3 Strategies to Optimize Innovative Product Development
It goes without saying that the companies which are having the most success today are those that have been the most successful at innovating. Both large and small companies have worked continuously to leverage new technologies and manufacturing processes to improve their products and services and better position them to solve customer issues.
Companies that get innovation right are always rewarded in the market, and those that don't will likely be forgotten in a short while since they will find it difficult to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Here are three strategies you can implement today to ensure that your company does innovation correctly and reaps all the benefits.
Build the right team
The first thing that is crucial to a company's ability to innovate and its innovation is the team. The group of people responsible for all parts of the company's operations will only innovate to the best of their ability, as optimized by the management processes that encourage their efficiency. Although the whole will always be greater than the sum of the individual parts, each member must be carefully selected to ensure that they have the requisite skills to fit into and add to the company's overall innovative capacity.
The first way to achieve this is obviously to hire highly skilled people, but there is often a conflation of stellar academic credentials or work experience with the ability to innovate. Innovation requires creative thinking, and that doesn't necessarily come along with A-grades. Hence, the hiring process must be designed specifically to identify people who are not just smart but also creative. Diversity is also crucial because, without it, the company's thought process will likely be monolithic, since most team members will likely think in similar ways. By adding people from different backgrounds to the team, you will benefit from varied perspectives on issues.
Despite all your best efforts, it's possible to bring a product to the market and still not get much traction with it for one reason or another. That is why it's best to adopt an agile approach to your innovation by starting with a Minimum Viable Product (a concept popularized by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup) which you can use to test the reactions of your customers and then adapt as necessary to see better results. The MVP is a product with the least amount of functionality that you can bring to the market, market to customers, and then update on a frequent, ongoing basis. Although designed primarily for software startups, elements of the strategy can be used for any kind of product development by merely focusing on the gradual introduction, constant monitoring, and rapid improvements and re-introduction of better versions.
This approach avoids the pitfalls of sinking too much money into a product and then finding out that it's not viable when you have little or no money to start the process again. This way, you can ensure that your innovation efforts remain flexible, such that you can pursue multiple product development efforts at once and then focus your efforts on the most promising ones.
Listen to the customer
It's very easy to get caught up in what you think is best and forget that you aren't going to be buying all of your products. Whether what you are building is a new fashion line, a mobile app, or a digital gadget, relying on your own experiences and instincts to create the product may lead to a product-market mismatch.
Instead, take the time to engage with your prospective buyers and learn what they want. This may be direct, by using focus groups, surveys, and other tools, or it may be indirect, by looking through relevant data such as Google search trends or questions posted on the support websites of your competitors or other forums. The key is to aggregate the features that your customers like about what's already in the market and what they want to be improved and then design your product so that it retains the useful elements and introduces innovative features that satisfy your customers' desires.