My “Commercialization and Innovation” class has been really hard for me this year. I love my team. Really dislike the topic. As much as I am a problem solver, I want to implement solutions and make them actually work, not just dream up problems and then see how to solve them. I like when someone gives me a problem and then I can fix it, not when I have to figure out a PROBLEM on which to even start working. Some teams are working with a company to implement a product that they have created — like a new way to solve traffic problems, or a product that helps with heart attack recovery. Someone has already innovated and created a solution for these problems. Now, these teams’ job is to find a way to market the product and get it out to people. I kind of wish that I could have done that where we were commercializing a product that had already been designed and was ready to go.
Throughout B-school, I’ve learned that I’m an implementor. I think I always knew that, but in my teams it comes out a lot more. I’m a get-it-done person (Okay, okay, so we’ve known my whole life that I was this way). Being in a class that requires you to be innovative is challenging because once I find a solution, I’d like to implement it, not try to brainstorm again (this is why I’m grateful for my team, because they’re good at brainstorming!). I remember in college being an RA and HATING the “Let’s brainstorm what events we want to do for the semester” meetings. It was so vague. We’ve had less difficulty creating events for B&T this year though, as there were a lot of holes that we noticed missing from last year and wanted to do something about it. So I guess I can be innovative, but I’m generally the driver of the team who implements the solution and gets results. I guess it’s good that I’m going into a project manager role after school!
Thinking about innovating new product solutions and commercializing them has made me think about the type of products that I should focus on designing.
The Problem with Marketing (as non-business people know it)
I’ve never liked marketing for products that don’t help people. The type where you make pretty ads to convince people to buy your worthless product, but because it’s a good ad you’ll sell the item. I think this is what most non-business people think of when they hear the term “marketing”. But if you’re a legit business and have a great product that could really help improve people’s lives, consumers still might not flock to you if they don’t know about your product. Sure, there are ways to do viral marketing and get people to talk about your product, but often times as a company you need to get the word out to people that you’ve created a product that they want. They just don’t know about it yet. I’m not interested in feeding consumerism or creating greed for having more stuff or more products, but everyone needs certain items in life and if a business can create a product that helps them do it easier or better, I’m all for encouraging those types of product. I really could only market a product that I felt was beneficial to society (e.g. I consider the iPhone beneficial, as it has improved peoples’ lives. It isn’t something that people NEED, but it is a tool that I use all the time to keep myself organized, keep in touch with people who are far away, and track the amount of miles that I run. It helps keep me sane, thus, I feel like it’s something that has been beneficial (for both me and you!)).
Are You Going to Sell Useful Products?
As MBA students, we have a large responsibility. Many of us will one day be running companies that keep our economy (both the US and globally) running (or failing, if we fail). This is a large weight. This is why CEOs get paid so much money (still, I don’t think it’s fair, but if I was the CEO, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night with that burden, so maybe the money compensates for the lack of sleep…). It’s our decision whether to create either valuable products that improve the world, or those that feed consumer greed. You can make a lot of money doing this, but are you bettering the world by these types of products? I think MBAs have a specific responsibility as they are the ones often times deciding which products get placed on the market. The engineers design the cool products and make sure they work; the business people market them and set the business plan. They are the ones who pull all the designs together. Often times engineers joke that we don’t really do anything, and partially it’s because we don’t have specialized knowledge in any one area; we are generalists, in the sense that we know a little bit about everything and not a lot about one thing. Sometimes it’s not seen as a strength to be able to bring these things together, but this is what helps a business flourish or fail. You can have the same type of product at one company and it can flop; at another company, the same technology can be used, but it is very successful — this is due to the strategy around the product, the way that it is marketed, the people it targets, and the other things that we generally consider in the “business plan”. My aim in this is not at all to say that “MBAs are the best” in anyway, but to show the power that we do have to help promote good or bad products. With great power comes great responsibility.
What type of products do you want to promote and see succeed?