At the recent AME Dallas Innovation Conference, I shared 21 low-risk, low-cost innovation methods. In this blog post, I’ll share the seven that are most relevant for companies in mature markets where commoditization is an issue. Access this complimentary resource to learn all 21 Paths to Innovation.
1. Reverse Positioning: Simplifies or adds surprising new features or experiences.
The emphasis here is on simplifying. Often in the “new and improved” race to add new features, we forget about opportunities to simplify. Think Blockbuster vs. Netflix. Blockbuster kept adding videos and trying to cope with the shift to DVDs, Blue Ray, and more, all while escalating late fees when you weren’t able to get movies back on time with your busy schedule. Netflix eventually eliminated the complications of distribution altogether with their streaming option.
2. Stealth Positioning: Eliminates resistance to an unpopular or failed concept.
Remember early, failed tablet computers? Apple got us hooked on iPods instead of Walkmans, eased us into iPhones when we wanted our cell phones to do more, and then effortlessly stepped us up again to iPads, which we lined up around the block for. Had they tried to develop a tablet immediately after the failure of others, we would have dismissed the idea.
3. Breakaway Positioning: Combines features of products in distinctly different categories.
Did you ever find yourself packing your suitcase with a camera, a video, a Walkman, a diary, an alarm clock, airline tickets, a couple of books on local spots of interest and key phrases, postcards, a long-distance card, and a lot of reading material? Everyone’s favorite smartphone and the relevant apps essentially take care of all those needs in one device, with alarms, photos, video, music, notes, QR ticket codes, maps, translators, texting, and Kindle. Swiss Army Knife applies similar innovation methods!
4. Scratch an Itch Innovation: Makes life easier or plays to frustration.
Apps that tell you sports scores, the weather, where you can find cheap gas or buy a cup of your favorite coffee are probably the best example, but the concept is much broader. This innovation method involves finding what I call the “Damn! Moment” – what makes your customers say “Damn, I wish this thing could…” – and then you’ll know exactly what you need to do to scratch that itch. Think selfie-sticks and Go Pros!
5. Undeserved Innovation: The politically correct term for what’s also called “Bottom Feeding.”
Think about the customers that nobody else wants or that can’t afford to pay for your usual products – for example, people who can’t qualify for typical bank loans, high-risk insurance clients, families in India that could use a better transportation option vs having 5 kids on a bicycle, or the iPod Shuffle, which made a basic music function available to youngsters who could afford to buy it just with their allowance.
6. Bust Bottlenecks: Removing barriers to consumption.
I recently showed my 88-year-old Dad how to order furnace filters from Amazon as he could not find them anywhere in his local geography. PayPal enables small businesses who can’t get merchant accounts to take credit card payments. SaaS (Software as a Service) enables people to save their documents to the Cloud and access their data from anywhere instead of being reliant on an in-house server. Car-share services provide transportation without the cost of car ownership or the high costs of rental cars.
7. Adjacency Innovation: Provides clients with related-but-different products and services.
I’m working with a heavy-equipment company right now that provides many different product lines plus a variety of services. They’re structured in product silos, and as a result, many of their clients buy from a variety of suppliers instead of giving this firm more business. The innovation needed here has nothing to do with their product line, and everything to do with the way they serve their customers. Once they have a full picture of each client and can sell their full “family” of products, undoubtedly they’ll find even more products and services that will “do the job” their customers need done.
Want more novel innovation methods?
Ready to learn more innovative ideas and innovation methods? Pick up a copy of Profit in Plain Sight: The Proven Leadership Path to Unlock Profit, Passion and Growth to learn all 21 Paths to Innovation and see numerous examples to inspire your thinking.