Product Innovation – What’s it and tips on how to do it proper

by Conquerer

Individuals discuss product innovation each day with out even realizing it. Whether or not they consult with their smartwatch and its newest options, the highest performing vehicles or the most recent app that helps them unwind, they carry up product innovation.

However what makes these merchandise modern – and why are 95% of new products failing? How are some firms succeeding at bringing these improvements to the market and why others fail? As we speak, we’ll attempt to reply these questions and see what the components contributing to profitable product innovation are.

What’s product innovation?

One of many extra broadly accepted definitions for innovation is the introduction of one thing new. That one thing might be something from new providers to merchandise, processes and even incremental enhancements to one thing that already exists. In observe, nonetheless, individuals normally consult with new or improved merchandise after they discuss innovation.

However what, precisely, is product innovation? Product Innovation might be probably the most well-known kind of innovation, and it may be outlined in numerous methods. With out going by all potential definitions, let’s hold it easy and clear: product innovation is the event or enchancment of merchandise in a method that tries to resolve issues for customers, prospects, firms or society at massive.

Many such improvements could be tangible and contain both radically new applied sciences, or simply incremental enhancements of current ones. However extra on the forms of product improvements later on this article.

Why extra firms ought to contemplate product innovation?

We’ve seen again and again that innovation is the principle financial driver, each for organizations and society at massive. In the case of product innovation, a McKinsey survey means that 25% of whole income earnings of an organization come from the launch of latest merchandise.

A portfolio of excellent merchandise drives development and brings extra revenue, in comparison with providers which might enhance income however have a decrease margin. There are a number of causes for this. For example, in lots of circumstances merchandise are simpler to scale than providers. They’re hands-off and simpler to handle. That is why the mannequin of Service as a Product has been so profitable. Airbnb, Uber, Fivers had been in a position to scale and switch massive earnings. They don’t want shut monitoring and interplay like different providers would.

Alternatively, extremely aggressive markets made product innovation harder as greater than 50% p.c of latest merchandise fail to succeed in their targets. Nevertheless, there are nonetheless loads of compelling arguments in favour of product innovation.

1. Aggressive benefit

Whether or not we discuss new merchandise or improved ones, profitable firms have at all times discovered a method to leverage innovation and acquire aggressive benefit.
Main firms use product innovation to get forward of their friends in 3 ways:

  1. Develop new merchandise that reply the wants of their customers or create new demand for them.
  2. Repeatedly enhance on their core merchandise and make incremental innovation their second nature.
  3. Redefine the competitors by taking current merchandise to new channels or markets.

How does it look in observe?

swiss watch market competitionRedefining the competitors can be about redefining the worth of a product. For instance, within the 70s, Japanese innovation nearly took out of the market conventional watchmakers in Switzerland. Having low-cost manufacturing but excessive correct method of telling time, Swiss firms needed to additionally redefine the worth of their merchandise.

So Swatch took over a market as soon as dominated by Japanese firms like Seiko or Casio. They repositioned themselves and created a modern line of swatches. Conventional watches additionally discovered a brand new market because the Swiss firms created the demand for luxurious watches turned collectibles and long-term investments.

The candy spot is balancing the three approaches: new merchandise, enhancements and focusing on new markets. Focusing solely on one in all them is a mistake we see even in massive firms.

The candy spot is balancing the three approaches: new merchandise, enhancements and focusing on new markets. Focusing solely on one in all them is a mistake we see even in massive firms.

For instance, in 2003 Lego ventured on new markets. Sadly, they misplaced focus and went on promoting garments, equipment and life-style merchandise. After these failed experiments, they refocused on their core enterprise and positioned themselves as leaders in toy development kits. This focus enabled them to develop their income from €0.9 billion in 2004 to €4.8 billion in 2015.

Apple can be sustaining its aggressive benefit by product innovation. Because the introduction of the smartphone in 2007, Apple has iterated on their innovation and initially gained market share and likewise took out of enterprise sluggish to innovate opponents.

