Product Innovation – what is it really?


“Innovation”, “product innovation” are being used by everyone these days. A google search on “product innovation” returns 169 million results. A search for books on product innovation on Amazon returns over 10,800 books. Sure enough it is one of the most frequently used business buzzword these days. We all have heard phrases like “Innovate or die” – so what exactly is product innovation.

My colleague Rick Chin, Director of Product Innovation and Marketing at SolidWorks (yes, even people’s titles have product innovation in them these days :-)) came up with six criteria (at least one of which has to be satisfied) that can be used as a lens to evaluate possible solutions before they can be considered a product innovation.  According to Rick, these criteria work best when you have a lot of ideas to solve a problem.

Customers will call something innovative if:

1)  If it solves a problem that really matters – Look for a really strong emotion from the customers like frustration.

2) The solution is truly effective – not just effective, but very effective in solving the customer need.

3) Its effectiveness is instantly obvious – this is when customers say “Wow” when they see the product in use for the first time.

4) It is familiar, comfortable, easy to adopt – if the product intimidates, it will not be used.

5) It’s realistic to implement – this sounds obvious, but consider this before starting to implement the solution.

6) It is an unexpected solution – this is what people normally call innovation and the least important on the list.

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