Innovation is a concept that companies are now eagerly pursuing intending to step ahead of their competitors, but in the end, very few manage to achieve it.
Being innovative is not a matter of marketing, but strategy. It is of no use that in all your advertising messages, you include the word “innovation” if your actions are not contributing to the creation of value in the lives of your clients.
Next, we share eleven fundamental lessons to take into account when creating new products and services in your company:
How to create innovative products and services
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Lesson 1: Know and understand your Customers
One of the points that entrepreneurs have a hard time understanding is that innovation depends on the context.
From its broader perspective, to innovate is to create value for the human being; Therefore, the first thing we should do is understand the context of the people for whom we will create value.
The Colombian Diana Sierra is the creator of Be Girl, a brand that manufactures reusable sanitary napkins. The mere idea of using “reusable sanitary napkins” may not be lovely for people who have the possibility of finding disposable hygienic napkins in the nearest supermarket, however, according to research, 40% of girls in the world do not have access to sanitary products when they menstruate. For them, this product is something that creates value in the context in which they find themselves.
The concept of value is relative and depends on many elements. Make sure you understand the people for whom you want to create value. Put yourself in your client’s shoes.
Lesson 2: Solve Real and Significant Problems
Another big mistake when innovating is to create products and services that the client does not want or need.
Once you do the job of knowing and understanding your clients, you can discover their deepest fears, needs, frustrations and desires. Make sure that what you are offering has a real impact on the life of your client.
Remember that: “Customers care about YOUR problems, not YOUR solution” -Dave McClure
Lesson 3: You don’t have to solve the problem completely
It is common for entrepreneurs to become obsessed with their products to the point where they want them to be “perfect” before launching them to the market. But, as Mark Zuckerberg says: “Fact is better than perfect. “
Do not misunderstand. I don’t want to say that it is better to do things halfway, but that, when innovated, there is an essential keyword: FOCUS.
Generally, when entrepreneurs are developing new products, they begin to add all kinds of functionalities and features that occur to them in the process; what complicates, makes expensive and delays the exit of the product to the market.
When you are starting, you have to do only one thing and do it well; better than nobody. And, make your customers love you for it.
How to achieve it? The key is to define the part of the problem you want to place more focus. It Investigates in detail the context of the problem (causes, consequences, figures, populations it affects, etc.) and identifies what that part of the problem in which you can create value and make a difference. The more specific you are when defining the problem, the more focused and valuable your solution will be.
To better understand this point, a good example is“, one of the initiatives of social innovation with more considerable global significance. When the project emerged, it aimed to bring self-sustaining lighting to impoverished communities in the Philippines. However, the solution had a drawback: it depended on the sun’s rays to be able to illuminate the homes of the cities; therefore, it only worked during the day. If Illac Díaz, the entrepreneur behind this initiative, had thought that he had to solve the problem entirely since the beginning, probably his project would not have achieved the impact it has today. The most exciting thing is that, after starting as a simple and effective solution, the project was developed and today“A litre of light” is already implemented with solar panels and even Wifi, also to allow low-income communities to access the Internet.
“Innovation is not linked to perfection. Innovate and launch, then your environment will help you perfect.” – Bernardo Hernandez, Google
Lesson 4: Differentiation by itself is not innovation
The fact that something is different does not necessarily mean that it is innovative.
It is not enough to change the shape or colour of a product. Remember that the key to innovation is in the creation of value, that is, what you do differently should add value to the product or service in which you are innovating.
“The proof of innovation is not its novelty, nor its scientific content, nor the ingenuity of the idea … it is its success in the market.” – Peter Drucker
Lesson 5: Innovation is not only in the product
To innovate, you don’t necessarily have to create new products and services from scratch. There are different ways to create value in the market.
According to the Oslo Manual, published by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), four types of innovation can occur in an organisation:
- Product innovation: Provides a new or significantly improved good or service, in terms of its technical characteristics or conditions of its use or other functionalities. The improvement is achieved with knowledge or technology, with advances in materials, in components, or with integrated computing.
- Process innovation: Applied to both the production and distribution sectors. It is achieved through significant changes in the techniques, materials and computer programs used, which aim to reduce unit costs of production or distribution, improve quality, or the production or distribution of new or significantly improved products.
- Innovation in Marketing: It consists of using a marketing method not previously used in the company that can include significant changes in design, packaging, positioning, promotion or pricing, always to increase sales.