Nevertheless, some caught up fairly quick and as we’ve seen lately, Apple misplaced market share in entrance of Samsung. In flip, they’ve grown by including different services and products, like iCloud, Apple Music and completely different earbuds and headphones.

This takes us to the subsequent argument in favour of product innovation.
product innovation

2. Encourages resilience

It is not uncommon for firms that miss the innovation practice and lag behind their competitors to ultimately disappear altogether. Product innovation is the possibility to bounce again. In the event you create the best circumstances and strategize round this choice, product innovation may help you pivot.

Take into account Nokia, an organization well-known for its quite a few improvements and strategic pivots. They began as a wooden pulp mill, then moved on to rubber boots and naturally to their most recognizable merchandise, the Nokia cell telephones.

When Apple took the world by storm with their smartphones, Nokia was not in a position to catch up. They had been near chapter however as soon as they bought their cell telephones enterprise to Microsoft, they pivoted their enterprise as soon as extra and turned to high-end networking and software program merchandise. This helped them up to now 10 years to increase their enterprise value 20 times.

Nevertheless, Nokia telephones haven’t died. They returned to the market in 2016. The Finnish firm HMD purchased the model license to provide and promote Nokia telephones and have not too long ago launched six new models.

The difficult and sophisticated story of Nokia completely depicts that the motion you tackle product innovation could make or break an organization. It may well simply turn out to be your worst enemy or probably the most highly effective device that retains the enterprise afloat and helps their development.

3. Drives development

Product innovation permits firms to develop, flip larger earnings and conquer new markets. There are a number of contributing components that allow development and people who get product innovation proper reap the advantages on a long run.

When the market is oversaturated and firms don’t discover their method out, they might flip to product innovation. We’ll clarify how this works once we get to the processes and frameworks, however briefly, it’s about creating new demand.

Three forms of product innovation

Now that we now have clarified what product innovation is, let’s have a quick take a look at the three predominant classes of product innovation.

1. Growth of latest merchandise (NPD)

New merchandise can fall beneath any kind of innovation. They are often radical or disruptive, however normally they’re really incremental and sustaining by nature. We’ll clarify a bit extra intimately the NPD course of later on this article.

Radical and disruptive improvements should not the commonest and for good motive. They’re more durable to get proper, they current extra dangers, and the success price will not be very excessive. The difficult half is not only arising with concepts for brand new merchandise, and even taking them to completion. Essentially the most troublesome half is driving adoption of those merchandise. And even when you’re profitable, you continue to must do all of that with manageable dangers whereas retaining prices beneath management.

In response to McKinsey only one in 7 concepts end in a profitable product. That is why we are able to’t stress sufficient how necessary ideation and idea management are in developing new products. We have previously written about the key success factors in idea management, where we go into a bit more detail on how to go about this.

product differentiationCompanies that have a great track record of launching successful new products use a systematic way of taking their ideas from concept to a marketable product.

2. Improvement of existing product or service

This type of product innovation is what we often refer to as incremental innovation. More specifically it refers to incremental changes aimed at improving existing products.

Improving on innovations developed by others is usually the most lucrative and successful type of product innovation. This happens because when new products are launched, they are usually not exploited to their full potential. A series of incremental innovations and improvements have to be made to better meet the needs of consumers.

Improving on innovations developed by others is usually the most lucrative and successful type of product innovation.

Take for example the computer. It was a new product when it has first appeared, a truly radical innovation. Several innovations and improvements in the technology made it possible to go from giant computers the size of a room to personal computers, and later laptops and smartphones. Innovations in computer hardware and software have made it possible to mass produce laptops at affordable prices.

3. New features to a product

Product improvement is the process of making significant and meaningful changes to products and this can also be done through new features. But new features can be just as risky as launching a new product.

What types of features are usually involved in product innovation?
Features are developed to improve products, increase frequency or increase adoption. As not all features will be appreciated, it’s important to decide what kind of feature is most relevant for your product and what goal it pursues.

