Great Process Leads to Great Products

That simple idea (hopefully obvious to anyone who has tried it) that great commercial products aren’t simply the result of great product ideas is one I’ve mentioned before in the context of company culture and improving capabilities over time. But compared to the concrete sexiness of topics like the iPod and Swiffer this argument isn’t quite as riveting.

So I’m happy to see the mainstream press pick up the theme, such as this Pascal Zachary article in the New York Times, The Unsung Heroes Who Move Products Forward.

“Process innovation, even more than most product innovations, also tends to realize its economic potential through a lengthy process of incremental improvement based on learning by doing and other types of learning,” [David C. Mowery, a business professor at the University of California, Berkeley] added. “So ‘breakthroughs’ in process engineering are, if anything, even rarer than in product innovation.”

One thing this has taught me is to not lead with innovation as a theme, as it’s an ambiguous topic that can frame matters the wrong way, as being only about great ideas or high-risk/high-return product bets. I think communities like Agile developers, by focusing on process in a compelling way, are making great progress innovating at the process level.