The room was hushed. The presenter had completed a very thorough presentation of using their tool to develop a robust innovation program, with all the fixings: the goals were clearly set out, the right people were involved at every level of the organization (yep, they had not one but two executive sponsors), the plan to… Read More »
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I’ve heard it said a few times that its necessity that drives innovation – that if you aren’t trying to solve a hairy problem, or your back is against the wall – that is the only space that innovation comes from. The companies will only innovate if they are forced to.
If you ask me, by the time you are forced to innovate in order to stay alive, then it’s probably already too late. You need to get ahead of the curve – to innovate before you need to – in order to map out the future direction of your company and the world that your company will exist in.
One of the things that I did during my time at Yahoo! we called “Targeted IP Generation” – which is a fancy term for “inventing things we can’t build yet” – we would pick a specific area, say social networks, or even a combination of areas, and invent products in that space that we purposely knew couldn’t be built right now. The reason that they couldn’t be built was usually that the systems were currently incapable of building them right now, or the market wasn’t quite ready for it right now, or that there was no clear business model to the invention, but there was something about it that felt right – that you could see that product exist in a near future world. One of the most interesting things we found that most of the things are came up with actually did come to pass, just at the wrong times. I like to say that inventing products is a bit like being a weatherman: sometimes you are right, sometimes you are wrong, but most of the time you’re right, just at the wrong time.
For example, one of the inventions had to do with augmented reality glasses using a transparent overlay, and about 5 years after we filed for a patent on it, products with that similar capability started coming into the marketplace. The technology had finally caught up to the idea. Since we had filed for a patent on the idea, when the technology catches up, that could have become a whole new line of revenue for the company.
Did we need to innovate? No, there was no pressing need (although if you ask me there is always a pressing need to innovate!) at the time, however we knew that there would be a pressing need for new products and business models in the future, so we preemptively invented for that time. Not many companies are that forward thinking. In doing so, however, you can ensure your continued existence. You don’t have to be worried about disruption shutting you down, like those firms did in the Innovator’s Dilemma – you’ll be prepared for the disruption. You will be birthing new businesses and business models to replace the old ones.
So I’d argue, if you wait for necessity to push you to innovate – you’ve already been outdisrupted. The time to get ahead of the curve is now. Tomorrow may already be too late.
— image Thomas Hawk
You don’t need much more evidence than the last years numbers from Kickstarter to understand that crowdification is in full swing:
- 3.3 million people from all over the world
- There were $529 million in pledges
- Funding over 22,000 projects
You can see: the crowd is fully engaged. We no longer want to sit back and be told what we get – we want to actively participate in the product creation process. We want to build too.
Gone are the days when you can decide what’s best for your customers – they want to be intimately involved from day one – not just in the feedback after your product hits the shelves, but from many, many days minus launch, preferably during or even before the inception stage. Today, customers not only expect their products and services to do more than ever before – they expect to be in the drivers seat before you even put pen to paper on your next product.
Some fight this. Some still hew to the old belief that they know what their customers need, and they are going to give it to them, whether they like it or not. However, these companies will soon be few and far between. Instead of fighting it, why not embrace it?
Give your customers and prospects something to do. Take a look at some of the tasks that your employees are doing and see what you can push to the crowd – if they are willing and interested in doing the work, why not let them? All you need to do is to implement a process to control the quality of what goes out.
Of course, like anything where you engage your customers, it could be a double edged sword: its a new communications method for your customers, so they may use it to complain about your current product offerings. but at the same time, you could glean excellent insights into what your customers are looking for.
Case in point: My Starbucks Idea. A number of years ago, Starbucks opened up a website to gather and rate ideas from customers – both for areas of improvement and new product development. If you take a quick look at the numbers, there has been a ton of customer engagement, and a lot of really good ideas which benefit their customers came out of the woodwork, were developed and launched. Starbucks leveraged this tool to not only engage and involve their customers, but to also offload new product development ideas to their customers. Sure, some of the ideas didn’t go anywhere, but I’ll bet that a large number of their new product found its genesis in a customers mind.
Why not do the same for your customers? I’ll bet that you have some of your own raving fans out there who would love to be a part of the new product creation groups for your company. When you reach out, I’d bet you’d be pretty surprised by the cool stuff the crowd can come up with.
Yes, even a Veronica Mars Movie.
via Kickstarter – 2014 By The Numbers