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Thursday
May312012

Real Innovation

Customer insight is the foundation for delivering real innovation

Innovation is an overused term in business today.  Customers are constantly being bombarded with claims of “new and improved” offerings.  With so much messaging around innovation, it’s easy to see how people can become jaded.

Companies pursue innovation, or at least the perception of innovation, because they recognize the potential it has for their business.  Here’s a great quote from Peter Drucker:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions:  marketing and innovation.  Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

– Peter Drucker

Since, according to Drucker, both marketing and innovation produce results, it’s easy to see why many companies just market “new and improved” rather than deliver substantially improved products or services.  It’s easier to change the message than it is to change the offering.

Even so, the reality is real innovation can delight your customers and turn them into fans for your brand.  Where does the innovation process begin?  With the customer.  It’s a simple but hard truth that if you want to “Wow!” your customer you need to understand them better. 

  • What are they trying to accomplish?
  • What benefit do they receive from you today?
  • What problems or frustrations do they have with your current offering?
  • Are there other related problems they wish you would solve?

Let’s look at an example.  Picasa is a free photo organizer from Google.  Early versions focused on organizing images on your computer and importing photos from a digital camera.  Over time the product evolved to include image editing, printing, and sharing.  These new features were added because Google recognized that people do more than just organize their photos.  They crop them, print them in collages, and share them with family and friends.  By better understanding what people do with pictures, Google addressed problems outside the original scope of photo organization.

Real innovation is based on insight into the needs of your customers.  Walk in your customers shoes.  See your business from their perspective.  And in the immortal words of Chevy Chase in Caddy Shack, “be the ball.”