4 Steps to Build an Innovation Ecosystem [podcast]- Valutrics

Most CEOs and company leaders say they want a more innovative organization. We can call the capability that makes this happen the innovation ecosystem of the organization. Creating it is the real challenge. One organization that is well on their way is Kawasaki Motors.

I spoke with their Senior Manager of Corporate Research and Product Management, Dave Oventhal, to learn from their experience.  We discussed the four steps for how product managers and innovators can help build a more effective innovation ecosystem in their companies.


Dave has spent over twenty years in various product development and marketing positions, including product planner, product marketing manager, and product manager, and has led product management teams in various industries. He has extensive experience conducting qualitative and quantitative research and has been directly involved in hundreds of product development projects. He has also served as a chapter president for the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) — an organization I also recommend to product managers. He earned a doctorate in business administration with an emphasis in strategy and innovation.

Here is a summary of the topics discussed and a link to the interview:


  • [2:23] What is your work at Kawasaki Motor Corporation? I get to play with a lot of toys – motorcycles, jet skis, and more. My group is responsible for product management, data analysis, business planning – all the product planning/product management activities. My specific role in the group now is market research and I’m also overseeing product management activities for the Jet Ski line of products.
  • [4:22] What is an innovation ecosystem? Innovation is turning ideas into value. An Ecosystem is a community of interacting people and their environment. So an innovation ecosystem is building the organizational culture to include innovation.
  • [6:12] Who should be involved in creating an innovation ecosystem? Ideally, it is senior or executive leadership. It needs to come from the top down. CEOs and executives often talk about the importance of innovative solutions and new products. To change the status-quo, senior leaders need to be behind the effort.
  • [12:26] What are the four steps to creating an innovation ecosystem?
    1. Get commitment from leadership. Senior leaders must champion the effort and lead from the front.
    2. Teach core skills. Conduct workshops that teach problem-solving, creativity, and decision making. Get everyone understanding what it means to improve the organization’s innovation ecosystem and get them moving towards the goal.
    3. Put the plan into practice. Create metrics to gauge progress and access which groups are moving towards the goal and which need further help. Make it part of performance reviews. Recognize that it is a long-term change.
    4. Experiment and test. Kawasaki Motors is full of former competitive racers, including me, and we all know the phrase go slow to go fast. You have to do the right things first and learn the basics before going faster. This means taking the time to experiment, assessing what is working, and making improvements to better move towards the goal.
  • [38:00] What would you tell a new product manager that you wish you had known when you started as a product manager?Learn from more experienced product managers. Understand how the work in the organization is getting accomplished. Also, get involved with a product management group. The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) is an excellent one I’ve been involved with. Take your profession seriously and be part of an association. Also, consider professional certification, including PDMA’s New Product Development Professional (NPDP) certification.

Listen to the interview with Dave Oventhal on The Everyday Innovator Podcast for product managers and innovators.