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The Right Way to Innovate

Rather than selling products you think people ought to buy, put out things they'll actually use.

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This story appears in the June 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Early digital cameras cost thousands of dollars and produced images most people wouldn't give a nickel for. Today, a few hundred dollars buys a digital camera with quality rivaling conventional photography. Yet last year, the most popular digital cameras were low-resolution snap shooters built into cell phones. Why didn't reasonably priced, high-quality products beat low-quality alternatives?

The answer lies in the reality of what recreational photographers are asking their cameras to do. These users aren't really focused on image quality, says Michael E. Raynor, a director at Deloitte Research in Toronto and co-author with Clayton M. Christensen of The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. They're taking snapshots to share with friends and family, and low-resolution digital photos are easy to distribute electronically. Building the camera into a phone makes it even simpler. Says Raynor, "Digital camera-phones are better [for] taking pictures and sending [them] to your friends."

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