- Innovation in the organisation: Changes in the practices and procedures of the company, modifications in the workplace, in external relations (such as the application of strategic decisions) to improve results by improving productivity or reducing internal transaction costs to Customers and suppliers.
A recommended tool at this point is the Business Model Generation Canvas, designed by Alexander Osterwalder to innovate in the different elements of a business model: value proposition, customer segments, channels, etc.
Lesson 6: Take advantage of innovative tools and methodologies
There are different tools and methods for strategic innovation that will be of great help when validating your ideas and developing new products and services. These are some of them:
- Validation Board: It is a tool that allows you to test your business ideas through the validation of the assumptions that support it, and thus determine if they are viable.
- Value Proposition Canvas: It is a tool to build products and services that solve real customer problems.
- Business Model Generation Canvas: Through this tool, you can build innovative business models.
- Happy Startup Canvas: It is an adaptation of the Business Model Generation Canvas, but specially designed to create social entrepreneurship business models.
- Empathy map: It is a tool that helps us understand our client better through a more profound knowledge of it, its environment and its unique vision of the world and its own needs.
- Design Thinking: It is an approach for people-centred innovation, which uses design tools to integrate people’s needs, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.
- Jobs to be done: It is a theory, created by Clayton Christensen, which is based on the fact that customers want SOLUTIONS, not products or services; that is, when a customer purchases a product or service, it aims to perform one or several tasks or jobs.
- The Blue Ocean Strategy: It is an approach that invites us to find non-existent or dissatisfied market niches today.
- Lean Startup: It is a methodology, developed by Eric Ries, that presents a new approach to build products and companies, based on experimentation and interaction with the market, through the feedback circuit consisting of Create-Measure- To learn.
- Customer Development: It is a customer validation methodology that allows entrepreneurs to develop products and create companies focusing on the real needs of the market.
- Scrum: It is the agile method of software development most used in the world.
Remember that the purpose of these tools is to facilitate the process, not complicate it. Do not become obsessed with following them to the letter; use them as a reference and support, but adapt them to your context.
Lesson 7: Make your customers part of the innovation process
It is essential that you actively include your customers in the innovation process, so they will provide you with valuable feedback to improve the characteristics and functionalities of the products and services you are creating.
When interacting with your customers, avoid falling into the error of using questions that may skew the information they provide. The goal of interacting with customers is not that they are right, but that you can identify insights, behaviours, habits and key data to focus on the development of your products and services.
Lesson 8: Every product is always under development
Your product will never finish. No matter how good your product is, it can still be better and more efficient. You must be prepared to reinvent it again and again; otherwise, your competition will do the work for you. As Amancio Ortega says: “Constant growth is the best survival mechanism. “
Make sure you are at the forefront of different business trends and adapt your products and services according to these trends.
“Do not get stuck. Everything, absolutely everything, can be improved. No one knows in which direction, or in what sense, but if you continue to complain and conform, it will be tough for you to be innovative or creative. ”- Guy Kawasaki
Lesson 9: Innovation is more persistence than genius
I don’t want to detract from the imagination and innate creative capacity of many people, but the reality is that we all have a substantial creative ability; however, very few people believe enough in their ideas to invest time, resources, effort and energy.
Great entrepreneurs of our time, such as Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc. evidently, they have been great visionaries, but behind their stories are years of tireless work and persistence.
“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with vision is to make a difference.” – Jack Welch
Lesson 10: Great innovations do not arise from good ideas, but great teams
I think that this is the most valuable lesson you can learn about how to create innovative products and services. Plans and products change all the time, and moments of uncertainty will always be present, so it is essential to build teams with passionate and committed people, willing to fight tirelessly until they develop their ideas.
The vast majority of entrepreneurs are obsessed with finding a “great idea”, mistakenly believing that if they find it, they will be assured of success. Worry more about building a great team.
“The innovation has nothing to do with how many dollars you have invested in R&D. When Apple appeared with the Mac, IBM spent at least 100 times more in R&D. It is not a matter of quantities, but of the people you own, how you guide them, and how much you get. ” – Steve Jobs
Lesson 11: Learn quickly from your mistakes and change when necessary
Finally, when innovating, many mistakes can be made in the process, which means that you must be prepared to learn from each error and continue experimenting and validating until you get products that have a real and significant impact on the lives of your customers.
“Here, failure is an option. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” – Elon Musk