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Judging the 2010 Spike Awards: Social Computing in Product Development

Do you want a Spike Award? Before you raise your hand, let me clarify. I’m not talking about the Spike Guy’s Choice awards. No, I’m talking about the Spike Awards that recognize the best use of social media and social computing to improve product innovation, development and product management. You can find a lot more information about it at the Spike Awards official site.

After working with the folks from the Product Development Management Association (PDMA, association site) and Kalypso (corporate site) for some time on this project, I’m excited we announced I’ll be joining the judging panel for the award (press release). Over the past few years, most engineers, managers and executives I know did not received a merit increases or bonuses for their hard work. I really like how this award will recognize how them in a new and different way.

When it comes to social media in product development, I have lot to say. However, I’ll wait to publish that as part of a much longer series of posts on the topic of engineering collaboration. In the meantime, in support of the Spike Awards, we recorded a podcast where I talk about today’s state of social media in innovation and product development. You can listen to the entire thing by hitting the play button below.

All in, it’s a ten minute podcast. In case you can’t use the player or listen to it conveniently right now, I’ve paraphrased some of my main points.

  • 7:05 left in podcast, what is the state of social product innovation today? Well, I’d rephrase the question a little bit. What’s the state of collaborative product development today? In that context, I think there’s lots of barriers that people have worked with for so long that they simply assume that’s the way things are. For example, people use email as a means to correspond in an offline manner. But emails get lost, deleted or forgotten. It’s not an effective means of collaborating in product development. Now the barriers presented by the technologies that are used today are so challenging, combined with understaffed projects and people just fall back to brute force methods like the phone and hunting people down. That, as a result, really affects the productivity of the organization. It hampers innovation. And, by the way, these people end up working 60 hour work weeks. Now interestingly, these same sort of barriers existed in our personal lives in keeping up with our friends. Everyone’s busy. Who has time to call? These constraints result in the same end. It’s really tough to stay in touch with your close friends, especially from across the country. Now of course, social media comes along and viola, it’s a great way to keep people up to date and it’s use explodes. Because social media solves that barrier problem in our personal lives, there’s no reason it can’t solve that barrier problem in our professional lives. That’s where using instant messenger, forums, wikis and all other sorts of web 2.0 technologies can come into play. There’s not enough people in product development leveraging it because they just assume today’s problems can’t be solved. It’s actually a little secret that could be turned into competitive advantage.
  • 3:10 left in podcast, what questions are people asking me when I discuss social media in product development? How do I find time to use yet another tool for collaboration? Interesting question, I know. I think there’s a perception out there that these web 2.0 tools are yet another thing, on top of phone work, email and physically tracking people down, that you have to take on and use. For really busy people, that’s a deal breaker. They’ll simply walk away. And unfortunately, they’re the ones that need it the most. But from my perspective, using social media technologies in product development let’s you get away from using those less efficient means of corresponding with your colleagues. It can let you interact in real time instead in an offline manner. It can let you avoid walking around the office looking for someone, who’s in a conference room by the way, and wasting 15 minutes of your day. That’s the most frequent question I run into around this topic.

Overall, I believe this award is a great activity to recognize some outstanding engineers in product development. I think everyone knows they deserve some credit and visibility right now.

To follow activities related to the award, make sure to visit the Spike Awards official site, follow @spikeawards on twitter or become a fan of the Spike Awards on Facebook.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

Chad Jackson is an Industry Analyst at Lifecycle Insights and publisher of the engineering-matters blog. With more than 15 years of industry experience, Chad covers career, managerial and technology topics in engineering. For more details, visit his profile.

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