New product development, or NPD, is built on innovation. However, many companies throw the word innovation around so much that it loses meaning. We want to be innovative and come up with the next best thing. But at what price? So much ‘innovation’ makes the real ones lose their luster, like the boy who cried wolf.
When Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb, back in 1879, there was no market for it. He created something that the entire world was unable to use for many years after. There was no widespread electricity, and in many corners of the world it wasn’t even an idea. This seemingly small innovation with glass and filament led to an entirely different future for the entire world.
The key here is to make sure the product you’re spending all this time and money on is worth inventing. Even if there’s no current market, fill a niche and give the people what they didn’t even know they wanted. Considering the fact that most research and development projects cost companies $15 million a year each, it’s definitely worth considering if it’s filling this niche.
Although lasting inventions like the light bulb are every R & D department’s dream, there are some products that aren’t meant to stay on shelves forever. Some products fill a temporary need, whether for a fad or passing sensation, and then disappear. According to Susan Massasso, director of marketing for Arnott’s, these products serve a purpose. They create a ‘bit of interest and delight’ in the company’s product. Then once you have the customer’s attention, you hit them with the real product.
This goes back to the idea that inventing something just for the sake of innovation could be a terrible downfall for companies. Striving to be the best at turning a profit, or cornering a certain market, companies often lose sight of the big picture. Have a goal in mind when developing these products, and stick to it. If you can’t fill a need in the market, your products will sit on store shelves gathering dust.
Internally, marketing experts say there are keys to breeding innovation within your company. Here is a quick rundown of these tips and what they can do for your business model.
- Avoid Hierarchies: Once someone in a research capacity sees the word Vice President or such on your door, they’re less likely to come to you with their bad ideas. But bad ideas are actually important. You can’t learn from a mistake if you don’t make it. All those designs and prototypes on the back burner were stepping stones to the ‘light bulb’ of every major business innovation since the 19th century.
- Speed: Back when Thomas Edison was sitting at his desk by candlelight, there wasn’t much competition for a light bulb or his other numerous inventions. So he could take his time and get it just right before revealing it to the world. Unfortunately, that’s not the case these days. If you’ve had this incredible idea, chances are someone at your competitor’s R&D firm has too. Your goal is to get it on the market first. By the time you finish your prototypes and testing the old fashioned way, the public market has changed, or someone’s beat you to the punch. That’s why most innovations are baby steps toward the end product.
- Emotional Attachment: Although much can be said about people who breeze through their work without a care in the world, the world of innovation isn’t one of them. For the most part, when a company develops a product, they do it solely for the profit margin. However, there’s a research and development group who put blood, sweat, and tears into that product.
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