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Monday, January 18, 2010

Design as a Tool for Innovation Continued

Not only do innovators overlook design as a source of innovation, they frequently neglect to use design optimally to create consumer appeal for new products. Innovation teams are often comprised of engineers and technologists who have strong abilities in the development of new technologies, and financial managers who have expertise in the funding of startup ventures. These teams almost always lack skilled design strategists who can optimize the use of design of the offering, and coordinate the design across all touch points. Often the development of a cohesive design strategy is not pursued to conserve cash, or because the managers involved under estimate the importance of design in generating consumer appeal for their new product. The resulting new products may have heralded new technology, but lack consumer appeal to drive sales. This opens the door to competition to come into the market with more appealing offering that can leapfrog the first mover.
Frequently new technologies may be of interest to consumers, but consumers reject them because they are not in sync with the image they are trying to convey, they do not understand how they might benefit from this technology, or they do understand how to use the product. The Segway does not come up short in innovative technology, but many consumers find the product out of sync with their image, or cannot imagine how they might use it. Early MP3 players were perceived as computer accessories that were complicated to use, then the iPod/iTunes combination moved electronic music players out of the computer accessory space into the world of consumer electronics, and created a plug and play connection between the player and the music store.
I recommend Innovators shift their focus off the technology itself and to the benefits consumers would enjoy through using the technology. Focus on how consumers would like to feel while using the product, and interacting with all the touch points of your offer. Not only should the interaction with the product stimulate the desired emotions consumers are seeking, but the product should also be in step with the image consumers seek to convey by owning your product and affiliating with your brand. By incorporating consumer research in the design and development process, innovators can better understand consumers and target their offering to meet their functional, image and emotional needs.

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