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Is Our Product Direction DriverlessThen came the Great Recession. by 2009, as GM was descending into bankruptcy, a small band of its engineers and researches agitated for producing driverless cars. A much larger group of more cautious executives found the idea reckless, says John Capp, GMS’s director for safety …. Pre-bankruptcy, the traditionalist would have won. … What convinced them were the billions that GM’s foreign competitors … were committing to similar research.  Driverless In Detroit, Bloomberg Businessweek, Nov 2, 2015.

It was bigger than our other mobile phones.  It had neat edgy capabilities at that time such as infrared and bluetooth.  It had a bigger screen that provided a lot more information. I asked our product team why we weren’t developing and selling more of these kind of phones. I was told that we didn’t sell to “you middle aged engineering types” but instead to young people who wanted cool looking small phones.

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It was one competitor’s model on a PowerPoint slide of competitor’s phones.  It was our strategy meeting to see if what we were producing was going to continue to be competitive.  After some discussion on most of the competitors phone’s someone finally asked about one phone sitting in the corner of the slide: “but what about Apple’s iPhone?”  “Naw, that’s just a niche product. Nothing to worry about” was the dismissive reply from senior product management.

There are always people within an organization agitating for change.  For doing something different.  They are not all correct and if we were to keep track of what everyone said was “the next big thing” we would find many more fails than successes.  Nevertheless, the sobering fact is that we probably have someone or some group in our organization that is already tuned into what will be the next big thing in our industry. If we had jumped on the initiative when we first encountered it within our own organization then we would have been leading the industry in innovation, and profitability.

GM has been talking about self-driving cars since its Futurama display at the 1939 New York World’s fair. Driverless In Detroit, Bloomberg Businessweek, Nov 2, 2015.

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Are you tuning into the edgy opinions within your own team on what you should do next or are you playing it safe and sticking with the traditional, safe, views?

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