"Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should."
This truism applies to many things in life (think: just about any failed stunt that’s gone viral on YouTube), but it especially applies when it comes to business.
Innovation has been responsible for huge breakthroughs in the world. We have seen astounding things come into existence over the past 10 years that we might not have dreamed possible. However, innovation has also produced some serious duds—ideas that, despite being innovative and original, totally flopped.
Here are some of things we’re taking about:
- Oakley Thump Sunglasses: Before there was Google Glass, there were Oakley’s Thump sunglasses, which combined UV protection with an MP3 player. Unfortunately, the glasses were incredibly ugly and the audio controls were difficult to use—plus, users were stuck with a paltry 256MB of flash memory for the sky-high price of $495.
- Segway: The Segway, a two-wheel personal transportation vehicle, was launched in 2002. At the time, the head of Segway proclaimed that it “will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy”. Not quite. It was launched with promises of changing how we live, commute, and build cities. Segway, however, did not understand that its price point, well above $3,000 for most models, was too high to draw a mass consumer base. From 2001 to the end of 2007, the company only sold 30k units of its two-wheeled scooter.
- e-“Anything”: As a broader example, think back to the massive amount of money that was invested during the dot-com boom. Venture capital firms funded almost everything with an E in front of the name, from e-commerce companies to Web tool developers to portal site—anything that sounded new, cutting-edge, or innovative. However, unless those companies were solving some underlying problem (think eBay, Yahoo, and Amazon), you’ve probably never heard of them.
The recent innovation craze has led many organizations—startups in particular—to focus exclusively on their ability to develop products that create a disruptive breakthrough and make them famous. So what’s the difference between the innovations that make us go “wow” and ones that make us ask “why”? The difference lies in what the product has been developed in response to.
When you innovate for innovation’s sake, you move forward with products that aren’t being developed in response to buyer-defined needs. If your product doesn’t solve a market problem, you limit your chances for success. Research shows us that market-driven products which focus on an outside-in approach are 31% more profitable. They typically have a faster time to market, higher price point, and fewer failures.
Consider this myth debunked. Innovation (in and of itself) isn’t everything. Only when innovation solves a problem in the market does it become a potent force. Products that act as a solution to an existing problem will see incredible success. But even once you have identified your market problem and you have a product that solves a it, you are still faced with another serious hurdle: How do you tell people that your product has solved their problem? We’ll be diving into that question a little bit deeper in an upcoming email.
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