• Swathi Young

How to launch innovative products - the easy way


It is a given that adopting disruptive and emerging technologies is a must for any enterprise to survive, not only to maintain your shareholder value but also to keep yourself from going out of business.

History is strewn with the dead bodies of failed organizations that refused to introduce innovative products. We are all too familiar with the stories of Blackberry, Kodak, Sears and more recently, JCPenny, which is a reminder of how innovation is the only lifeline for enterprises. It is important to note that there are many new technologies that are useful for operational efficiency. I am not talking about those. It is not about incremental change in your business model.I am talking about adopting disruptive and emerging technologies that will put you way ahead of your competition and capture new markets. Take the example of Nike, from self-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0 to Apple Watch Nike+ that aids your workout regimen, Nike holds the maximum patents in the design space. “But it’s always a balancing act. There is this magnetic pull to focus more on the short term, the immediate, the quarter-to-quarter. And then there’s a sense of, f— that, we are going to go out here and really create the future. And we need to do both. I have to live that tension.”says Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike. 

The question is does the adoption of the emerging technologies for new products follow the same processes and procedures of regular product design and launch? According to Harvard Business School Professor and author of The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change)Clayton Christensen, 

“Disruptive technologies bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value.” 

​That is the reason that you cannot use the same tactics of building new products while adopting disruptive technologies. 

How would you know what the new customers want? How can you rapidly ship a product and test it? What is the revenue potential of the new product without writing a ton of code? 

The answers for these questions lie in changing the fundamental way you design, build, test and ship a new software product. You need a process that is proven, tried and tested to produce faster results. 

I think combining the best practices of Customer development (from lean startup), Google Venture Sprints and Agile engineering, would give you the best returns and results on your innovation investment.

Let us take a look at what these best practices look like and how you can easily use them to produce results in less than 90 days. 

Customer Development: Once you have established that it takes a new set of customers to use your newest and disruptive products, the next step is to get out of the building and talk to them.Speaking to potential customers gives you an idea about the core of your new products as well as their willingness to pay for it. The output of these conversations becomes the input for the next step. 

GV Sprint process: Google ventures sprint process is excellent for intrapreneurial activities since it takes only five days to go from concept to mock-ups and customer feedback.Essentially it is a do-it-yourself framework for figuring out the crucial elements of a new product launch – strategy, innovation, design etc. and at the end of five days presenting a prototype to customers for feedback. It requires forty hours of dedication from core team members, a few hours from key decision makers and a lot of structured discussions. 

“On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a realistic prototype. And on Friday, you’ll test it with real live humans.” From the book “Sprint – How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days”

Agile Engineering: Agile is a methodology that allows for software to be built as per the ever-evolving requirements. It is a collaborative and transparent process where the emphasis is more over writing working software instead of focusing on documentation. The emphasis is more on open communication and collaboration that would ensure accelerated delivery of smaller chunks of working products. Since you have the feedback from customers, you track these in the form of “user-stories” that are helpful to actually build the product.  ​

Conclusion: In conclusion, there is no doubt that innovation by adopting emerging technologies is crucial for companies to succeed long term and avoid obsolescence. The key to successful launch of innovative products is adopting newer techniques of customer validation, testing prototypes and building software that scales. This is possible by combining the best practices of customer developer with GV Sprint process augmented by Agile engineering practices.

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