In this post I will talk about the different drivers for innovations across different types of businesses i.e ones that serve the consumer directly and others which are more B2B.
If innovations need to become commercially successful and earn revenue for the organization then I believe the seed of innovations have to come from the all-important source – the customer.
Yes all of us must have heard this several times – “customer is many a times not aware of what he/she really wants”. True to some extent but I believe the real statement is that “many a times a customer is not able to clearly and explicitly express his/her needs”. But customers definitely send out sufficient signals about their world, their challenges, their sources of excitements & worry, their desires to be in better states.
True, we all do know iPhone was not built because customers asked for it but we have come to know how deep and thoughtful customer development exercises focusing clearly on where customers feel “happy & excited” & achieve “a significantly better state”, was one of the key driving forces behind this innovation which became so wildly successful.
Yes R&D drives innovations too. Absolutely they have an important place and that is, they create the platform that spurs the other customer focused innovations. But it is these other innovations that really need to take off to make the underlying tech heavy R&D innovations to pay returns on the investments made on it.
Exemplifying the point above would be the innovations in data storage space resulting in cloud based technology advancements which have then been mass adopted by a huge variety of innovators towards both enterprise & consumer focused markets. Like online storage solutions or even multi device file sharing solutions like Dropbox and others. So cloud computing makes sense not just on it’s own but by what has been built on top of it.
And next also the way innovation gets exercised and introduced will also dictate the success it meets. I believe the above thought of customer discovery and development has to be really exercised by innovators of today through tools and processes like the lean methodology of build-measure-learn of very short iterative cycles to really understand “what really matters”, making that learning the driver of innovation.
The above is truer of B2C space than B2B space. I am no one to say that lean works lesser in B2B but In B2B the landscape is a bit rigid and it is that much harder for innovations to get accepted and commercialized. Here again it is the customer but of a different flavor entirely and that is a very limited set of powerful decision makers, system users & IT evaluators and not necessarily the entire organization like the broader set of a full customer segments as in B2Cs. So you see a bit differing nature of the driver of innovation in B2B space.
I absolutely acknowledge that there are several companies which proactively collect feedbacks on possibilities of innovation in any section of the organization through several means. There are dedicated processes too but actually when it comes to idea acceptance , follow-thru, design & execution and realizing the innovation in completeness – several org based considerations , cost profiles , budget restrictions makes it harder for innovations to see light of day or slows down the speed of implementation. It then falls on the shoulder of really visionary & thought leading decision makers at the helm of those organizations to really drive those innovations which they see as the ones that will really add capability to the organization to deliver more value to end customers and also increase revenue & profitability for the organization.
So there is a small variety in the drivers behind the initiation of innovation but intensity behind that drive for complete follow through by the stakeholders inclusive of customers will be in turn driven by the quantum of benefits of all types that all these stakeholders see – customer problem solution, market growth, new avenues for greater org revenues, new tools for greater org capabilities to serve customers better and hence truly innovate to really solve pervasive problems that customers are really waiting upon which is turn will build the path to adoption and success for those innovations.