The Incremental Innovation Challenge: 3 Tips for Better Focus and Performance

Strategic intent must drive innovation.  It is rarely, if ever, the ‘light-bulb’ notion of new ideas that delivers successful new products and services for organic growth.  The reality of innovation is more like a ping-pong game – a back and forth interaction between direction from strategic intent and the discipline and rigor of process for tactical action.

At least 70% of the new product/service development investment in organizations is driven by need for organic growth through incremental innovation.  This necessitates effective life-cycle management. We should ask ourselves if we are disciplined and rigorous enough in our ability to continually come up with meaningfully differentiated incremental innovation.  The obvious dangers of not doing that is that one-off product introductions are not a good investment, and line and brand extensions that are not meaningful for consumers just suck up resources with no real value added.  The beauty and challenge of lifecycle management is in optimizing a platform.   Lifecycle management, at its best, understands that each product has a pathway for growth.

Here are 3 tips for innovating successfully inside the lifecycle management box.

  1. Articulate a strategy to leverage the intersection of new product development and product management with the goal of creating pathways of meaningfully differentiated products within existing categories for current customers. This can have the collateral strategic benefit of less product introductions (costs) equals more success - incremental revenue).
  2. Practice smart, tactical, product lifecycle management. For this you need to have an agreed-upon process that focuses on the customer, leverages technical capabilities and understands a market’s trajectory.  You need to apply creative problem solving tools and techniques for finding, refining and testing the best ideas to take into development and then commercialization.
  3. Make segmentation your friend. The core product may be a compromise across segments. Your incremental innovation may create greater loyalty within important segments as you make the product “just right” for them. Keep this in mind when you test the redesign. Don’t downgrade it because it does not work for the other segments.

 

While there is not one right process for innovating within the lifecycle management box, it is recommended that you perform the steps in the process diagram below, accomplishing them with use of appropriate tools and techniques in each of the activity areas.

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