As usual, the wheels are turning after another great alumni presentation. Coming off the Thanksgiving weekend, and staying in spirit, I am thankful for yet another generous and committed alum. Mike Patton (’04), Sr. Brand Manager, Sony Electronics, presented to the academy on “Innovation in New Product Development.” Mike is a self-described “techno-vangelist” , so I’ll say right up front that understanding the fast-evolving technology platform speak was a little bit of a stretch for me, given that I am techno-handicapped myself. I was, however, able to keep up enough to find it fascinating.
I loved that Mike focused on defining innovation in the context of “ideas being applied successfully in practice.” Through my own experiences in the NPD arena, I have learned that we can easily forget that we are not here for the sake of innovation alone, or to make ourselves feel good about doing this new and differently. Rather, we should be grounded in the clear objective of solving our customers’ problems better than anybody else. If we do that well, we will probably have to be innovative in the process, yet we will also be more likely to avoid the pitfalls of developing a unique a different “cool” product that fails in the marketplace. Innovation as a means to the end, not the end itself.
I liked Mike’s practical advise for ensuring successful innovation:
1) Make innovation continuous and don’t be afraid to fail. The idea that you need to generate a lot of ideas to ensure a good idea.
2) Know your customer
3) Make a better product, and better yet, make it easier (a la the IPhone intuitive ease of use)
We had a good discussion of the emerging TV/computer/phone platforms and the new Google TV product. Too early to tell if it will be successful, but certainly it’s fun to see the envelope being pushed. And that you’ve gotta love and give Google credit for. NPD is not for the faint of heart. You must be comfortable in uncertainty and be willing to have some failure and continue forward.
I end with a smile and nod to one of my own personal heroes in the new product development arena, James Dyson. Yes, of the Dyson vacuum fame. How can you not LOVE this man’s continual stream of successful innovation. So unpretentiously and practically focused on solving customer problems. And talk about make it “easy to use”. It almost makes me actually want to vacuum!
Cheers and have a great weekend. JZ