Organizing for Innovation: Leveraging the Creative Tension between Product Management and Systems Engineering

by David Quimby and Bill Farmer | at MinneBar 13

Product management and systems engineering — never (or, mostly never) the twain shall meet. The disconnect between product vision and technical vision impedes vast untapped productivity and creativity. We will explore and propose new models of collaboration and social innovation for integrating the product vision and the technical vision into a shared vision.

Systems engineering is not electrical engineering or mechanical engineering or chemical engineering. Systems engineering is not software engineering. As we will explain, systems engineering is “the queen of the disciplines”. In that nature lies its unique potential to dialogue with product management and accelerate product development. We will augment our rather unconventional application of systems engineering with design thinking and behavioral science to create a sandbox that frames the problem and possible solutions.

We have recently observed and experienced this dilemma from both the product management perspective and the systems engineering perspective; we have detected the various lamentations of the corresponding professional communities. We will use this MVP (“Minimum Viable Presentation”) in an interactive format to explore possible routes for bridging this inter-disciplinary gap. We will model lean innovation / experimental design by engaging our audience as co-creators in advancing the concept.

All levels

David Quimby

I am a principal at Innovation Radiation, where I practice systematic innovation, experimental design, and technology forecasting. I solved a contradiction early in the 21st century. I am a patented inventor in Web architecture. I collaborated with Doug Engelbart, the inventor of the graphical user interface (GUI), at Stanford Research Institute. I have assimilated into organizational life in realms such as Deloitte Consulting, Best Buy, and Bank of America; while I appreciate the benefits of organizational alignment, I've found that I flourish beyond the constraints of conventional organizational boundaries.

I am a co-founder of Minnesota Change Management Network. I earned a master’s degree in organizational behavior and socio-technical systems at UC / Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics and developmental economics at UCLA. I've climbed Mt. Whitney; I've done trekking in Thailand, a photographic safari in Kenya, and sea kayaking in Alaska; I've traversed the U.S. and Canada by motorcycle. I've also expanded my cultural horizons with extensive travel in Europe, South America, and Australia.

Bill Farmer

Bill Farmer is a Principal Consultant with F&A Consulting and an Adjunct Professor at Augsburg University in Minneapolis. He holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and Japanese from the University of Minnesota, and did his graduate studies at the Media Lab at MIT. After MIT, Bill spent three years working as a research engineer at Sharp Corporation in Japan and grew familiar with "Japanese-style Management", based on the Deming Management System. Subsequent to his return stateside, Bill held executive leadership positions at three Twin Cities corporations, in Product Development and General Management. Over the last decade, Bill has been consulting on Lean Product Development, Agile, and related topics.