Successful Innovation Relies on a blend of desirability and usability

Even though it is easy to say some ideas are “bad”, generally this is untrue; unsuccessful ideas are either poorly thought through, implemented incorrectly or launched at the wrong time. 

 Tablets are a prime example, many people will probably say that the iPad was the first successful tablet, however tablets have been around for years.  The events which ensured the iPad success was not the tablet itself but the launch of the Apple App Store and advances in multi-touch technology.  Prior to this tablets had a very limited use and therefore were not desireable to the masses.  Innovation without desirabilty and usability will not engender mass appeal and Innovation without consumer centric strategies will not ensure continued success.

 If you look throughout history there are numerous companies who have invented products which could have propelled them to stratisferic heights but failed to implement them or change their strategy to adapt to consumer demand.

  •  In 1975 Kodak invented the first Digital Camera however due to having a 90% market share in photographic film in the United States continued to focus on this product stream.  They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012.
  •  In 1979 Apple engineers visited Xerox PARC as they had invented a GUI interface.  Apple offered stock options to use this technology and it became the interface used on Apple Mac Computers, Imagine what could have happened if Xerox continued with this strategy and sold software like Microsoft?

 You can even see an interesting twist emerging within the mobile market at the moment.  As all operators are scrambling to purchase 4G licences to rollout out faster connection speeds most of the country still experiences patchy connections at best on 3G.  This is not due to speed but location.   Is the continual desire for speed more desirable that an ability to make a call or access the web on your phone???  WIFI is beginning to offer an interesting twist to this story, over the past few years more and more shops, banks, coffee shops, Pubs and now even Trains and undergrounds are offering free wifi.  What would happen if wifi became more widley available than 3G?  why would you have a contract with a mobile provider to make a call when you could communicate via VOIP or Video on any device for free? 

 The reason most large companies fail to monopolise on  ideas that they already have is the reluctance to cannibalise existing successful product lines and to look at the big picture.  Interestingly everyone forgets that if you cannibalise one product line in favour of another, the revenue is still received is still retained within the P&L.  If a competitor does this the revenues just slip away.

 To ensure that you are not sideswiped by a company who is not your competitor today you need to continue Innovating your current product lines to ensure that you are offering customers products that are both desirable and usable whilst adapting your strategy to encompass technological advances and changes in consumer behaviour and needs.


Author: Steve Wakefield

Steve Wakefield is an experienced Innovator presently based in London.

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