When Is The Right Time To Launch Your Innovation Breakthrough?
Sometimes, innovations can fall short of expectations because the market isn't yet ready for them. For example, in the tech industry, cloud computing and interactive television (Web TV) were introduced well before customers embraced them in today's incarnations. In consumer products, soy-milk's recent marketplace acceptance in the US with brands like Silk owes to today's consumers embracing soy as a health food alternative to dairy milk despite its broad use in Asia dating back several centuries.
There is recognition within companies that there can be a substantial lag between the time at which an innovation is conceived and when it will reach market. Shifting market and consumer attitudes and preferences can also occur during this time. This is why companies like Google hire futurists like Ray Kurzweil to help inform their corporate planning decisions. These professionals envision possible future states, including the customer marketplace for which the company's prospective products are intended. This type of intel can help companies to place smarter bets.
One doesn't need to hire futurists to be forward thinking. Dealing with less overtly technical products and closer-in time frames, Bath and Body Works designers also engage in a form of futurism. They spearhead what they refer to as 360 degree analyses, where they develop design direction in the context of where they conceptualize social, environmental and design trends to be heading in the coming 3-5 years. Importantly, Bath and Body Works very actively and comprehensively scouts, monitors and tracks societal and design trends that can inform the design and merchandising aspects of their retail business. In contrast, I feel that many consumer product companies tend to think pretty narrowly and short-term about trends, which can cause them to be out of sync with the market when they're ready to launch new innovations. Macro and micro trends and associated customer insights suggest opportunities that should be seized by companies before being forced to by competitive initiatives. Perhaps it's time for them to adopt a more comprehensive and possibly more forward thinking view in their planning processes.
What are your thoughts?