If we consider feature creep, or scope creep, this is the perfect example of how features are not necessarily more valuable for customers. A HBR survey revealed that 56% of customers who purchased excessive tech-products really feel overwhelmed and dissatisfied by the myriad of options they initially thought helpful. Much more, investing in pointless options that aren’t strategic and don’t add worth might imply throwing cash down the drain, harming the product and even the model.

What’s an instance of function creep in merchandise? To make a espresso with the Bosch Benevenuto B30, you first have to select from 12 choices, determine on power saving choices, time programming and water hardness. It sounds a tad an excessive amount of for a easy espresso. Customers get overburden and all the extra options distract from the unique usability of the product.

Product Innovation in Observe

Now that we clarified what’s product innovation and what it implies, let’s see the way it works in observe. For this, we’ll take a look at a few of the commonest methods, frameworks and theories that make product innovation occur.

1. NPD – New Product Growth

In a time when expertise and communication channels are so simply accessible at massive scale, anybody could make and launch merchandise. The bar has been lowered, however not relating to good product growth. Elevated competitors led to larger requirements, so the bar is definitely larger if you wish to have a profitable product available on the market.

New Product Growth, or NPD is the method by which firms take a product from idea to market. It may well consult with utterly new merchandise or enhancements of current ones. Relying on business or firm, the method can, in fact, be completely different.

We laid out under the commonest seven phases new merchandise usually undergo. It begins with the ideation and idea era and ends with the launch and introduction to the market. Remember that these illustrate the commonest approaches to NPD however they’re in no way a silver bullet.

7 stages of new product development
2. Steady Enchancment Processes

Identical to NPD, this one is a high-level strategy it’s best to have in mind because it entails a strategic, organization-wide course of.

In the event you’re a daily reader, you might be already acquainted with steady enchancment as we’ve mentioned this matter at size in other articles. However, we think it’s important to specifically mention the important role continuous improvement plays in product innovation.

If you embrace continuous improvement in your organization, it will only become natural to make better products and win that competitive advantage. As everyone involved in developing products is systematically engaged in doing a better job day after day, their strive for excellence will pay off on the long term. Constantly improving on your products will give you a steady advantage and you won’t be left behind.

There are many ways through which you can get there, and we also wrote about the continuous improvement processes and how to choose those that match your needs.

PDCA cycle
There are several continuous improvement processes and one we can mention briefly is the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act). This process supports the principles and practice of continuous improvement and Kaizen. Kaizen is actually the philosophy stemming from Japanese car manufacturers and is focused on making small changes every day to contribute to major improvements over time.

3. Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy is a idea developed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne of their ebook with the identical title. Their strategy features a set of instruments and frameworks that allow firms to seize “blue oceans” that are the unexplored areas of the market.

It may be used to pursue differentiation, open up new market areas and create new demand. The authors level out that preventing with opponents on a crowded market, the purple oceans, is never a profitable technique, and by creating an uncontested market area for your self, you might be paving your method to success.

How does it look in observe?

Let’s take the instance of Nintendo, an organization misplaced within the purple ocean of console video games that couldn’t sustain with all of the technological advances within the business. As a substitute of giving up, they captured the eye of a brand new, extra informal viewers, drifting away from the hard-core players everybody within the business had centered on for many years.

value innovation blue ocean strategyDedicated to new markets and to worth innovation, they launched Nintendo Wii in 2006 and received over households and kids. With a major decrease value, just a few novel options and a wi-fi movement management stick, they had been again within the sport. Their give attention to worth innovation was the profitable technique. Nevertheless, to save lots of prices and enhance purchaser worth on the similar time, they needed to reimagine the market and redefine what high quality means for his or her new phase.

4. Jobs to be finished

You’re most likely acquainted with Jobs To Be Achieved, a framework for figuring out buyer wants. It’s all about discovering out what sort of jobs customers rent their merchandise to do. Nevertheless, there’s a bit extra to it than simply asking your prospects the explanations for his or her selections. In the event you merely ask why they selected a sure product, you’ll hardly ever perceive their wants in sufficient element.

