TIP: Create a tech project manager role that is a matchmaker of direct relationships between development and the customer rather than a translator between the two.

The back story: I worked for a software company that developed and patented an enterprise document manage/workflow system using a client-server architecture in the mid-eighties. But bits/bytes are not the point of this post, managing change is.  Let’s just say this PC-based server architecture went where only mainframes had gone before, and for that moment in time was “disruptive technology,” – the business solution offered competitive advantage and cost savings but would fundamentally change (disrupt) how the work was done, and to some extent the work culture. Fast forward:  this is mainstream technology now. Usually the management of disruptive change happens after the fact. We all know how much fun that is. Alternatively, anticipating change could be a part of collaborative product development – that’s what we did, and it worked. Literally, on-site development (the R&D anthropology concept). Today developing project-duration social network/collaboration sites is another way.

Here’s a short video about how Pitney Bowes does customer-collaborative product development.

Leave your tips for R&D anthropology by adding a comment. Serious play is good for business.

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Partnering with customers with opportunities to play with product prototypes lets business innovate quickly and test satisfaction before going to market. Read how Disney, 3M, Hershey, and Pitney Bowes are using innovation centers to do just this in this article in The New York Times.  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/27/business/27proto.html?th&emc=th