The debate on whether or not one must build what the user asks for is one that will go on for some time. Pavan Soni, Innovation Evangelist at Wipro and Research Fellow at IIM Bangalore, strongly advocates the latter at the August edition of Startup Saturday, Bangalore, themed “All About Product Design”.
The Opening Question
What is the one common thing between the products below? Do take a minute to think.
No one explicitly asked for these products. Yet, these are the world’s most successful products!
The same follows for the following disruptive companies:
Such instances truly beg the question: Should you build what your customer asks you for? Should you even talk to your customer when building game-changing technology?
If necessity the mother of all invention, then timing is the father. The first High Definition TV was not launched in the 21st century. The first HD TV was launched by Sony in the 1980s, however, the market was not ready. Timing is of core importance when dealing with innovative products.
“We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple’s retail stores]. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products.” – Steve Jobs
The beauty about innovation is that innovation looks impossible in foresight, but obvious in hindsight.
When To Talk To Customers
It is advisable to speak to customers when making incremental changes to a product and not when coming up with innovative or disruptive technologies.
Incumbents catering to high-end technology demands are quickly displaced by new entrants with disruptive technology as the emerging technology caters to the low end of the market first and quickly progresses to eat up the share of the incumbent. While the incumbent grows at a sustainable pace, it is too little, too late.
Breaking Down Innovation
Can innovation be broken into some key components?
Creativity is the catalyst that fuels innovation. Creative people, processes, and techniques are the tools by which one can work on a problem to come up with an invention. This invention on commercialization yields innovation.
People often confuse inventions with innovation. Inventions aren’t nearly valued as much as innovations. This sentiment is resonated by PayPal founder Peter Thiel too, who believes that R&D, albeit necessary, does not translate to rewards or results. The following picture further proves this point:
Should You Aim For Perfection?
The answer is no. In the pursuit of perfection, you will never make it to a 100% in the time needed. Gmail started as an invitation-only beta release on April 1, 2004 and it became available to the general public on February 7, 2007, though still in beta status at that time. The service was upgraded from beta status on July 7, 2009. It took Google a little more than 5 years to upgrade Gmail from beta.A good thumb rule to have while releasing a product is to release it when it is at 70% completion.
Extremely innovative companies are rare and, often, such hyper growth companies also tend to be outliers. Whether talking to users helps or not is an extremely subjective topic. However, to be on the safe side it’s best to focus on creating a great product in the case of new, disruptive technology and to speak to users when making increments in technology. In the end, improvisation trumps improvement. Execution trumps perfection.
Written by Suhas Mallya
About the speaker
Pavan Soni is an Innovation Evangelist at Wipro and Research Fellow at IIM Bangalore. To know more about him, check: www.pavansoni.com or you can mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org