Innovation is a critical survival technique. New strategies, tools, products, technologies are fun to grab hold of. But have you left anyone behind? Customers perhaps?
When you’re moving at the speed of light it’s easy to think those who don’t keep up just don’t get ‘it.’
- Word processing software is so productive, why do they even make pencils anymore? (We still use about 100 million a year.)
- Email is fabulous, why phone? (Oops, showing my age. Substitute Twitter)
- Online listings are always up to date. Why do 19 billion paper catalogs keep showing up in my mailbox? (At least it feels like my mailbox.)
Innovation Reality Check.
If you are in a dynamic product development environment your eyes might be so focused on the future that you miss opportunities in maturing markets simply because it seems passe’. (Buggy whips anyone?)
I was involved in a project that expected a significant number of senior participants. It was a bit high-tech but seemed well thought through. Usage was dismal.
“They don’t get technology.”
“They’re afraid of computers.”
“They’re set in their ways.”
Excuses, excuses, excuses. Did a bit of research. Asked folks in the target market what they thought. It wasn’t the technology. It was the concept. We were meeting a need they did not yet have.
What do your sales-folk think?
Pull you top salespeople in. Ask them for their best sales document. Want to bet it’s a home brew? Great sales-folks have always adapted their pitch. This drives marketing departments nuts. It’s off message. It’s ‘unprofessional.’ It’s cardboard creativity at its best helping meet sales objectives better than the original material. Large organizations have begun to install systems that try to capture this kind of end-user innovation, but most of the time it remains fragmented.
Salespeople usually have to live with what their customers actually want and understand. That often forces them to cut through ‘high concept language’ that was used to sell an idea internally and focus on the things that will actually sell the product. Sometimes cutting edge and sales talk align, sometimes they don’t.
Innovation Matters. But sometimes it would be better to call it Optimization.
Providing a customer something they don’t want is wasteful. Having it ready when they catch-up is brilliant.
- Microsoft Word is a beast of a word-processing program. I no longer use it until final draft. Too cumbersome. To0 heavy.
- Salesforce.com is a beast of a CRM tool. BUT, it can be just as simple or complicated as you want it to be without a lot of up-front planning or investment. Simple to get in, simple to ramp up, simple to get hooked.
Think about where you are in your business. Has innovation caused confusion, or irritation, or simply bloat? Can you simplify or backtrack and pick up lost sales in a way that doesn’t compromise what you are about?