Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Strategic Questions in Product Innovation!

Strategic Questions in Product Innovation! I was reading an article about rumor of iPad Mini 2 from International Business Times ( mentioning typical wishes of what consumers like to see in the new iPad Mini 2.  The list reflect average consumers focus on "more" on the hardware specification and pricing:
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Robust system and memory 
  • Retina display
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Faster access to WiFi settings, battery/power management 
This list is quite typical and very consumer oriented! It is obvious that device manufacturers have to continuously improve in these areas. If a manufacturer of product focus only on these items we are pretty sure that the company will be gone sometimes in future because they focuses on the ironic and bleeding part of strategies : provide more and charge less.

Impactful strategic win usually does not come from such increase in hardware specification. I am not against it but it's only foundational and kind of like a must do thing in your business plan but they are not the main reasons for your big win. Strategic win usually comes from something within and more into the software / consumption process. For example, if iPhone does not have a new "fat figure" touch screen user interface or iPad does not have an iTunes, I bet they wouldn't be in today's leading position of the new generation of smartphone and tablets.

While not against the basic needs of increasing raw power and lowering production cost, products need to be strategically reinvented, if not, redesign from scratch. Like Wii from Nitendo using a new user interface, or NDS redefined to capture non-gamer as gamer and iPhone uses figure instead of stylus, businesses need to leverage technology in very strategic and fundamental level. 

That said, it's easily said than done. There are many books telling us strategies of how to develop strategies like Blue Ocean Strategy. However, in the context of  digital products and marketing, we are most often referring to leverage digital technologies to change people's consumption of our product by two general strategies:
  1. make them do less to complete an existing task (like they don't have to go to a store to buy a song) or 
  2. we enable user to do new tasks that they have never dream of before (like listening radio with your phone).
In the process of doing so, we may have already reinvented our product / service to fit the needs of new segment of target customers (they call this blue ocean) or we undertake competitors from an angel which they have not anticipated or that they needs to take a long time and effort to restructure their organization to meet your challenge (this is what I call sustainable differentiation). To put them into simple terms, I often review my own strategies with the following checklist:
  1. Can we do the same thing faster or more impactful but in the existing way?
  2. Can we change the existing way and use a smarter way?
  3. In doing 1 & 2 Can we apply our products in new usage (like using your pen a phone stand)
  4. In doing so can we expand our target market segment?
  5. How quickly can competitors copy our product?
At the end, I would  throw in one extra check point : If we can build a community of stakeholders that not only depend on each other but attract more people into the community, it would be a winning formula.