Numerous forces, including a rapidly expanding marketplace (globalization) leading to diversity among consumers, increasing competition, decreasing budgets and personnel are as much at the heart of difficult challenges confronting technology companies these days as the tight economy. Even in the best of circumstances, staying competitive is more difficult than ever. In the worst of situations it can feel down-right desperate.
The “rise-and-fall” nature of today’s environment is evident all around us. The secure, stable markets of yesteryear are rocked by disruptive technological advances and increased competition while small start-ups rise seemingly unchallenged, to great heights. Why? The conditions that determine competitive advantages are changing at an unmatched velocity. Creativity and innovation are the keys to the success of organizations in bracing up to and rising above these challenges.
After three decades of dismissing product innovation with claims that it doesn’t increase the bottom line, many companies have now come to the conclusion that ongoing product innovation is the essential factor for organizational success. The former attitude comes about in no small part because history abounds in examples of organizations that have expended tremendous amounts of money and effort on product innovation programs that had little direct value in the marketplace.
Almost all now appreciate the role of product innovation in their prosperity, most are still in search of effective and efficient ways of producing that innovation. Aligning resources and practices or culture when there is a lack of background in generating product innovation is a daunting and formidable task.
In fact, improperly conceived product innovation programs can be almost as dangerous as a “sit still” policy. In the mid-1970s for example Exxon correctly identified office automation as a significant opportunity. They also correctly understood that they shouldn’t attempt the product development internally and purchased a company in the space. What they did misjudge was the speed of product innovation in the office automation arena which was vastly different from their own. The result was unmitigated failure as they were never able to innovate near the front edge of the curve.
The truth is, successful product innovation should match the capabilities of the organization, the needs of its customers, the realities of available technologies (and their actual progress) as well as the impact of new emerging technologies, budget, the market impact and organizational goals.
With everything going on in every market, the environment and economy, the circumstances speak volumes to many organizations about the need for change. The marketplace opportunities currently point toward the need for breakthrough product innovation over the incremental variety. This requires imagination, insight and a fundamental organizational structure that can examine and exploit creativity - one that enhances innovative efforts to realize both short and long terms goals.
But how? To determine the electronic product innovation strategy best suited to the situation, consider these factors.
1. What are the long and short term goals of the organization?
2. Who are the stake-holders of the organization and what are their hopes?
3. What are the key technologies in the marketplace? Are they developing or mature, underlying or supportive and if they are emerging how do they affect the rest of the market?
4. What are the current and future needs of customers? Are they satisfied with the products that are currently available, or is there a desire for new capabilities.
5. Who are the key competitors and are they making smaller incremental advances or stressing fundamental change? What are your competitive responses to what they are doing?
6. What are the critical driving forces for innovation.
7. What resources are available? What is the state of the organization’s intellectual property, funding, personnel & strategic alliances
8. What is the window of opportunity?
9. What type of change does the current culture of the organization permit? With this information in hand, a productive and flexible innovation process presents itself and a logical sequence for tasks emerges.
An organization can hold its competitive edge and stay ahead through a focus on and effective use this golden key - innovation. Innovative companies are those that keep their eyes & ears open to opportunities presented by change and that can respond with fresh ideas and correctly targeted action to keep them growing and profitable.
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