Think of any business that’s succeeded over the past two decades and especially the upstarts that have left incumbent brands on the back foot. Kodak vs. Instagram, Sony vs. Go Pro, Hilton vs. Airbnb, cab companies vs. Uber, banks vs. Paypal, Borders vs Amazon, Blockbuster vs. Netflix, Chubb vs. Canary and on and on and on.
Now think about how they innovated and their path to market.
What you’ll notice is that world changing innovation stems from understanding the problem that needs to be solved for a particular group of people. The best innovations don’t create a need or a want—they tap into a need or a want that already exists, one that hasn’t yet been fulfilled.
Great innovation, and thus products and services people care about, lies at the intersection of the customer’s latent desire and your solution. Innovation then is not always about giving people a slightly better version of what they’ve got, or have demonstrated that they need, even if that is what you’re equipped to deliver and how you profit today. Sometimes it’s about rewriting the future for a customer who doesn’t know what will matter to him in five years time, in a market that doesn’t yet exist.
Image by Dave.