Innovation is getting a lot of attention recently. Terms like disrupt, ideate, incentivize, and amplify have sprung up to describe how start-ups and enterprises alike are trying to stand out in crowded fields and create new markets for products that consumers didn’t even know they wanted.
The problem is, sometimes the result of innovation is things people don’t want. History shows that 95% of new products fail, and there are plenty of recent examples to prove it. The idea that innovation comes from a visionary with a big concept (and deep pockets) is actually a rare event that only accounts for a fraction of today’s successful ventures.
In reality, it takes more than a good idea and endless funding to create products that people want. The missing piece is understanding the needs, problems, and wants of your customers, and finding new and exciting ways to fill those gaps. Instead of a lightning bolt, innovation might be a collaborative process driven by real-world feedback from the stakeholders that mean the most to a business.
We got curious about this idea of innovation. So, we asked 1700 consumers and business people what they thought: Where does innovation comes from, how valuable it is, and how can companies tap into it to drive their success?
Read on to get our key takeaways.
1. Consider innovation a means to an end.
Innovative companies might make for good headlines, but in today’s crowded marketplaces, where “new” might garner a nanosecond of attention, the term innovation can inspire both eye rolls and applause. Consumers are torn on the value of innovation, and most business people rank it somewhat in the middle of their core values.
- For business people, innovation ranks 5th on their list of values, behind customer centricity and product excellence
- 66% said it’s a means to an end
- 45% of consumers said innovation was somewhat important
- Only 32% said it was very important
2. If you get it right, innovation is pretty exciting.
Despite the somewhat mixed responses to innovation, the mention of a truly innovative company can inspire enthusiasm. Tesla, Apple, and Google were singled out as the most innovative companies by both consumers and business people for their unique products and novel approaches to common problems.
- 75% of consumers say a company is innovative because of its unique products
- 68% of consumers define innovation as a brand new approach compared to the competition
- 59% of business people attribute innovation to product development
- 45% of business people said innovation lies in branding and marketing
3. Strive to be both practical and aspirational.
When asked about the goal of innovation, consumers voted for their own needs over breakthroughs. A product or service that solves a need ranked significantly higher than more aspirational goals.
- According to business people, the #1 goal of innovation is a tie between “improving consumers’ lives” and “solving a consumer need”
- For consumers, the #1 goal of innovation is to “solve a need”
- #2 for consumers is to deliver a product or service that is “new or unique”
- For consumers making a purchase, the fact that a product is innovative is only “somewhat important”
4. Think small(er).
Sometimes, finding out what matters sheds light on what doesn’t. In the case of innovation, big impact ideas turned out to be less important for consumers and business people than more practical goals.
- For both business people and consumers, the attribute of “futuristic or “a first” were last on the list
- Ranking low for consumers are products that “use the newest technology”
- For consumers, disruptive just might be a dirty word–they ranked products that “change how I behave” last on the list
5. Everybody owns it.
It would be easy to assign innovation to the “makers” at any company—product design, development, and engineering. But both business people and consumers spread the responsibility for innovation across an organization.
- 62% of business people say innovation is either always or usually a part of the conversation
- 74% of business people say leadership owns innovation
- Three other teams also were also singled out for driving innovation: 47% for customer success, 46% for operations, and 44% for sales and marketing
- R&D or Product came in 5th place with 24%
6. Looking for inspiration? Just ask.
The most powerful insights that came out of the study was how feedback drives innovation. Consumers and business people agree that understanding customer needs are the most important thing a company can do to derive the kind of insights that will set them apart.
- 90% of consumers said “listening to customers” is the most important way companies can fuel innovation
- 41% of business people said “understanding customer needs” drives innovation–the #1 response
- Only 17% said business people should use a team of experts
7. Start with data that gives your ideas some traction.
Companies still struggle with finding the kind of data that can drive innovation, and having access to people who can offer feedback. Starting with feedback might be the single most important way to pinpoint inspiration and test ideas before committing.
- 78% of business people said customer feedback data is most important to driving growth and innovation–the #1 answer
- Employee data, product usage data, and market research ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively.
- When asked what was difficult about using data to drive innovation, 73% of business people said it was access to reliable data
- 72% of business people said access to the right people for feedback
- 51% of business people said it was the difficulty in integrating different data sets
The good news
So where do we stand?
Based on our research, both consumers and businesses value innovation and investments that are focused on solving real problems. Companies are also more aware than ever of the value of their customers’ voices to drive growth. In fact, feedback has become a new currency in today’s Feedback Economy—and a real advantage that could tip the market in favor of the companies that use it well.
What we found was that any company–and all stakeholders–can use feedback in innovative ways to solve everyday business challenges; from launching products to meeting sales goals, or stopping employee attrition. It’s a current that flows through an organization to drive growth and deliver a competitive advantage.
Innovation comes from curiosity. And, to tap into that innovation, all companies need to do is ask the people who have the biggest impact on their success.