Thursday, October 11, 2012

The right way to innovate

Because I've been lucky enough to work with a lot of companies in developing new products, I'm often asked, "what's the best way to innovate?"

My answer, though seemingly flippant, is always "the way works best for you."

There's no secret formula for coming up with new ideas and getting them into the market. There's no one process that will guarantee success. If there were, do you think large companies with very smart people and lots of resources would have created these products: Microsoft Zune, Crystal Pepsi, Quikster, Disney's John Carter?

Developing new products requires an understanding of consumer needs, an idea that provides a better way to fulfill those needs than anything that's available now, and flawless execution of the idea in the end product or service. In this day and age, you also have to do it quickly while simultaneously developing a breakthrough communications plan, so you can launch your idea and own the space in the consumer mind before your competition quickly follows your lead.

It's not easy.

So the best way to develop a new product is the way that's most natural for your company and your culture.

For Apple that was a very top down approach driven by a relentless visionary leader. It's something they seem to be struggling with now that Steve Jobs is gone. Many have said they never would have released the flawed maps app in the iPhone 5 under his watch.

Google uses a collaborative approach where scientists, engineers, designers and researchers work together to solve problems and create new products.

Open innovation is all the rage now, where companies like Frito Lay are asking their customers and other experts to help them with the development of new products.

So how should you innovate?

Know your culture and design an approach that fits based on the scale and scope of the project.

Asking Microsoft to innovate like Apple would be like asking Rob Schneider to play Hamlet. Sure he can read the lines, but you're not going to like the result.

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