When thinking about new product or service development, don’t do it in isolation. Seek advice and guidance from your business partners — or, even let them drive the innovation agenda.
This is the lesson I learned from a large company in the consumer goods/entertainment space. They had traditionally been responsible for an innovation plan that went like this:
- Get the assortment right, i.e. in terms of new product
- Figure out the merchandising plan
- Then do the marketing
They then realized that trends and consumer choice was evolving so fast, that they no longer had a truly good grasp on the innovation agenda that they should be pursuing. They also came to realize they were taking product to retailers — but the depth of insight from retailers meant that they saw entirely different product and market opportunities.
So what did they do? They went outside — and learned how to work with the retailers, by having the retailers do much of the product innovation. Soon, the innovation pipeline worked like this:
- Figure out the marketing plan, what unique ideas could be pursued in terms of consumer choice, attitude, brands
- From that, determine what merchandise, packaging and products to produce
- And then get the assortment right
Going upside-down is a powerful innovation concept — it challenges you to do things differently. More important, it pushes you into a mindset where you are pursuing partnership oriented innovation, with the result that have better, fresh, unique, external insight.
All too often an organization loses its ability to innovate because it becomes very internally focused — it can’t see beyond its own walls. People become narrow in their focus, and fail to see big opportunities.
Going upside-down changes this, in so many ways, and it’s one of the most important innovation ideas that you can pursue.