Adventures in product development: Innovation and revenue

Being in the middle of Silicon Valley, amid the start-ups, the big and little acquisitions, the big tech companies and the emerging media and social networking services is making me think–a lot–about the twin sets of information and technology and the two poles of audience and revenue.
What I am noticing is that, for some of the bigger companies, it is challenging to maintain the right balance between their audience focus and customer commitment, and their technology innovation and revenue growth.
Or, to put it another way, how do you deeply fund innovation at the same time you support competitive toolsets? Is innovation a PR play to keep the press happy, or part of a sustained commitment to a diversified portfolio?
When you want to make bold moves, address a market opportunity, solve a customer problem, and/or just jump over that “we’re just chipping away at our issues” type of product development, one strategy is to bet the farm, marshall all resources and go for it. Sometimes, the brute force is the only way to get things done. But getting to that focus is challenging for a big company, where there are lots of established business and values to maintain. The biggest challenge is to balance what you do with what you lose when you don’t do something else.

Every company of any maturity makes these decision every day. It’s what strategic focus is. There are never enough resources to go around, and the biggest skill is to decide how much of any one thing to build and ship at one time, and in what sequence. The brilliance of the product strategy team is how they can both support the business goals and the users by maintaining a portfolio of projects–big, medium and small–to drive the business–and the customer value–forward on multiple fronts.