In the previous two deliveries I gave an overview of the different types of innovation which organisations can generate. The purpose of laying out the different types of innovation were to assist organisations in determining how its current innovation strategy stacks up against its competitors, and, more importantly, to help reveal where new innovation opportunities can be pursued. I also undertook to delve deeper into some of these dimensions, and in this delivery I want to address the most obvious one (in my opinion), the organisation’s offerings, i.e. its products and services.
Innovation along the offerings dimension requires the creation of new products and services that are valued by customers. As a very simple but outstanding example, let me take the toothbrush. It went from a plain piece of plastic with bristles to an electronic device which was much more expensive. Then a simple design and the use of disposable AA batteries translated into ease of use, portability and affordability. The shaving razor went through the same evolution and we all know how mobile phones progressed.
We all know these products, you become aware of them, buy and use them and then think to yourself: “Why has nobody thought of this earlier”? Case in point, it is a known fact that wheels for luggage were invented and went mainstream after the first man walked on the moon! Why then, when it seems so simple, is it so hard to come up with these product ideas and bring them to market? Regardless of the industry, organisations often face common challenges related to driving new product and service innovation, including: Identifying promising opportunity areas; Moving beyond massive amounts of consumer data to gain meaningful insights; Translating insights into breakthrough business concepts; Prioritizing and selecting the most promising opportunities; Championing and defending fragile ideas through the innovation process; Building the organisational alignment required for successful execution. Questions that keep you awake at night about this matter include: How can we gain confidence around which opportunity areas to pursue? How can we get bigger and better ideas into our pipeline? How can gain deeper insights into emerging consumer and customer needs, and then integrate these insights into the product innovation process? How can we develop and institutionalise a process to continually innovate new products and services?
These are not easy questions to answer in the space of this column, however, I can give you some modest advice in terms of how to come up with these kind of ideas for your products and services. The easiest (and sometimes also the hardest…) way to get good product and service ideas is to talk to your customers. Find out what frustrate them in using your products or services. This sounds so simple, yet so few companies do it, or they do it, and then do nothing about the complaints or ideas they receive. The other very simple way is to use your own product or service, this will put you in your customers’ shoes and provide valuable insights. Another simple “trick” is to look around at other industries. You never know what innovative ideas can be adapted to yours. Another avenue is mobile apps. Mobile apps are being developed faster than we can keep up with, and this is good. Get your people to keep an eye out for apps that may be applicable to your business and enhance your product or service offering. Who knows, maybe they will discover an app that can be integrated with your product or service and provide an innovative approach to your offering. Ask your team to have an “always on” alert system for creative, innovative ideas. Lastly, keep it simple, sometimes a small change to a product can make a big difference.
What are the changes and tweaks you can bring to your current product- and service offerings that can delight your customers and boost your competitive advantage? Next time I will unpack the dimension of customer experience. I conclude with a quote from Mohanbir Sawhney: “To gain customer insights, we must understand that we are prisoners of what we know and what we believe”.