Focusing on User Needs to Drive Innovation

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There is no question that Google has brought us some great products – from Google Maps to You Tube and Chrome.  They also continue to try to solve some very challenging technical problems – a computer platform on a pair of glasses and self-driving cars to name a few.  For many reasons, these new technologies that push the envelope for technical achievement haven’t seemed to go anywhere.  Is it because they are building products that are cool and technically challenge that people don’t need….yet?

In a recent article on Vox, Timothy B. Lee, published an article called How Amazon innovates in ways that Google and Apple Can’t comparing innovation at Google vs. what Amazon has been able to accomplish over the last several years.  He contends that the main difference between innovation success or failure at the two companies is that Amazon focuses on solving user needs and building products that customers will pay for.

According to Lee, Amazon lives the mantra of “fail fast”, bringing minimum viable products to market to quickly learn whether or not the product is going to be successful or not.  They believe in working in small teams and being flexible – if a team can’t be fed by two pizzas, the team is too big. Being technology agnostic is also seen as a key to their innovation success.

The one thing that Lee contends that Amazon does really well is listening, seriously to customer’s feedback.  Get the product in customer’s hands and hear what they have to say – if they don’t like it – get out as quickly as possible!  What’s the point of having a product on the market place that no one wants to pay for?

We have seen more and more companies moving in the direction of testing products along the product development lifecycle, testing them fast, and iterating on product development to bring to market products based on user needs.  The market testing doesn’t have to be big and complicated to get directional feedback on whether a product is viable and what needs to be changed in order to get people to pay for it.

So, instead of bogging down innovation at your company, consider listening seriously to your target customer and be responsive to what they have to say.  It could be the difference between innovation success and innovation failure.

Karie Starrett 
karie@clearworks.net

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