerator Template. It will help you get control of your resource utilization and deliver up to 40% more programs with the same resources.
And if you ever want to move past spreadsheets and need help rethinking and streamlining your innovation process, we’d be happy to talk. Then if it makes sense we can share a brief demo of how Acceletrak can help you increase innovation productivity without added work for your team.