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4 Ways Experience Can Obstruct Innovation

By: Chris Gregory - HLB Director of Marketing and Business Development

Highly experienced, intently focused seems to be the call of the day regardless of industry and market focus. Being highly focused and experienced typically means that an exceptional amount of expertise has been acquired within the field in which one works. Confidence evolves due to a proven ability to solve problems with products and services users want and need. This has all been substantiated by increased revenues, market-share, receipt of a promotion, and a praising e-mail from the boss. However, there comes a time when, if allowed, experience can actually work against the product development process. Here are four ways success can work against you.

Blinders

Often experience or being especially close to a product can cause a product manager to don virtual blinders. It is quite common for a product manager or development team to ride the glory of a highly successful product cycle into the dawn of a new version or release. Armed with a great deal of knowledge gained from market and user research conducted during a previous release, product managers assume they know most of what there is to know. It’s quite easy to greatly reduce or completely cutout market research thinking that what users wanted then is what they want now. However, as many of us have learned the hard way, markets change quickly and the assumption approach results in less than desirable consequences.

Wins and Losses

Success and the praise that comes with driving a lucrative product is addictive. Positive user feedback is validation of work well done. It is very easy to maintain focus on positive feedback. However, the real value comes from feedback that is less than flattering. Paying attention to “losses” as well as “wins” empowers the creation of future feature sets that attract new users rather than simply maintaining current customers. Place greater attention on listening to what you “need” to learn rather than what you “want” to hear. In the long run, rewards will be greater as losses are transformed into wins.

Cross Pollination

Yes, it is first and foremost important to immerse yourself within the market segments that are most relevant to your solution. However, there are often advantages to broadening focus and looking outside one’s own industry or market when aspiring to break out of the norm. There are often areas for potential cross pollination when looking across industries. For example, users of consumer and medical products often communicate similar human factor requirements. Additionally, advancements in materials and manufacturing processes can often be migrated from one industry to another. Looking for and identifying ideas outside the comfort zone can be a fantastic way to drive efficiency while differentiating solutions from the competition.

We Don’t Do It That Way

Communicating new methods or processes deviating from the norm can often be met by seasoned product development team members responding with “We don’t do it that way.” In today’s fast paced, anything is possible world it’s difficult to imagine an environment where this clichéd train of thought still exists. Here again, success can create an ideology more attuned to “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” rather than pushing the envelope of innovation. There is no finality to product development. Rather, product lifecycles and development projects are continuously evolving. Staying the same old course can accelerate the path to obsolescence for even a great product idea.   

Shortcuts can be attractive but true long-term market viability stems from paying attention to steps that may seem repetitive and mundane. Always embrace the opportunity to network, communicate, and collaborate with users and skeptics as well as industry peers and competitors. Be open to new methods empowering the discovery of alternative manufacturing materials and refined production processes. Never resting on your successes and always honing your expertise will result in greater efficiency, ROI, market differentiation, and prolonged product relevancy.