A few months ago, I wrote in this blog about Musing on difference between successful product and Innovation. This article was re-published in a few online venues and generated a few critical comments about lack of clarity in definition of terms, specifically about what makes a product “innovative.” Many people would agree that most products that the market considers innovative often do not include any technological breakthroughs.
I keep struggling with the definition of what is an innovative blockbuster product (or service), and this is yet another attempt: A truly innovative product is the one that delights its customers by anticipating their needs before they knew they have them. In other words, if you want to develop a blockbuster product, you should stop trying to better serve the existing needs of your customers and instead try to discover needs that customers may not realize they have and address them.
That definition was not quite satisfactory either, so I kept thinking about it, and I think this is a better version: An innovative product is the one that significantly simplifies customer experience of performing the “job” they “hired” this product to do.
I think simplification of customer experience in achieving the desired outcome is an ultimate goal of any product creator. In my opinion, the experience starts with the recognition that the product is a potential “candidate” for the “job” on hand, and continues from a process of acquisition of the product through different steps until the desired result is achieved. If a product can reduce the number of steps in that sequence by 30% or more without sacrificing the quality of the experience or by improving it, it is truly an innovative product.
So how one goes about creating one?
1. Stop seeing a product as a collection of functions and features. Specifications are not what makes a product innovative. Get a clear understanding of what is a “job” this product will apply to do.
2. Stop thinking of “competition” as products similar to yours, or products in the same price range and sitting on a store shelf next to yours. Think of “competition” as any alternative candidate for the product’s “job” regardless of technology, price or package. Would you think of a digital camera as a competitor of a mobile phone?
3. Gain deep empathy of customers’ experience on their journey to a desired outcome. Learn what is important to them, not to your engineers or marketing people. No disrespect intended towards your partners, but they will be first to thank you when your focus on customer experience will result in a truly innovative product.
We have developed a webinar “Why Companies Do a Poor Job Planning New Products” that provides more details about the ideas and process involved. Please click here to view the schedule.