Productable News

Productable Brings Portfolio Innovation to the Air Force with Newest Contract

We launched the third phase of our partnership with the U.S. Air Force, bringing us to $3.2 million in total Air Force funding.

We’re so excited to announce today that Productable launched the third phase of our partnership with the U.S. Air Force, bringing us to $3.2 million in total Air Force funding. This third phase really gets to the meat of why I launched Productable in the first place: We get to build out a beginning-to-end portfolio solution. We’ve been laying the groundwork for the Air Force portfolio solution for almost a year now, working with them to enhance their visibility into projects and their reporting capabilities. Now it’s time for the fun stuff.

WHAT IS PORTFOLIO INNOVATION ANYWAY?

In short, portfolio innovation is an approach that mitigates innovation risk and focuses on long-term strategies. This is accomplished by placing lots of bets -- think thousands for an organization as big as the Air Force. Ideally, leadership invests smaller dollar amounts into many, many early phase projects with the expectation that most of these will fail, leaving more resources for project development further down the pipeline.

In my recent valley of death webinar, I talked about how a portfolio approach solves this problem and how leaders and innovators both play a critical role.

WHY DOES PORTFOLIO APPROACH MATTER?

I started my career as an innovator who wanted to change the world. Inspired by shower radios, bright colored Macs and PDAs, I wanted to build the next big thing. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I went to school for engineering and did innovation research on how people and processes drive the best solutions and outcomes.

However, after going to work in industry, I couldn’t believe how many products I helped get started and how few made it to market. The development processes were filled with politics, unclear reasoning and gaps in methodology. Maybe I’m in the wrong industry? Welp...the next few years proved that theory wrong. After working in machinery, packaging, medical products, consumer products and semiconductors, it became clear that the industry wasn’t the problem. Maybe I’m in the wrong country? Welp...after trying to build products in Singapore, China, Cambodia, India and even the depths of tribal Papua New Guinea, I still found it impossible to scale awesome ideas. Maybe it’s just me? Nah, couldn't be. In every role, I’m in a sea of frustrated people. I was sure the problems in innovation were ubiquitous.

Next I tried working at a startup backed by the smartest innovation consultants I could find (RIP Clayton Christensen, my aspirational dream advisor). They got closer to solving the problems in innovation. We could experiment more, but as a startup, there was still huge risk.

Then I started watching Shark Tank. Something was different. There was a willingness to take risks and try new ideas, and it wasn’t until after I worked for Mark Cuban, that I learned how a portfolio approach was the secret to giving innovators a leash long enough to create real value.

HOW DOES PORTFOLIO INNOVATION HELP INNOVATORS?

One of the biggest myths of portfolio innovation is that it’s all top-down, meaning that it’s a strategy for leaders, not innovators. This simply  isn’t true. Portfolio innovation actually strengthens the position of innovators and gives them greater chances to succeed. Here’s how:

> It gives intrapreneurs a clear path to resources. Productable’s platform gives innovation leadership a method to preallocate budgets, so projects do not stall due to lack of resources.

> It offers much needed transparency to innovators. Productable bridges the gap between leaders and innovators, so everyone knows what success looks like and what is needed to move forward.

HOW DOES PORTFOLIO INNOVATION HELP LEADERS?

Along the same vein as innovator challenges, Innovation leadership struggles, too, but these struggles are often dealt with behind the scenes. Portfolio innovation helps bring transparency and alignment to the forefront, making problem-solving easier for everyone. Here’s how:

> It provides leaders with decision-making confidence. Productable lets innovation leadership create decision guidelines for every phase of innovation, thus accelerating the entire process with a framework for making solid decisions.

> It improves overall return on investment. Productable guides Air Force intrapreneurs through the right process at the right time, so they ensure fiscal stewardship on prototypes and tests.

With this new contract already under way, we’re moving forward fast to deliver some pretty powerful capabilities to the Air Force and can’t wait to make portfolio innovation a reality for the department.

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Author: Rachel Kuhr Conn

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