The Globalization of the Product Development and Management Association

photo by Li Yang

photo by Li Yang

When we wrote our book in 2003, the United States was clearly playing the lead role in innovation efforts around the world. Since that time, the US leadership role has been shrinking as global companies and economies ramp up their innovation efforts. 

This shift can be seen in the evolution of the Product Development and Management Association. The PDMA is a global organization dedicated to innovation. When we first met the board of the PDMA they were a large, splintered group made up of corporate product development professionals and academics in search of alignment on their future. After we led them through an exploration of their future opportunities, they selected several strategic frontiers for consideration, including a focus on innovation and desire for globalization. 

Believing that innovation was to be the future in the area of product development, the PDMA adopted this as their new strategic focus in the 2003 timeframe. Their website now proudly proclaims “PDMA accelerates the contribution that innovation makes to the economic and professional growth of people, businesses and societies around the world.”

At the same time, PDMA committed to a 2020 Globalization Strategy. They changed their governance process to include Vice Presidents of four global regions. They then opened up membership opportunities globally and the response has been impressive. PDMA went from 40 US-only chapters in 2003 to add 20 International affiliates in 2013. The appetite for innovation around the world has been growing significantly. 

A Boston Consulting Group survey confirms this globalization trend for innovation. In their 2010 report they concluded,

The world’s economically mature countries, led by the United States, have been the principal players on the innovation stage for decades. But there is much to suggest that this era of unquestioned dominance is fading. RDEs [Rapidly Developing Economies] led by Brazil, India, and China (the BIC countries) are in the ascendancy and appear poised to put a major dent in the mature economies’ self-image and position, if not to assume their leadership role outright.

And the Forbes 2012 list of the top ten most innovative companies in the world includes one from China (Tencent Holdings), two from India (Hindustan Lever and Bharat Heavy Electricals) and one from Brazil (Natura Cosmeticos). These are companies to whom investors have paid an “innovation premium,” based on expectations of future innovative results.

Two years ago, Bob had the opportunity to visit China, delivering a speech on innovation on behalf of PDMA. He tells of a visit he took to a place called Innovation City: 

With a population of over 10 million people - 1 million university students - the city of Wuhan, China, on the Yantze river, pulsates. Centrally located in the Hubei province, it has been described as an entrepreneurial hotbed and a model of urban innovative growth.

One day we were invited to visit Innovation City on the outskirts of Wuhan, the newest symbol of the government’s mandate for innovation. With two-dozen gleaming structures (none reaching more than 10 stories), a park-like setting with lake, emerald open spaces and walkways, Innovation Park draws you in.

But, the most surprising secret regarding Innovation City is captured by a black and white photograph in one building’s lobby of rolling, empty farmland dated precisely 24 months earlier – this was the rural landscape that became Innovation City. In China, innovation can’t wait.
— Bob Johnston

Meanwhile, Europe is also embracing the role of innovation. In 2010, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, established “Innovation Union – A Europe 2020 Initiative.” Its goal is to create the conditions where the European Union is able to compete globally for future economic growth and jobs. They have been actively involved in developing programs to increase the flow of venture capital funding, patent and intellectual property rights, and access to scientific data across the European Union. One of their goals is to create a European Research Area, a single market for research and innovation across Europe that will help attract science and technology talent and funding to compete with the US and Asian markets.

Case StudyBob Johnston