Going deeper, to the foundation causes of their selections, opens the door to actual, value-adding innovation. These are the wants prospects typically didn’t even know that they had. In an HBR article, Clayton Christensen explains how this framework works and why firms win with innovation as soon as they perceive how and why prospects make sure choices.

How does it look in observe?

Take into account Nike, one of many best-selling athletic attire and footwear firms to this present day. Once they first obtained began, they developed a product that carried out a job that others had didn’t get proper. Nike co-founder, Invoice Bowerman, initially a observe and discipline coach set on a mission to assist athletes run quicker. His curiosity in making footwear carry out the job athletes wanted finished led to the invention of high Nike shoe manufacturers like Cortez or Waffle Racer. Nike switched from distributing different footwear manufacturers to creating their very own.

It’s necessary to have a look at merchandise by the lens of jobs to be finished as a result of it could broaden your online business horizons and provide help to establish new alternatives that others haven’t already tackled.

How one can do product innovation proper?

Main firms have a balanced portfolio that mixes area of interest merchandise, completely new developments and improved merchandise. Their key to success, as reported by McKinsey appears to be of their systematic strategy to product innovation, that features a intently monitored and tracked strategic course of in addition to nice collaboration and implementation capabilities.

McKinsey recognized of their analysis 4 main components that contribute to the success of product growth. Nevertheless, these should not essentially the identical for each group, so attempt to establish the capabilities you want for the form of product innovation you’re doing. Regardless, listed here are 4 you would possibly wish to contemplate.

The flexibility to handle and unite groups in the direction of a particular aim is important for any kind of innovation. It’s a fantasy that innovation is a solo exercise. Some individuals could be higher at ideation when they’re on their very own, however making innovation occur requires extra mind energy in addition to various expertise able to performing completely different form of duties required to create and ship nice merchandise to the market.

market demandTechnique and planning. This step is commonly underestimated by many firms as they wish to quick ahead to the event or testing phases. Product innovation requires excellence in technique and planning as a result of there may be a lot work in getting ready a really modern product. Plans ought to be thorough, and they need to embody completely different situations that assess and mitigate dangers.

It’s to not say that it’s best to linger on the strategic part for too lengthy. If you end up caught on this part, by the point you might be able to act, it would already be too late. It’s necessary to get the large image proper, determine which course is best for you after which be quick and agile in testing, studying and adapting on the best way.

Thorough evaluation of the market. Earlier than attending to the drafting board, it’s essential do your analysis. What’s the demographic like, what wants is your product answering and what differentiates you from the competitors? Assume right here on the jobs to be finished idea and the blue ocean framework.

As beforehand talked about, don’t get caught right here for too lengthy. In case you are lower than pace, your analysis could be in useless. So as soon as once more, be versatile about your plan and revise issues as you progress forward.

  • Coaching groups answerable for launching merchandise

Talking of the capabilities of your workforce, we’ll state the plain, that it’s essential get the perfect individuals for the job. They’re essential for the success of your product innovation.

After getting the best individuals understand that for innovation to occur, groups ought to be educated to try for excellence. That is in fact extra complicated, and it requires a sure setting that permits an innovation tradition to flourish. Profitable firms know that investing in coaching and creating their individuals will add to the end result of the product.

To this, it’s price including some extra particular product associated components that may have an effect on the ultimate end result:

  • Compelling worth proposition

That is most likely the one commonest failure firms might undergo within the course of and it takes us again to the roles that prospects want finished. Your worth proposition is what units you aside. It ought to be clear how your product is offering an answer to particular buyer wants. All too typically firms simply create cool devices that don’t actually add worth to anybody.

For merchandise to be adopted at a big scale, they need to be simple, simple to know, and straightforward to make use of.

  • Product portfolio integration

Deciding on the subsequent product or enhancements ought to at all times be in step with the large image objectives and technique of your group. Are these innovation initiatives taking you in the best course and contributing to a balanced product portfolio?

