Innovation is a popular term these days when discussing business. A recent business magazine headline stated that today’s businesses must “innovate or perish”.
Innovation in business refers to the introduction of a new product or service – or “a new way of doing something”. Innovation for business also includes improving an existing product or service to be faster, cheaper, or easier to use. Valuable innovations can improve an existing product that makes it more desirable to customers (and potential customers).
Business innovation can be the addition of a new feature or the removal of a feature. For example, a software program may be improved to add a new “automatic report generating feature” that simplifies the process of creating and printing custom reports for each customer. This new feature can distinguish the software program from competitors’ programs that require manual report generation, which is slower and requires additional training. Most customers will prefer the product with the faster, automated report generating feature.
Business innovation also includes the removal of a feature from a product or service. For example, a company may improve its existing product by simplifying the way in which the user interacts with the product. An existing product may have too many buttons or controls that make it difficult to use or intimidating to potential customers. An improvement includes the removal of several buttons or controls to simplify the operation and make the product “user friendly”. There are many examples of innovations that have removed features (or consolidated features) to enhance the user experience with a product. Most customers will prefer the product that is simpler to use.
Another example of a business innovation applies features in one product to a different product. This is particularly useful when a company has a successful product as well as other products that are less successful. Determine the reasons for the success of the first product and do some creative thinking to find ways to apply similar features or benefits to the other products. You can determine the reasons for the product success by asking customers, reading reviews of the product, and talking with the sales representatives that sell the product. Finding the key features that make a product successful is valuable information for current products as well as future product development.
Look for possible business innovations in your own company by evaluating existing products and developing improvements that set your products apart in the marketplace. This can be as simple as adding a new feature or enhancing the user’s experience.