Innovation takes up a lot of my time, and whilst successfully bring a new product to market is a huge task, challenging as it does all sorts of personal, organisational and financial barriers, it can nevertheless be broken down into a few, simple two dimensional components.
- Needs that are unmet, Vs needs that are unrealised. Around us, there are unmet needs everywhere, and a better mousetrap can be successful. Unrealised needs are a different beast, as users do not know what they do not know, and it is only after they have seen a solution that they realise there is a need. Again, there are examples all around us products that were launched not as a competitor to an existing product, but to a need we had not articulated. Traditional market research works well identifying unmet needs, but is ineffective at identifying unrealised needs. In that case you need a tonally different set of skills, all too rare.
- Technology driven Vs Customer driven. Customers are constantly looking for ways to solve their problems more effectively, cheaply, and quickly, seeking as they do competitive advantage through the deployment of their limited resources. Getting close to customers in this endeavour is a core part of my marketing philosophy. Technology driven innovation by contrast is almost a solution seeking a problem, to unrealised need. Digital technology over the last 15 years has unleashed a huge wave of technology driven innovation, all seeking a place to be leveraged. The classic here, in view, is Jeff Han’s amazing 2006 TED talk, where he demonstrated what we would now call a touch screen, before anyone had thought of the numerous applications now so commonplace, we do not notice them.
In my view, the key organisational challenge is to have all the components of these two simple axes in the room at the same time. Customers articulating problems, technologists articulating the developments relevant to the conversation, from whichever domain they arise, intelligent, curious marketers, and a failure tolerant, ambiguity accepting, long term thinking management culture.