Stacking the Odds in Favour of Successful Product Innovation

by: Rene van Diepen

Regardless of what any business article might say, developing and launching new products is tough at the best of times.  There’s just nothing easy about:

  • Correctly assessing the market
  • Shaping the opportunity
  • Defining a strong value proposition
  • Securing internal funding and support
  • Getting pricing, promotion, marketing and sales strategies nailed down
  • Achieving the adoption your business case called for.

Worse still, large organizations often face some particular new product introduction challenges:

  • No champion with authority
  • Poor management of the innovation process
  • Tradition-bound processes and thinking from the core-business “mothership” that impinge on new product innovation teams (e.g.  responding to failure, no separate funding mechanism, unrealistic expectations, lower appetite for risk, etc.)
  • Insufficient user feedback
  • Incorrect team or structure

Fortunately, there is emerging thinking on how organizations develop new products or services.  The traditional process of extensive analysis and detailed business cases is giving way to a more agile, “lean” approach that recognizes:

  • Innovative initiatives are rarely just smaller versions of the mothership business model
  • Innovative initiatives often create an entirely new business model
  • Even detailed business plans rarely survive first contact with real users

Lean innovation attacks three traditional product development shortcomings:  the high cost of getting to the first user, the high cost of getting the solution wrong and long technology development cycles.  While traditional process components such as requirements setting, design, testing, assessment and adjustment remain – the lean approach substitutes direct user feedback for extensive analysis.

Lean innovation operates in a world of ‘good enough’, under the premise that the only purpose for version 1.0 is to expose it to customers, gather feedback and then get to version 2.0 quickly. Lean innovation involves rapid cycles of design, test and exposure to customers, pivoting to new solutions as the market dictates. User feedback is unassailable.

This table highlights some other major differences between traditional and lean product development:


Beyond stacking the product development deck in your favour, there is another great reason to adopt lean innovation. The approach requires staying in touch with your customers – something no one can argue with but that sometimes gets lost in day-to-day business fire-fighting. Maintaining an open channel to user feedback ensures the relevance of your products/services and ultimately keeps your organization on its toes. And for those internal groups fighting to be innovative in addressing market needs, it raises their level of importance and provides strong justification for their continued existence in the organization.

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