After the invention of the wheel, if mankind had been happy enough to rest on its laurels, the chances of sending spaceships to other planets would not have been great. The entire journey of the human race has been an outcome of innovation; innovating constantly, finding solutions to new problems. Thus, it is of little wonder that for any business to continue on its path of existence and growth, innovation is the name of the game. You either innovate and make everyone else play catch up or you become too busy chasing the leader to ever become the leader yourself. Remember Zune? If not, you are in the majority. Microsoft’s shot at a portable music player arrived a couple of years too late to ever become a serious challenger to Apple’s iPod. And we are talking about a company that has an annual budget of around USD 9 billion for research and development of new products. If that could not save the behemoth from a spectacular failure, chances are that neglecting innovation is going to hurt other companies badly as well. Like going out of business bad. Want to stay competitive? Have a foolproof product innovation strategy ready.
Do not Cater to a Need; Create One:
If there is the need for a product in the market, chances are that your competitors have already filled all the shelves with their products, leaving you to play catch up. Instead of making something that already exists, build one that no one even knows they need. Steve Jobs anyone? When he presented the world with the iPhone, consumers did not know that they need a phone that can be used for more than calling, texting and clicking the occasional photo. Today, Apple is selling millions of the handset in a single quarter. Do not stop because the market does not need a product. If it means that your product ends up serving a niche clientele, so be it. Rolls Royce did not became the brand it is buy selling their cars by the dozen.
Identify the Right Time to Start Innovating:
Your last product has been a game changer. Critical acclaims have poured in, as had revenue. That does not mean you get to sit back and relax. It simply means your task just got a lot more difficult. Following up a successful product with another one sounds much easier than it is in reality. If your last product ticked off all the boxes, then the next one better do that and tick a couple of boxes more for good measure. Otherwise, your consumers are not going to forgive you. Simply repackaging the same thing with buffed up specs does not help. Samsung is finding out that the hard way with its flagship Galaxy S series mobile phones. Make innovation a continuous process. And really innovate, do not just find ways of adding features that no one will ever use.
Learn from your Customers:
At the end of the day, it is the consumers that make or break the fortune of a company. Listen to them. Learn from their complaints. If your last product failed, find out why your customers did not want it. If it was a success, find out what else the customers want it to have. Make them a part a part of the development process. Alpha and Beta versions of products are your best friend. Have your consumers test it for you. After all, they will be the ones using the products. Thus, if something is broken, they will be the first one to notice it. Microsoft is doing it for Windows 10. And that is perhaps the reason why those in camp Redmond are feeling confident that Windows 10 will not be the dud that Windows 8 was.
Let the Designers Handle the Design:
You have your CEOs for taking the decisions, and your designers for designing the products. Ensure that it remains that way. You do not want to make a product that looks like a twin of something that you had launched five years back. No will shell out money for something that looks old, no matter how great a performer it might turn out to be. Let the designers envision the product for you, then work on that to make the product come alive. If you need convincing, look no farther than Cupertino. One of the major reasons behind the company’s success is the amount of freedom it gives to its designers. No wonder, the best designers in the world show so much interest in working for Apple.
Be Ready to Adapt:
This one is no brainer. You cannot have product innovation unless you are ready to adapt with time. Take risks. Be the early bird. Just because a product idea was successful in 2012 does not mean it will be successful in 2015 too. Nokia chose to stick with Symbian when the world moved on to Android and look how it turned out for them. The taste of customers are changingevery day, and that means, you need to change as well. If something is not working, do not moan over it. Cut your losses and start working on the next one. If something is past its shelf date, bury it and build a new one on top of that. Be adaptive. Be innovative.
Your business does not need to be in a particular sector of the industry to have innovation as part of its lifeblood. If you are running a business, you have to be innovative. You do not have the luxury of waiving it. If you want to turn your business into a successful one, “stay hungry, stay foolish.”