I started talking recently about getting-things-done (GTD) intelligence. Grant McCracken, over at This Blog Sits At, has an interview with Paula Rosch, formerly of fmcg company Kimberly-Clark, which illustrates this nicely.
I spent the rest of my K-C career in advanced product development or new business identification, usually as a team leader, and sometimes as what Gifford Pinchot called an “Intrapreneur” – a corporate entrepreneur, driving new products from discovery to basis-for-interest to commercialization. It’s the nature of many companies to prematurely dismiss ideas that represent what the world might want/need 5, 10 years out and beyond in favor of near-term opportunities – the intrapreneur stays under the radar, using passion, brains, intuition, stealth, any and every other human and material resource available to keep things moving. It helps to have had some managers that often looked the other way.
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As a senior product developer, and in the role of “intrapreneur” on Little Swimmers, I wore all the hats, technical and consumer, including hand-making many of the prototypes, making test product in machiladoras in July, performing materials testing, as well as the concept and positioning development work, consumer evaluations, whatever it took, taking the product through quantitative and volumetric concept-and-use testing and Basis For Interest. When it came time for evaluations, the senior technical people who were my peers (PhD “Fellows”) did not regard the work as technically sophisticated enough for recognition or promotion in those ranks. Since I was working for a senior business manager on the project, I didn’t have a technical champion for support. I was caught in the middle.
There was simply no career path for the very senior level, creative, prolifically successful entrepreneurial product developer with a broad consumer-culture view. Business and Technical management were inappropriate (too right brained for me and actually took one out of the product development role), nor was the Fellow path appropriate (more for the highly technical). I didn’t fit either path (this was true for other senior level product developers). If my unique – and successful – methodologies and insights had been met with a broader willingness to understand, that might have offered some sense of fulfillment.”