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When the financial crisis struck in 2007, the tech sector was told to innovate or die. An intellectual stampede ensued as enterprising CEOs appointed over-zealous experts to create something – literally anything – revolutionary. What followed, predictably, was a glut of painfully pointless products, most of which were executed – very publicly in some cases – soon after launch.
Now brands are again being warned that innovation is vital if they are to remain relevant to consumers; UK companies, in particular, “must act” if they are to succeed in a post-Brexit world.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Innovation & The Seven Heavenly Habits of Innovation, a new two-book compendium by Mat Shore, sets out to analyse the phenomenon and, in so doing, to help decision makers make considered choices about the products and services they bring to market.
Shore, an innovation specialist and consultant for a string of blue-chip clients, is not afraid to name and shame. His books are packed with examples of innovation gone right (“heavenly”) and those gone very, very wrong (the “sinful”). The sinful Nokia Hair Coach, for instance, was in Shore’s view created on the assumption that a consumer need can be created. The remarkable success of Lego Friends, the children’s TV series and merchandise range, on the other hand, was devised to fulfil a clear need in the market. (Developers realised that girls tended to play with Lego in a different way to boys that repackaging standard Lego in a more ‘feminine’ way would not work. Instead, they introduced a new range of character-driven products that became an instant hit).
So what, if anything, can be done? For a start, don’t treat customers like dummies, Shore recommends. Most failures can be avoided, he says, by asking consumers what they need and want before presenting them with a solution, however ingenious (expensive, and over-engineered) that solution might be. Insight-driven innovation, on the other hand, focuses on meeting real-world needs, rather than pulling them “out of thin air”, as Shore puts it.
Shore’s work is excellent, certainly, and has the potential of helping most CEOs avoid the perils of their predecessors. But can a book alone really knock any sense into the super-arrogant decision makers? Perhaps a better, more innovative solution would be to hit them with it. They say the bigger a man’s head the worse his headache, after all.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Innovation is priced £11.95 in hardback; The Seven Heavenly Habits of Innovation is priced £11.95 in hardback; The compendium edition is priced £15.99 in hardback. Visit www.matshore.com