Examples of product innovation finished proper


1. Sony

From the best way we take heed to music, to digital cameras and large TVs, to canine robots, Sony has been a trailblazer in innovation for the previous 60 years.

As we speak, gaming is probably the most worthwhile business within the leisure sector. As HBS experiences, when Sony entered the market, the actual gaming struggle started. The PlayStation launch in 1994 turned Sony into the most important rival of Nintendo and Sega, firms dominating the gaming business till then.

Sony launched available on the market improvements that positioned them forward of their opponents. The important thing variations within the PlayStation had been CD-ROMs used to course of the video games and the introduction of 3D graphics. At the moment, they had been technologically superior and extra enticing for builders who might create a greater variety of video games.

gaming industrySony additionally excelled at figuring out their opponents’ weaknesses and at delivering nice worth to their prospects. They had been in a position to value their console decrease and entice extra gamers on their aspect.

There are a number of components that contributed to their success and whether or not it was the expertise, the pricing or their timing, Sony knew tips on how to use innovation to gasoline their development.

2. Past Meat

Past Meat is pushed by their philosophy to repeatedly enhance and their strategy to innovation positioned them in high 50 most innovative companies. In an oversaturated market, what differentiates Past Meat? As a substitute of going solely after vegans and vegetarians, Past Meat had been among the many first to focus on omnivores and individuals who wish to scale back meat consumption. This was an excellent change since focusing on completely vegans would imply going out on a really small, area of interest market.

Since their launch, the competitors grew fiercer and there are numerous alternate options on the market. Nevertheless, it’s price mentioning their position in altering the market and their dedication to innovation as their main ingredient to changing into the dominant world protein firm.

Past Meat states their dedication to innovation by steady enchancment and the usage of newest applied sciences. Whereas they had been trailblazers at first, it will not be simple to take care of this place on such a crowded market. In the event that they wish to proceed rising and surpass their opponents, they positively need to up their innovation sport.

3. Tesla

Tesla is the title we at all times come again to once we speak innovation. They didn’t invent electrical automobiles, however their innovation lies in bettering the expertise that converts increasingly individuals to electrical vehicles. Tesla is innovating to extend battery longevity, lower prices for customers and enhance worth available on the market.

Past technological improvements, Tesla is at all times the poster little one of innovation due to their ambition to turn out to be higher at every little thing they do. They’ve reimagined massive components of the worth chain at a fast tempo and not too long ago additionally achieved a 96 Net Promoter Score (NPS), by far the very best of their business.

The challenges of product innovation

There isn’t a product shortage in the present day, which makes product innovation a dangerous enterprise. Each firm is making an attempt to provide you with new or improved merchandise and they’re dealing with quite a few challenges. We listed under a few of the commonest challenges dealing with product innovation and a few potential workarounds that you simply would possibly discover helpful.

1. Proving product viability

Product viability refers back to the enterprise potential of a particular product. Sadly, many firms miss this as they fail to create related merchandise that actually reply to buyer wants.

To beat this problem, at all times ask your self if there may be demand to your product, if it supplies an answer to an issue and if it does, are you able to promote it at a aggressive value which permits for ROS (return on sale)?

Generally it’s not sufficient to only ask your self as your biases would possibly hinder your judgment. Go additional and look into the roles to be finished idea and ensure your product is performing a job prospects want finished. Analysis the market completely and get as a lot insights as potential and keep in mind that you may’t do it at your desk. It’s a must to get your arms soiled and go on the sector.

2. Excessive prices

There are two forms of value challenges that may come up in an organization.
First, you might need a product that prices an excessive amount of to provide so your revenue margin will probably be low, or you find yourself dropping cash. It’s greatest to give attention to what actually creates worth and what advertisements to the prices on the long term. Jobs To Be Achieved and Blue Ocean Technique are frameworks that may provide help to give attention to offering worth and reduce manufacturing prices.

Secondly, the event prices which you’ll be able to’t get better when you’re not in a position to get a excessive sufficient revenue margin, or broad sufficient adoption for the product. A method to get round these growth points is to be agile, be taught from failures and have a quick tempo of innovation.

