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Expected Innovation

Albert Einstein once said “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there will be no hope for it.” Each such novel idea brings to the table a plethora of other opportunities as well.  In most cases, the ‘Expected Innovations’ linked with each innovation hold the key for the next wave. You might be wondering, how the words ‘Expected’ and ‘Innovation’ could go along together. Well. In today’s dynamic and competitive scenario, the world is witnessing, each day, endless innovations, pertaining to different industries, be it as simple an industry as food services industry or be it as complex an industry as financial services industry. However organizations around the globe need to understand the importance of having a proper strategy in place before introducing a new innovation in their products/ services. A long era of stagnation with no innovation, or an even a small change in their offering is without a doubt a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, an overkill of innovation is equally dangerous. Consider this. A product based company, let’s say a smart phone manufacturing company, keeps introducing newer products every once in a while. This would have a dual impact. The first would be, such a move would reduce the market for the company’s existing product. In business terminology, this is commonly known as ‘Self Cannibalism’. Over and above this, the customers of the new ‘smart’ world would want to have other linked features in addition to the introduced innovative feature. For e.g. the customer now empowered with an ability to book tickets online on his phone, might also want to be enabled to print the booked ticket using a printer wirelessly paired with his handled device. This is what I like to call ‘Expected Innovation’. If an organization fails to realize and finally meet customer’s latent expectations, it could very well be on its way of seeing its competition surpassing it by means of simply meeting the latent demands created by one specific innovation. An example from the social media space, would come in handy in finding a quick connect here. Facebook, now a social media giant was little known a few years back. As a matter of fact, Facebook was not even born when social networking had already become a fashion. However Facebook fed on the latent expectations (gaming, public posts, chat etc.) of the social networking buffs and went on to become the networking giant it is today, while the companies like Orkut, MySpace, hi5 who were pioneers of the social media revolution, are today struggling to even exist.

Another important question that wannabe innovators need to ask themselves is, whether or not the idea they are envisaging is really worth putting time, energy and money on. There is a very famous joke or an urban legend, so to say. During the space race between the US and the Soviet Union in the 60's, the space scientists were faced with a problem. The normal ball point pen didn’t work in zero gravity conditions. NASA spent around 10 years and roughly $12 Billion in engineering a pen that could write in zero gravity, under water, at extreme temperatures and what not. The Russians simply used a pencil.

Organizations that strategize their own innovations, while trying to legally tap into the potentials of their competitor’s innovations are the ones that are more likely to find a spot in one of those Ivy League MBA college case study. Large established corporations failing to maintain the right mix of legacy and innovative products/ services would also end up being part of such case studies, not in a very positive sense though.


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