Technological Innovation and Leadership – The Guide to Successful Innovations (The 1st of a Many Part Series)

Posted by Rahul Sethi on 11:01 PM

Innovation is supposedly the name of the game today for marketers and product developers alike. This series will deal with product innovations, their nature, how consumers possibly look at them and how an innovation can be successfully leveraged.



Let’s first take a look at the approach taken by firms towards innovation.



Too many firms today believe that there is a trade off between the “engineering” approach to innovation or the market driving approach to innovation and the pure market driven approach to innovation.



The engineering or market driving approach basically assumes that consumers do not really know anything and as a result of that, engineers must go on “innovating” without really bothering to ask them anything.



The pure market driven approach to innovation looks at innovation from a level of customer feedback to new ideas – this often results in “me too” – not truly innovative products.




What ‘innovators’ and marketers fail to do often is identify generic benefits to consumers. By identifying generic benefits a firm virtually lets the consumer guide the product developer and marketer through the innovation process. For example – the generic benefit that consumers may look for with respect to social networking is that they can be an enhanced version of what they really are – a social network allows them to be cool and fun – and this will guide the innovator on a social network to have adequate applications that make the user seem more ‘cool and fun’. So you will have a ‘FunWall’ or an application that tells the user which celebrity he or she looks like (and inflates his/ her ego) – or you may even have a ‘if I was a drink I would be’ (and no matter what drink you are you are bound to sound cool!). I have picked up these examples from FaceBook and again I think this is where they have got it right – the correct innovations that identify generic benefits.


Btw: NEWSFEED – All Social Network Watchers – Facebook just overtook MySpace in terms of visitors to the site according to



Innovation it must be considered is understood as something new or novel. While that may apply to technologies and the functionality of features – it does not really apply to the generic benefits – they virtually stay the same.


So this shows that customers may “know what they want” without really “knowing it” – great isn’t it!?



So when a customer is choosing a new technology, fundamentally he is buying a benefit.


Thus a technological strategy should begin with the fundamental need of customers and work with a problem solving approach, an approach that satisfies a need and improvises a benefit. Such an approach is balanced in a sense and it thus diminishes that perceived trade off between being market driven or engineering driven.




I hope to make this series an especially insightful, long and interactive one. Over the course of the series I will be outling certain generic benefits, certain things innovators need to keep in mind while designing new products, and also various feature trends that are the real winners because they combine generic benefits. I will also try and make the scope broader if I have the capacity.



It would be great if we can make this series conversation like – do keep asking me questions and challenge what I write so that the series can be more engaging and mutually beneficial. 


Comment by sachinuppal on December 31, 2007 at 1:13 AM

Well interesting thought and approach towards looking at how companies might be innovating. Though in a lot of cases, i am seeing that even though when customers are engaged in a conversation to understand what they want, you would see a 50-50 divide of people...who know what they want and people who actually do not know if they would want something like that or not.

Interestingly if Akio Morita, would have given heed to customer's voice we wouldn't have seen SONY's walkmans and if Steve would have heard the customer's voice we wouldn't have seen iPods.
Though i completely like your idea of listening to basic needs of people,"Thus a technological strategy should begin with the fundamental need of customers and work with a problem solving approach, an approach that satisfies a need and improvises a benefit."

This is where entreprenuer's spirit works and makes him successful(Steve Jobs) or the idea may just fail and u might be in deep losses (Iridium phones).

Comment by HarshilJK on December 31, 2007 at 10:05 AM

I acknowledge the idea of an entrepreneurs spirit.

What im trying to propose, is the fact that an innovator needs to be neither market driving nor market driven.

By identifying generic benefits to consumers, innovators can understand why consumers buy products and then let their imagination fly by including product features that may be market driving.

But yea the fact is that sometimes this approach may fail in identifying meta trends.


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