As we step off the Coronacoaster and onto (what we hope is) a new Roaring 2020s joyride, it’s critical that businesses innovate in ways that leverage how echoes of the pandemic will remain endemic in the future.
As always, the winners have been the most innovative in responding to changing market dynamics and consumer needs – putting momentum behind ideas that create the most sales energy, scaling production when the time is right, demonstrating cultural resilience in sometimes plummeting conditions and showing agility through the loop-de-loops of competition.
Innovation Changes Our Lives
The history of humankind is the history of innovation. Where would we be without fire? Or the light bulb, now the universal icon of innovation? Or the internet? We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but it would be nice to spin out the next Uber. Or perhaps, an upgrade from the past – like switching from paper money to credit cards to QR code payments.
Innovation is Hard
There are oodles of stats on the subject, and the numbers aren’t pretty – about 90% of innovations fail soon after launch. But when you take a closer look, it seems many of these failures suffer from self-inflicted wounds. Far too often, failed innovations are simply failing to answer enough basic questions: What is it? Who is it for? When is it for? Where is it for? How is it different? Why should I buy it?
Technology Moves Fast, Human Needs Change Slowly
As we think about better ways to innovate, we need to be careful to avoid the speed trap between the evolution of human needs and a revolution of solutions.
Innovators need to be out in front of the public, or else they aren’t innovating. But innovators also need to create an intelligible bridging story if the innovations they’re pimping are way out there.
Be Mindful of How Cultural Context Comes into Play
Across cultures, whether or not innovative ideas translate is also being put to the test. In Asia, for instance, we have seen countless big ideas that have been massively successful in the west, such as Amazon, Uber or Groupon, fail miserably, getting replaced and outpaced by local competitors after struggling to adapt to the local culture and consumers. In contrast, Starbucks, Walmart, and Airbnb have reimagined themselves vigorously and relentlessly.
The 5 Winnovation Factors
Prophet works with enlightened innovators of all shapes and sizes across a spectrum of categories and markets. We’ve distilled what we’ve learned from our work (and what we’ve observed to work in the marketplace) into five winnovation factors.
The fab five should NOT be thought of as a super-strict checklist, but instead, be thought of as guidance towards creating winning innovations. They work individually and collectively to raise an organization’s innovation game to a higher probability of success. They do it all from informing answers to basic buyer questions to inspiring disruptive ideas that surf pop-culture tsunamis.
- High Concept
- New Platform Development
- Multiple Needgasms
- 80:20 Familiar:Strange
- Human End-to-End
Innovation should be rooted in an intuitive High Concept that helps people understand what innovation is all about…in an engaging way. High Concepts are often expressed through name and/or design elements.
Facebook (2004) turned the page to a new chapter of social media, with its concept of becoming a “Book of Your Life.” WeChat (2011), prior to reaching super-app status, first gained traction as a messaging platform connecting people. Its Chinese name, 微信, also reflects its concept clearly – “micro message.”
The High Concept definition says it all: A simple and often striking idea or premise, as of a story or film, that lends itself to easy promotion and marketing. What could be better than striking ideas and easy marketing? High-concept thinking is a powerful concept for innovation.
New Platform Development
Changing the NPD game from new product development to new platform development means treating innovation as a living system that spans (and spawns) multiple products and/or services.
Oreo (1912) kept its cookie dynasty from crumbling over the years by flexing a dynamic platform system that innovates with a defined set of variables – ranging from the dimensions of the outer sandwich to the amount and flavor of the cream filling. Pop Mart (2010) thought inside the box to turn a simple toy into endless opportunities for surprise, by selling its trademark dolls in “blind boxes” and collaborating with artists and brands to constantly create new collectibles.
Whenever you innovate something new to the world, treat it as a platform that can be leveraged in a variety of ways for future growth from the get-go.
Many contemporary innovations are one-upping their unique selling proposition ancestors. Increasingly, new innovations are purpose-built to (over) deliver against multiple needs to elicit mind-blowing experiences from the jump.
Beverage company Genki Forest (元气森林) (2016) quenches Chinese consumers’ thirst for healthy drinks that still taste delicious. Their sparkling water boasts 0 sugar, 0 fat, and 0 calories, comes in a wide range of flavors and is topped off with sleekly designed packaging.
‘Multi’ is the new ‘uni’…‘and’ is the new ‘or’.
Most consumers want a twist on the known in their innovations. If something is too familiar, there isn’t much reason to buy it. If something is too strange, mass consumers will reject it as something only good for freaks.
Take the salted egg yolk, a traditional staple across many Asian cuisines. In recent years, the flavor has hatched a number of new products that consumers are crazy about, from IRVINS Salted Egg Potato Chips (2015) to McDonald’s Salted Egg Yolk Loaded Fries (2019).
The innovation advice on the 80:20 factor should feel strangely familiar. If an innovation is highly familiar, add some strangeness. If an innovation is strange, make it feel more familiar.
Innovations are no longer thought about simply as isolated goods. Instead, they’re increasingly thought of as end-to-end systems in time and space. The best of these systems recognizes the human front and center in the ‘end to end.’
Apple (1976) pips most lifestyle tech companies to the post with a well-designed alpha and omega innovation experience play. There’s an appealing unboxing ritual when you buy a new product, and the company will often take your old product off your hands (literally) and apply its value against the price of this year’s model. One of China’s leading electric car manufacturers, NIO (2015), powers its community through its NIO Life sub-brand. The online platform enables car owners to chat with one another, sign up for exclusive events, and use NIO credits to buy everything from suitcases to cereal, shifting the car ownership experience to one that is all-encompassing and owner-centric.
When it comes to the end-to-end in your innovation…just do it.
The More Winnovation Factors, The Better Likelihood of Success
There you have it, now you know the winnovation factors. So, it’s time to start using them. Remember, they aren’t Pokemon (1998) – you haven’t ‘gotta catch ‘em all.’ But in general, the more winnovation factors you have in innovation the more likely it is to be successful.
Prophet applies winnovation factors across a wide range of categories, including products, services and new business models. They’re proven to make a difference in incremental product improvements and breakthrough category disruptions. They make a difference in innovation that lives in the physical world and innovation that lives in the digital world…and in innovation that lives in the hybrid phygital world.
The winnovation factors work. And the winnovation factors work even better when accompanied by the other innovation frameworks, exercises and approaches we have up our (rolled up) sleeves.
Want to learn more about how to increase your organization’s innovation capacity? Click to download ‘Innovation in a Post Pandemic World: The Critical Traits of a Truly Enlightened Company’
If you’re looking for an innovation partner to raise your game, we’d love to talk. Get in touch today!