By Jono Jones, Chief Product & Innovation Officer - Bluelab
The first day of my working life was spent in a London hospital surgical theatre. I saw my first live heart bouncing like a balloon filled with water. I wasn’t a nurse, surgeon or an aestheticist; I was a product designer and I was there to understand how we could hold a chest closed for the surgeon to stitch the sternum together after open-heart surgery.
Product innovation is the act of developing a product for a problem no one has solved – it’s the value-creation engine in business.
Product innovation can be considered in two steps: creating and scaling.
Creating product innovation
Your customer is your north star. They hold the key to your product innovation. Interview them, observe them, survey them, walk in their shoes, and get under their skin to uncover what they really need. Customers don’t need a washing machine; they need clean clothes. Be need-driven.
Dig beneath the surface for unmet needs. It’s the needs that customers can’t articulate that hold the most value. Then use the power of creativity to meet that need in a way that will delight.
A new technology may be the genesis of the idea but as it gets productised the technology must be augmented with customer need to deliver real value. Technology is an enabler, or maybe even a differentiator or delighter, but it’s solving customer problems and meeting customer needs that create impact.
Scaling product innovation
When you launch product innovation to the market, you will have solved many problems to get to this first release. As demand increases, you’ll have a new set of problems to solve. There’s no such thing as a solved problem.
When new products hit the market, this marks the end of the beginning. Use continual improvement cycles to optimise the product for scale. The art of product innovation is at every iteration you optimise for scale, solving manufacturing and supply chain challenges, while adding customer value.
The problem with products, is they are visible. People hold them and examine them, including your competitors. It’s inevitable – every great product is copied, eventually. Stay ahead of the competition through continual, iterative innovation.
Product innovation is a team sport
Doing something new (innovation) is fraught with uncertainty and challenge. You’ll be leading a team into the unknown.
When you don’t have all the answers, you’ll be making decisions without all the facts. Successful product innovation is underpinned with decision making – get great at making fast decisions, slow decisions, customer decisions, technical decisions, and brave decisions.
The next step is to learn how innovation and scaling works in practise - Join us at the free Manufacturing Techweek TV session where we hear live case studies from two Kiwi manufacturers who had to seriously shift and change how they were working during lockdown, and grab a ticket to our manufacturing seminar to hear from our experts who will showcase the role tech plays in industry 4.0, how to scale up sustainably, and what skills do you need to develop now, to tackle the next 10 years.