The New Way to Innovate You Must Start Using Today!

When I get several requests in the same week on exactly the same topic, I know something is happening in the marketplace. This week was one such occasion.

A Pharma company wants a presentation on it; a CPG company asked me to give a half-day workshop about the topic; a conference requested a keynote speech about it; a major US business school wants a guest lecture covering the idea  and a consumer goods company wants an article for their newsletter. What’s the topic? The new ways to innovate, that’s what.

With all this interest, and despite having written some popular posts in the past on best-practice innovation, such as “ How to innovate more creatively”, “How to get R&D as excited about consumer innovation as you are”  and “Never succeed at innovation: 10 mistakes even great companies make”, I thought I would summarise the latest trends around how to innovate more successfully today. So here are some ideas to get you thinking about the changes you might want to bring to your own innovation processes.

Customers react to new innovation1. Start with the customer in mind – always

So many organisations still have an innovation process that starts with R&D or operations. It’s time to reverse your innovation funnel and start with the customer. (>>Tweet this<<) What are their problems with current products and services; what do they dream of having? How are they compensating or compromising?

 

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” Steve Jobs

However, as Henry Ford and Steve Jobs remind us, customers don’t usually know what they want. They are usually very clear about what they don’t like, but they also often know the solution they are looking for – even if they don’t express it as such. It is our job to interpret what they are saying into what they need. Therefore, identify the result they want but not how they want to achieve it, otherwise you will be looking for that “faster horse”!

2. Stage-gate innovation is essential for a successful business

Today’s world is fast paced and customers never stay satisfied for long. What surprises and delights today, is ordinary and normal, if not tomorrow, at best in a couple of weeks or months. That’s why it’s vital to work on new product and service developments even before you launch your latest offering.

NEW INNOVATION STAGE-GATESMany companies today work with generation pipelines, with three, four or five stages of innovation preparation. This ensures that they are already working on the replacement of each product they launch, whether or not it’s a success.

3. Line extensions can only do so much

Innovations risks opportunities

According to the McKinsey article “ Reinventing Innovation in CPG“, real growth comes from ground-breaking innovations, not simplistic renovations. However, line extensions do provide the time for organisations to prepare their true innovations, while responding to today’s customers incessant desire for novelty. Continue Reading

This is Why your New Products “Crash & Burn”

Last month I invited readers to share some of the problems and challenges they need to address in 2014. I offered a free consultation to one lucky winner who asked the most interesting question, which could also be of interest for me to answer for other readers.

Well, the winner is Jean-Francois (JF) who has just started working with a start-up in the tech and app areas – I feel that’s more and more of us these days, don’t you? His question was:

“I would like to commercialize a new XXX; what would be the right approach to identify the consumer need and then the market potential, considering that the company has very limited financial resources?”

This is a great question and a reminder that not every organisation has access to large market research or marketing departments and extensive budgets. In fact, in many companies these roles are being h andled by one and the same person with very few resources; is that your case? If so then you will definitely find this post of interest, but even if it isn’t, I’m sure you will still find value from the ideas shared.

As I had promised, I gave Jean-Francois a one-on-one consultancy which ended up lasting several hours, as he had planned well for our session together. He also happens to be really passionate about his innovative idea, as well as in finding solutions to all his challenges.

The product JF and his team want to launch doesn’t exist on the market today, although there are some products which are unsuccessfully trying to address the perceived customer need. The proportion of product launches which fail every year is generally “accepted” to be about 95% – although why companies continue to accept such levels is beyond me! With such odds, I think it is incredibly courageous to start a whole company based around just one new product idea, but that seems to be the norm in many areas today.

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the reasons new products fail and identify ways to reduce if not completely eliminate them for your next launch.

  1. New product Process wheelThe process itself: Innovation is by definition a creative process, but many organisations use a well-worn, restrictive and uncreative process to develop their new products. They are at best most likely to come up with renovations than true innovations. The solution is to introduce some creativity into the process, and why not include potential customers in the process too?
  2. Meeting company quotas: It is surprising that with such miserable statistics concerning the likely success rate of new products, that so many companies – and which shockingly include many of the largest CPGs around – fix quotas on the number of annual new product launches. How crazy is that?! It just encourages too many new products to be launched too early, and almost guarantees failure! I believe it would be much better to seriously limit the levels of acceptance amongst all new product ideas proposed in any year, then only the best would get through.
Continue Reading

STOP Emotional Innovation!

Last week, I posted about making innovations more emotional; if you didn’t see it, you can find it here. Today, I want to speak about the other side of emotional innovation; how to STOP some of your own emotions, when launching new products.

One Sunday last Summer I had been planning a lie-in, like most of us do when we don’t have to get up for work at the weekends. However, I was woken up very early by one of my cats who came to proudly show me that she had caught a bat! 

Both my cats love hunting and I have to say they are (too) good at it! They give me frequent “presents” that I discretely dispose of, unless of course they are alive, in which case I have to catch them and return them to the wild outdoors, whilst the two of them continue to sniff around the last place in which they had seen their prey.

Anyway, my cat Apricot – a female ginger – was really excited about her very rare capture, which is why she had woken me up to show me. Of course, I was less than enthusiastic about a bat flying around my bedroom at five in the morning! Luckily when I switched on my bedside lamp, the light quietened it down and when he stopped flying, to hang on the wall, I was able to catch him and put him back outside where be belonged.

 

Do your innovations excite you or your customer?

Now awake, my mind started musing on the very large differences in the reactions of my cat and me, to this event. She was excited, happy and proud; I was surprised, disappointed and irritated that I had to stop what I was doing – sleeping – to attend to her “present”.

I think something similar happens sometimes when companies launch new products or services. Everyone in the organisation gets excited about their innovation or renovation, are proud to have developed it and happy that after all the hard word, it is finally ready for launch. The customer on the other h and, can be surprised, which is great if this is accompanied by pleasure, or disappointed if the promise is not delivered. However, he might also be irritated if his usual br and or version has been replaced and is no longer available, or at least no longer on the shelf or store in which he usually finds it. We are in fact asking him to work, to change his habits, which no human being really enjoys, even when it is for the better.

 

5 Questions for winning innovations

So how can you make your new product development more customer-centric? By starting from your target customers’ perspective, and by answering these five questions:

  1. How are your customers currently using your product or service? What are their pain points if any; price, packaging, size, availability, sensorial experience – taste, aroma, colour, sound, feel?
  2. Who is currently changing or has already changed their habits to compensate for these pain points?
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