Beware of the 7 deadly sins of innovation

All too often organisations commit one or more of the seven deadly sins of innovation, which hobbles the product’s chances of success. Let’s take a look at these sins and how to avoid them.

1. Pushing not pulling

There’s often an ongoing tension between marketing and product development. When developers make a product that is unfit for purpose, marketers have to try and sell something that customers don’t want or need. On the other hand, product developers will argue that marketers aren’t telling them what people actually need. 

To use a 1940s analogy that is still relevant today: no one ever needed a drill, they only needed a hole. Now, if you don’t understand the difference between the two, you’ve missed the point of innovation. If you think the customer needs a drill, you will ask the question ‘how can we improve our existing product?’ While you may get recommendations, you will end up making a drill no matter what.

Imagine, instead of asking about the drill, you ask them about the hole; ‘why do you need a hole in the first place?’ Seeking to understand the desired outcome (customer pull) is more important than pushing the product we think they should have. We should always think about the customer’s need, and make sure you ask the right question in the first place.

2. Not understanding needs

Insight without motivation is just observation, and what most people in product development fail to do is look behind the observable customer activity to what is driving the customer’s behaviour.

NueVue’s antimicrobial protected phone case claims to clean the screen with every slide. This ‘unique and long overdue’ concept in smartphone and tablet cases will eliminate up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria on your screens surface. What is missing here is insight and understanding of the customers’ needs. To what degree is this ‘surgically clean screen’ an issue? On the other hand, YotaPhone have created a smartphone with a second e-ink screen on the back that can keep displaying critical contacts details, numbers or maps indefinitely even when the phone battery runs out. 

In innovation, manufacturers have to ask two questions: ‘who is going to buy this?’ and ‘what is it being used for?’ If the answer to either of these is unclear, then it’s back to the drawing board for product development.

3. Trapped by myths and beliefs 

Some people confuse customer insights with accepted customer beliefs; something that customers accept as true and that affects their buying behaviour. These preconceptions may have been learnt, be cultural or be based on prior product performance that was once poor but has changed over time.

For example, the general consensus in the shaving sector is, the more blades on a razor the more effective it is.

Manufacturers continue to put more blades on the razor head because they perceive this to be what the customer wants. They perpetuate this belief to the point it becomes self-fulfilling and although they want to get out of the hole, the competition continues to feed the consumer belief. Are five blades better than four? Why not try six, or seven?
That is why understanding customers and what drives their habits and preconceptions is vital even if it’s not logical to you. The mistake is to base decisions on your own opinion and knowledge as this won’t always reflect the overall beliefs of the customer.

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