Beware the overly zealous innovator

How many times have you been involved with an innovation only to find the developers and engineers adding features that were never in the original brief? This happens all too often with the downside of increased development cost, increased product cost and increased time to market. Worse still, researchers going off on a tangent to explore some curiosity of little value to meeting the original product specification?

Mitigating risk – the market is a risky place

Time to market is critical in these days of turbulent markets, rapid prototyping and ever-emerging technologies. Marketers often get it wrong with new products, so the earlier you can achieve market validation the better.

With any new product, it’s usually a good idea to launch with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). That is a product that meets the initial requirements but may lack all the possible enhancements and “bells and whistles” that usually come with extra development cost and increased time to market. These can come later to keep the market involved. Just look at Apple and Microsoft with continuous product churn with the new or updated versions always adding enhancements to the previous.

The idea is to test the market with the MVP and then continually upgrade the product with new and better applications and features that add value. This is what innovation is all about, and one car manufactures exploit to the fullest.

Carmakers release a model, then each year add features, which of course could have been added at the start but at the expense of market validation for a new model; and of course the opportunity to innovate to win ongoing market engagement.

Not only do car makers innovate features, but as time progresses, the new models grow in size and cost. Further, as the updated model grows to become prohibitively expensive for new market entrants, they release a smaller new car. They then use the same trick to migrate these people up the value chain with ongoing enhancements and size.

The Honda Accord, a micro-car of the 1970s soon grew to be a saloon with the Civic coming in under it for the newcomers. Now the Civic, too, has grown to be somewhat of a saloon but as the Civic grew in size and cost Honda introduced the sub-compact City, and so it continues.

What’s the message?

  • Make sure your developers stick to the brief.
  • Beware that surprise curiosities don’t hijack the agenda.
  • Launch and test the market with the MVP.

Roger La Salle, www.innovationtraining.com.au

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