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A leading innovation and marketing blog from Braden Kelley of Business Strategy Innovation

Monday, November 30, 2009

Innovation Perspectives - Insights and Execution

This is the seventh of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the most dangerous current misconception in innovation?'. Now, here is my perspective:

by Braden Kelley

Apple Innovation - The App StoreFor my money, the most dangerous misconception that leaders have is that coming up with a great idea is the key to innovation.

This is not the case. Insights and execution are the most important ingredients for creating innovation. As more industries become commodity battlegrounds, success will now be the driven by two key things:
  1. The quality of the insights a company has identified to build ideas upon

  2. The organization's ability to turn their insight-driven ideas into reality

As innovation moves front and center in an increasing number of companies and industries, the quality of insights and execution will separate the winners from the losers.

Apple moving into the phone business should not have surprised a single handset manufacturer out there. What competitive response did handset manufacturers expect as they introduced increasingly music-capable phones?

The idea of a phone that is also a music player is not, in and of itself, a differentiated idea capable of capturing the imagination of the consumer, and so the iPhone was not created with the goal in mind of creating a digital music player that is also a phone (though that was the strategic purpose for its creation). Apple needed a strategic response to protect their digital music player market from being disrupted by the mobile phone handset manufacturers.

But, Apple also knew that to be successful in an industry that they had no experience in, mobile phones, that they needed to introduce a truly differentiated and valuable offering. To achieve that goal, they needed a unique insight to build their ideas on of what a mobile phone should aspire to be.

The insight they chose to build their mobile phone business on, was the insight that people were now ready to make their computing experience more portable, while also at the same time making it more personal. The key idea built on this insight was that of the App Store. In building their phone around this insight, they were able to create a device that not only could play music (and help to protect their digital music player market from being disrupted), but could also perform just about any other function that a user might desire (or even imagine to build).

A lesser company would have endeavored to build the world's best music phone, but instead Apple realized that it was more important to build the world's most personal and customizable mobile phone (that happens to play music). This is the power of building around an insight instead of an idea.

Apple realized that the contracts with AT&T and the permission to do something like the App Store, along with building an application development platform that developers could rally around, were possibly even more important than the device itself.

One of the lesser known innovation truths is that a true innovation is often more than just a single idea, but is often several ideas coming together to serve a new key insight. Apple's insight was that computing was about to become more personal and move to the hand as part of this increasingly personal transition.

What insight will you build your business around?

You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'What is the most dangerous current misconception in innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.

Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Blogger Vinay Dabholkar said...

I agree with Braden. Insights matter more than ideas. What is the difference between idea and insight? Is insight = idea + conviction? For more see: http://cataligninnovation.blogspot.com/2008/10/innovation-trigger-idea-vs-insight.html


4:53 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

I definitely agree that ideas are not the most critical part of innovation. I find that ideas are very easy to come by. The biggest barrier in my experience is that the kinds of ideas that would truly take a company to a new place are precisely the ones they cannot execute. If they could, they already would have. So the challenge is for companies to figure out ways of developing new capabilities without disrupting their mainstream operations.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Vinay Dabholkar said...

I liked what Thomas Edison said more than a century ago: Great ideas originate in the muscles. Let's face it. We humans are poor in predicting home runs. Let's take arguably the most successful business model innovation of this decade: Google's AdSense. When Paul Buchheit discussed the idea of content targeted ads with his boss - Marissa Mayer, her reply was typical of any manager - "Paul, it won't work". The idea itself wasn't new within the company and most thought it was a bad idea. Paul went ahead and did a crude prototype overnight and released it within the company for testing. Marissa's first reaction the next morning was to switch this feature off. However, as she and others spent more time with this feature, they liked it.

What I found most surprising in this story is that Paul himself didn't believe that the idea would work. But felt like experimenting with it, anyway. And it was a low-cost experiment.

I think companies need to learn how to define low-cost experiments, organize for rapid prototyping and manage a portfolio of such experiments efficiently (which means learn to kill/suspend projects fast enough).

Related blogs:
1. http://cataligninnovation.blogspot.com/2008/09/story-of-how-googles-adsense-almost-got.html

2. http://cataligninnovation.blogspot.com/2009/04/adsense-story-take-2-role-of.html

5:55 AM  

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