Let's start with a quick definition: Product innovation is the driving force behind the growth and success of businesses, and perhaps your startup as well. It involves designing, developing, and bringing to market new products or modifying existing ones to address customer pain points and provide unique value, or your company's USP.
But innovative products aren't mere inventions; they are practical solutions that make a real difference which your customers and clients appreciate.
Today, we'll explore the concept of product innovation, understand what makes a product innovative, and learn how to foster innovation in your business.
We will also discuss techniques for generating innovative ideas, as well Wayra's approach to evaluating product innovation.
As the catalyst behind your future growth, product innovation forms the bedrock of your business's long-term resilience and success.
This means that your core product, or MVP, delivers a unique value from your first launch, and if or when your company is established, you maintain a strong innovation cycle to ensure continued success in the marketplace.
Just keep in mind that innovative products are not just mere inventions; they're practical solutions which have been effectively commercialized. As a tech leader, your role is molding these innovations into tangible forms that your customers will be happy to buy. "The product sells itself," in other words.
Product innovation isn't just about something new or adding some new colours; it's about the value you deliver to your customers, as well as the fulfillment or financial gain they get from your product
Suppose you had the technology to make one of these examples possible. That would be an impressive innovation which would rocket your startup's growth. Such as:
Hopefully these examples inspire you to think of your product in a blue ocean kind of way.
While novelty is a crucial aspect, it's not all there is to innovative products. An innovative product is one that introduces new features, functionalities, or enhancements, reflecting a deep understanding of your customers' needs and desires. They are solutions that pull your audience away from regular offerings, captivating them via their unique value proposition.
The line between innovative and regular products can be narrow. So, what sets the two apart? A regular product delivers on its promise to solve a set problem or meet a specific need. It's reliable, convenient, and has a predictable performance. And is probably offered by many different companies.
On the other hand, an innovative product goes beyond meeting needs - it exceeds expectations. It shakes up the status quo, offering an entirely new way of solving problems or fulfilling needs. While a regular product fits nicely into the existing market, an innovative product often creates its own. It's the difference between satisfying your audience and truly impressing them.
When you think about what are innovative products, what comes to mind? Consider these examples, and see if your startup or business has the potential to shake-up a market segment:
Each of these examples disrupted traditional ways of doing things precisely because of their innovative spirit, illustrating the potency of innovative products. Your challenge is to ensure your product follows suit.
Consider product innovation not as just "aha" moments, but a systematic process that can be refined and improved over time. Typically, this process involves five key stages:
1. Idea Generation: Capitalize on brainstorming sessions, gather innovative solutions to problems, and open your doors to progress.
2. Idea Screening: Sift through the gathered ideas, identify the ones with real potential that align with your business objectives and market needs.
3. Concept Development: Develop prototypes, carry out product simulations, and gather feedback. It's about turning theory into practice.
4. Product Development: If the prototype gets positive traction, move into full product development, preparing the product for market launch.
5. Commercialization: Launch your innovative product to the market, considering the marketing mix and anticipating consumer response.
Each stage is crucial and requires careful analysis and decision-making of how to innovate a product for your particular scenario. Remember, innovation is not just about product creation, but delivering value which your customers are willing to pay you for.
The innovative journey begins with a seed of an idea. But how do you come up with a ground-breaking concept? Here are a few techniques:
1. Think from your customer's perspective: Immerse yourself in their world, understand their pain points, and consider how to alleviate them. This may take some time.
2. Challenge assumptions: Break away from convention, question the norm, and find new ways of viewing the world. After immersing yourself in the problem, go on a long walk while you brainstorm, maybe with a coffee or some music free of lyrics.
3. Foster a creative environment: Encourage experimentation, enable diversity of thought, and protect free thinking within your team. Talk with people in the industry and see what you can learn.
4. Harness the power of technology: Utilize tech capabilities to push boundaries and disrupt traditional practices. Talk with AI chatbots, query social media posts, and even search in different languages with Google Translate, as these will often show different models to understand the problem.
Market research allows you to analyze your competition, understand market trends, and identify unexploited opportunities. It's an integral step in the initial stages of product innovation, guiding your direction.
Customer feedback allows you to refine your innovative product. It's a source of critical insights into the practicality and usability of your product, providing real-world user experiences that can help you improve.
Generating innovative product ideas is an art, but turning them into practical, well-accepted products is a science. Striking the balance is where the magic happens.
Now that you understand what product innovation is and have generated a pool of creative ideas, it's crucial to realize the path from idea to innovation isn't always linear. It requires constant reflection, agile decision-making, and persistent resilience. Here's how you can translate your product innovation process into tangible innovative products:
1. Understand, Absorb, and Implement Feedback: As you move from concept development to commercialization, stakeholder input becomes invaluable. Understand and absorb feedback from customers, team members, and market trends. Then, implement changes to your product accordingly. This iterative process allows your innovative products to mature into solutions that truly resonate with your audience.
2. Be Patient and Persistent: Innovative products often push the boundaries of what’s familiar or comfortable. As such, you might face skepticism or pushback initially. Stay patient and persistent, standing by your vision while staying open to necessary refinements.
3. Celebrate Small Victories: The journey to translating the product innovation process to innovative products is a long one, and it's easy to get lost in the big picture. Celebrate each successful test run, each round of positive feedback, and every little step towards a market-ready product. These small victories will keep morale high and maintain momentum in the innovation process.
4. Build an Engaging Story: Every innovative product has a compelling story, one that highlights the problems it solves and the unique value it brings. Develop a convincing narrative around your product that aligns with your target audience's aspirations and challenges. Your innovative product should not only appeal logically through functionality, but also emotionally - this is what inspires loyalty and advocacy among customers.
Product innovation isn't just about the end product but the journey of creating something unique, useful, and relevant from a mere idea. It's about using creativity, insights, and technologies to make a difference - however small - to the world your business operates in.
When it comes to deciphering the value of product innovation, Wayra, the global tech CVC fund, has set robust benchmarks. Our approach to assessing product innovation is a challenging but comprehensive one, mainly focusing on the following key indicators:
1. Value Proposition: Wayra probes the uniqueness and persuasiveness of a product's value proposition. How distinct is it from anything else in the market, and how convincingly does it solve a consumer pain point?
2. Market Relevance: We evaluate how well the innovative product aligns with current and anticipated market needs. How well does it fit into the existing market landscape, and what potential does it hold for future market trends?
3. Scalability: For Wayra, scalability and growth potential are important. Can the product be easily replicated and deployed on a large scale without compromising its efficiency and efficacy?
4. Technological Disruption: We consider technology disruption and look into how much the innovative product utilizes cutting-edge technology to push the boundaries in its respective industry.
Wayra's philosophy about product innovation underscores that it's not just about creating a product different from anything else on the market; it's about offering a solution that efficiently meets a customer's need, changes the market, and foresees the future.
Embedding this approach could be your passport to sustained market relevance and competitiveness. Tell us about your product innovation. See you soon.
Images edited for Wayra, based on the work of: Aaron González, Alex Shuper, Ramon Salinero, George C. via Unsplash.