Innovating at a 101-Year-Old Company by Forbes Director of Product

Innovation is the key to survival in today’s world. It’s crucial to look out for new inspiration, to add more originality to your thought processes. For older companies, being surrounded by continuous innovation can become heavy baggage as they remain stuck in their established infrastructure. It becomes important to take a step back and hear from fresh voices.

Meet Nina Foroutan

Nina Foroutan is a standout Product Manager with over 9 years of experience in product strategy, data analytics, video content management and project management across media and e-commerce. She is currently a Director of Product Development at Forbes where she leads a team of Product Owners for Forbes.com frontend initiatives.

Nina foroutan

Innovating at a 101-Year-Old Company

What is innovation?

Innovation is the process of listening and observing. It is trying something different to make life better. It’s both the process and the outcome. Sometimes the process itself becomes one of the greatest sources of innovation.

Steve Jobs quote

Peter Drucker’s seven sources of innovation

  1. The unexpected
  2. Incongruities
  3. Process Need
  4. Industry/ Market Structures
  5. Demographics
  6. Changes in perception
  7. New knowledge

(See the full list here.)

How does innovation apply to the media industry?

  1. Media companies are becoming technology companies.
  2. The front end and the backend platforms often determine the range of work editorial teams can build into content (animation, infographics, parallel scroll, etc).
  3. Product owners are masters of their crafts.

How Forbes does innovation

At one point, Forbes needed stakeholder’s approval for all of their Jira tickets going out each week. This meant all tickets, not only the ones they needed to sign off on. It was a manual process which took a lot of extra time, and human error means that deadlines were missed.

The solution they came up with was to utilize the Jira platform and automate stakeholder’s emails that went out multiple times a week. They also came up with the idea of programming automated reminders in Slack, implementing an improval plug-in on tickets, and sending out customized information. Overall they saved an extra 5 hours of work per week.

Implementing innovation in a media company

One of the main modern challenges which media companies faced at the start of the 21st Century, was the industry-wide shift from advertising based models to digital subscriptions.

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This caused an over-dependence on Google, (Google chrome cuts down on third party data). They also had to deal with the market demand for high quality, meaningful, trustworthy content. Publishers sought to cultivate high-value brands that engaged readers.

Forbes responded to this by:

  1. Establishing a content strategy focused on audience industry examples.
  2. Implementing onsite personalisation.
  3. Thinking about Information as a Service.
  4. Acting on the Habit of News.
  5. Optimizing their website.

They also came up with a few more options:

  1. Login
  2. Ad-free articles
  3. Special features: Commenting, exclusive content, community.

(Speaking of exclusive content…check out our free resources for Product Managers!)

The biggest obstacles to innovation in large companies

  1. Lack of strategy origin
  2. Politics
  3. Cultural issues
  4. Inability to act on critical development
  5. Lack of budget
  6. Basically, when you don’t put innovation as a core value, you begin to face issues in attaining it.

Marty Cagan’s techniques for combating obstacles in Innovation

One of the best sources for understanding innovation comes from Marty Cagan, author of Inspired.

  1. The 20% rule – This says to devote 20% of your time to do whatever you want.
  2. Skunk Workers – You work at your own time to develop something that interests you and put in its need for incorporation.
  3. Observation – Observing around and within the projects to alter the practices and resources to realign with the end vision.
  4. Experience Design – What it would be like if there was no technology constraint or budget.
  5. Acquisition – Ex: Goldman Sachs is moving into the acquisition of all technology companies though in core it itself doesn’t comply with being one.
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