Innovation – Marketing versus Engineering

What are the roadblocks and critical relationships between marketing and engineering in the cause of advancing innovation?

Let me start off by recommending that you watch the movie I’ve embedded, as it does a great job of describing how there is often an engineering solution to a problem and a marketing solution to a problem. This in part explains why there is often a tension between marketing and engineering when it comes to new product development – they see different solutions, assign value differently, and view success in divergent ways. So, please enjoy the video, and my article will continue below it:

So in the future, with the problem at hand, you might want to ask yourself – “Is the problem best solved by changes to the real value, redefining the intrinsic value provided, or a bit of both?”

Of course it is very hard for people to ask these questions honestly as they have a default response, but asking them in a cross-fuctional environment may yield a more holistic and informed response. And after all, many of the barriers that people tend to erect in the achievement of something are often because they didn’t feel involved in the decision-making process.

So, what are some of the barriers that people erect in a sometimes tension-filled environment?

  1. Isolation – You just avoid communicating with the other side as much as possible
  2. Stonewall – You just do what you would do anyways and ignore the input from the other side
  3. Passive Aggression – You consciously choose to behave in a way that will cause the effort to fail, so that ideally you get your way instead
  4. Build a Fortress – You build complex written rules of engagement for your department saying that it has to be this way because you’re too busy and these rules will help you be more organized
  5. Omission – You take the inputs but then you don’t do anything with them (marketing doesn’t promote a feature, or engineering doesn’t fully develop it

Working TogetherThe biggest danger to the cause of advancing innovation when it comes to the engineering and marketing departments is that the relationship develops into one without constructive conflict and without healthy collaboration. For innovation to be repeatable in an organization these two sides must share openly, have their perspectives valued, and contribute to a conversation. Marketing and engineering hear different aspects of the voice of the customer in their interactions with them, and they approach solutions to problems in different ways.

I would even argue that there is probably no more important set of cross-functional relationships than those between marketing and engineering, and that their health will determine the future success or failure of the organization. The executive team should consciously monitoring the health of these relationships, because when they start pulling in opposite directions, the entire organization could be ripped apart.

What directions are these two organizations pulling in your organization?

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