Some start innovating when they receive funding, some others when a new idea strikes. Yet not all of them succeed. I observed the highly successful innovations and found the three common pillars that they rest on – purpose, profits, and people.
Innovations click when they serve a purpose, assure profits, and are led by people. Some of them are also led by changes in technologies. Innovators build new products on newer, popular, and more efficient technologies or upgrade older ones from outdated and obsolete technologies. The three pillars together with technology advancements help us assess if an idea can lead to successful innovation.
Is the innovation purposeful?
Any successful innovation should solve a current problem the prospective users are facing, or it should ease or expedite a process to save their time and energy. Successful innovations spring from rightly identifying the purpose they serve. Also, though it might sound contradictory, innovations need not stem from great ideas, instead they many times stem from simple and evident, but purposeful ones.
In the past one and a half years, many new innovative ideas, like digital health care products, have materialized into successful businesses. Some of these ideas were new – like Zoom or some online education apps. Others were old but adapted to the changed situations, like delivery services via software apps. These ideas, old or new, that created successful businesses must have received good funding. Though funding is crucial and is essential for every innovation, the seed to innovate doesn’t lie in the capital, it lies in its purpose.
Many innovations address current issues but not all of them need to. Some create new aspirations and needs. Such risky innovations should be tested and well thought. Like a luxury watch or an advanced smart phone, these too have a purpose – to satisfy our aspirations. Yet not every luxury, rare, or hi-tech product succeeds.
So, how do we estimate if an innovation is going to be a success? By measuring the purpose of your innovations. There are many ways – track changes, analyze consumers, or if you find it too tough, take the help of AI, ML tools. These are our new-age fortune predictors.
Is it profitable?
Once innovators confirm that the innovation serves some purpose, the next question they should be asking is “Is it profitable?” But profits are not generated from day one. Businesses use collected Big Data analytics to analyze consumer patterns, market their products or services, and progress in the right direction. This ensures profits after they cross initial hiccups.
Businesses also use another way to reduce the risk and gain enough confidence in the innovations, they build products incrementally. They release a Minimum Value Product to the market to check the feedback from users and also get the users accustomed to the product. They then build on it, rectify issues, and release the next better versions. Sometimes profits are generated by the new revenue streams opened by a newer version of the product.
Is it people-led?
Most successful innovations are led by people. People – makers, users, consumers, and other stakeholders are as important as the idea itself. They work together in creating a conducive platform that encourages innovation. Infact, even the answers to the previous two questions should be gathered from real people.
Innovation has now moved from the domain of makers to users and enthusiasts. People have become the forerunners in innovating intangible products like softwares and the tangible things the softwares support. They find bugs, extend products through platforms like Appstore, and answer queries in user communities.
There is another important kind of innovations led by people – technological innovations used to deliver services. These services driven by consumers’ needs were quite successful during the lockdowns and quarantines.
Sometimes, consumers prefer certain technologies. Some popular products and platforms that use the latest technologies advance innovations built on them. For example, most innovative IoT devices released to the market use and extend the successful Google Home, or Amazon Echo functionalities.
Technological advancements – This is what primarily drives innovation in the digital age. As technologies turn obsolete, it adversely affects businesses of products that are still older ones. But they force the companies to innovate, reinvent themselves, and transform digitally; grow faster, and open new revenue streams. They move to new softwares, or to the cloud. In the process they add new functionalities too.
A friend once told me, “Innovating is aspiring to break the barriers. It is led by a passion to create a new understanding of the scenarios, needs, and visualizing new solutions.” True, Innovations help us view, understand, analyze, and enrich our worlds, both digital and physical ones. But most innovations these days are hardly out of the box or the breaking barriers kind. They just address the gaps in our needs, aspirations, and comforts.
Let us not complicate the process of innovating by waiting for ‘The perfect idea’ to click. Though I partly didn’t agree with my friend, here are the questions I think he should ask himself to assess his likely innovations. If you think of other questions that I should’ve asked my friend, or if you don’t agree with us, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org