MIT Sloan has documented how eight completely different Japanese firms develop worthwhile new merchandise. Profitable Japanese firms like Toyota, Olympus, Sony or Nissan give attention to extremely structured processes and handle prices early in a product’s life. Of their evaluation in addition they emphasise the significance of disciplined proactive value administration within the product growth course of.

3. Pricing

Placing the best value to innovation is at all times difficult and it’s very true with shopper items. Pricing can tip the steadiness in your favour and decide extra individuals to purchase your merchandise. You might need an superior product but when nobody needs to purchase it you’ll end up in a good spot.

Pricing is a really highly effective device to find out the feasibility of innovation early on. We invited Kyle Westra within the Innovation Room Podcast to speak about pricing innovation and new product growth. He defined intimately the pricing course of and the way involving pricing early on within the innovation course of and product growth can put you forward of the competitors.

4. Innovation for the sake of innovation

When innovation is merely a branding technique and isn’t purposeful, firms get in bother. Innovation for the sake of innovation might happen when firms wish to present outcomes to inner stakeholders. Such initiatives could be extremely seen, however they aren’t at all times aligned with a complete enterprise-wide innovation technique. This is called the theatre of innovation.

In the event you notice that you simply’re in that bucket, take a step again and give attention to incremental improvements for a short time. Giant firms have the benefit of getting tons of assist requests, buyer complaints and enchancment solutions from prospects, staff and just about each different stakeholder too.

Merely put, figuring out and understanding prospects’ ache factors can result in main alternatives for enchancment. After getting understood the extent of those ache factors it’s necessary to handle them as alternatives for innovation, not as methods of mitigating harm.

haier product innovationWe will consider the Haier instance from 1996 when customers had been complaining their washer hose was clogging. Because it seems many individuals in rural areas had been having the identical concern as a result of they had been utilizing washing machines to scrub candy potatoes. Haier enhanced their product to fulfill such wants in rural areas and the primary 10,000 washing machines bought out instantly.

After all, this will’t depend as probably the most radical innovation on the market, but it surely reveals how merchandise could be improved by answering prospects’ pains.

Figuring out and understanding prospects’ ache factors can result in main alternatives for enchancment. After getting understood the lengthen of those ache factors it’s necessary to handle them as alternatives for innovation, not as methods of mitigating harm.


5. Complexity

The give attention to product enchancment may also be taken too far. When this occurs, enhancements have the alternative impact and innovation initiatives backfire. Characteristic creep illustrates this completely. Characteristic creep occurs when extreme enlargement or options are added to merchandise. It largely occurs with pc software program and shopper and enterprise electronics.

Normally, incremental new options to an current product add barely much less worth than the earlier one, and earlier than lengthy, chances are you’ll be ready the place every new function prices greater than it provides in worth. What’s extra, each new function provides complexity, and complexity slows you down and makes further growth more durable nonetheless.

So, hold it easy. One of the best merchandise are at all times elegantly easy, and ease would possibly simply be the toughest factor to attain. To forestall counter results, at all times base your choices on knowledge. Carry out assessments, validate your concepts and don’t be afraid to return to the drafting board.


To wrap issues up, we wish to remind you that investing in all types of product innovation brings enormous advantages for big firms. It lets you keep in enterprise and acquire benefit in a extremely aggressive market and permits your development and long-term success.

It’s additionally good to understand that when you’ve aligned your objectives and technique, you want a quick tempo of innovation to maintain up with markets which have turn out to be oversaturated with merchandise, shopper items and new applied sciences.

Take into account a holistic strategy to product innovation. This features a tradition of innovation, incremental enhancements as second nature in addition to a various and balanced product portfolio.

We all know product innovation will not be a stroll within the park, however with exhausting work and dedication you may get higher at it. There are additionally different types of innovation you can look into and plenty of resources we provide for those who want to make more innovation happen in their organization. For an in-depth look at the types of innovation and how to make it happen, download our ultimate guide to innovation.

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