Institute of Product Leadership
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Innovation is one of the most overused words in the business world these days. Companies that are innovating are laying a strong foundation for future growth, while getting ahead of the competition. They are winning, which is why everyone is either innovating or desperately trying to do so. But what’s the secret? Why can a company like Apple redefine the music industry, the mobile phone industry and the computer industry (for the second time, with the iPad) over the course of a decade, while other companies struggle to find their next big hit?

At first glance, it’s simply crazy that Sony didn’t invent the iPod and thus continue to dominate the personal music business, as it did before Apple stole its lunch. And dinner; and didn’t leave much afternoon tea behind either...

So what did we learn from Sony's greatest mistake?

• Absence of a required mindset to harvest and manage great ideas.

Sony had the ideas and engineering competence to build the first iPod equivalent, but it couldn’t commercialize those ideas because of its own internal battles.

Below are five key principles to develop product innovation mindset

1. Product Innovation should never be constrained:

Innovation takes guts, determination, relentless focus and creative problem-solving through execution. Include your R&D and manufacturing teams early on, and don’t be apprehensive to re-test or raise a flag if your concept is changing in a fundamental way on the path to execution.

2. Strive to understand what makes people tick:

Business is really about people and what they want and need. Instead of relying on market research, it is better to rely on direct observation. Breaking down human behaviour into rules might seem like a gross simplification. But even with the complexities, it is easy to fall into the same mistakes. Many heated fights, lost sales and broken hearts are caused by a few critical errors. If you make the wrong assumptions, you’ve lost before you begin.

3. Ideas need to be heard if you want to turn it into a product:

People need to know ideas are valued, even if they can’t always be implemented but it should be heard. Simply having an "idea" is worthless--you need to have proof of when you came up with the idea for your invention. Write down everything you can think of that relates to your invention, from what it is and how it works to how you'll make and market it. This is the first step to patenting your idea and keeping it from being stolen.

4. Make innovation every day:

This doesn’t have to be radical thinking or a process change, but a regularly asked question, such as “what can we do differently?” Improvements have to be consistent as part of the day-to-day. The only measure of innovation is the value it creates. The challenge is to generate value today and be able to sustain it when you can't predict change. "Innovate or Die" is the mantra of our times.

5. Need to possess a new and great product strategy:

Companies that have a new product strategy in place are more successful. By identifying the financial goals, strategic roles, and screening criteria that new products should satisfy, innovation is positioned within a strategic and business context.


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