Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Marketing and innovation redux

This post raises some interesting issues:

Are Engineers, Scientists And Mathematicians Enemies of Innovation?

Innovation is about social applications of inventions, not about the inventions themselves. Engineers, scientists and mathematicians don’t get this. It’s not part of their culture. We see time and again, engineering-driven corporate cultures failing because they don’t address the social needs of their customers and they don’t address the social ramifications of invention.

Any time this problem appears, we are looking at a company that ignores one of Peter Drucker's most important insights:

It is the customer who determines what a business is. For it is the customer, and he alone, who through being willing to pay for a good or service, converts economic resources into wealth, things into goods. What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance- especially not to the future of the business and to its success. What the customer thinks he is buying, what he considers "value," is decisive- it determines what a business is, what it produces and whether it prospers.


Because it is its purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two- and only two- basic functions: marketing and innovation.

If a firm takes Drucker seriously, the marketing and engineering people work together to turn inventions into innovative and successful products. Most companies, however, do not operate this way. Instead, they clutter their internal processes and dysfunction results.

One cause of the dysfunction is the tendency of engineers and other technologists to build things that appeal to engineers and technologists. They then expect "non-technical people" to buy their cool stuff. Someone has to speak for the customers and the technical types have to listen.

Executives often make it hard for the communication to take place. They allow the 'expense" areas to dominate internal communications. The critical dialogue between inventors and marketers is drowned out in the verbal free-for-all.

Marketers often fail to live up to live up to the high responsibility Drucker places upon their shoulders. They lack the strategic insight and product knowledge that are vital. Instead they rely on a handful of shopworn tactics to push products out the door. Often, these tactics are chosen, not because they are the best for the product or company, but because they are the only tricks the marketing department knows.

This problem is exacerbated by the high turnover that is endemic to marketing. new people bring new tricks and new buzzwords.

In such circumstances, i cannot blame the engineers for tuning out the marketing types.

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