Recently I had the pleasure of talking to a number of start-up CEOs. I was trying to understand what they were doing and why they seemed to have a very diverse set of offerings in their portfolio.

You can imagine the common rationale that came through. Quite high on the list was that there was a variety in demand, hence a need for variety in supply. Right. More logical was the reasoning that they were unsure what would be successful – i.e. hedging their bets, exploring options, etc.

Later, I was having  a discussion amongst friends who were working for larger MNCs. When the topic on Product portfolio came around, it was interesting. The logic on product decisions did not seem very different from those of the start ups. Maybe not all that suprsing – a business is a business after all.

This brought an interesting thought – if everyone is doing portfolio planning pretty much the same way, there should be an opportunity for a company to be successful by not doing a portfolio strategy at all. That could be a crucial differentiator.

That was an exciting thought. Ah, I thought, maybe I could find a career with a consultancy practice around this 🙂

Unfortunately, then came the wake up – isn’t that what Steve jobs is doing (and successfully, I may add). No product portfolio. Each product designed not to fit a category or a segment. Rather, Apple creates the segment.

Yes, it is still portfolio management, but you are not managing the products, rather you are managing your customer segments.

And that is what portfolio management truly should be about – not about creating the right products, not about selecting the right projects, but each pall about creating a new market.