Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Incremental innovation in 2009

I've been thinking a lot about what we can expect in 2009 in new product innovations. Chances are we'll see mostly incremental innovation and very few breakthrough innovations, at least from established product companies.

People, and companies, are risk averse in a down economy. Few are ready to place a big bet on a product they aren't sure is going to generate immediate revenue. Incremental innovations, like small product improvements, should yield incremental revenue from existing customers. Apple, the company most people look to as one of the world's best innovators, released a series of incremental innovations this year at MacWorld - no breakthroughs for the Mac faithful this year.

Despite a lack of disruptive innovation, I'm hopeful that 2009 is a breakthrough year for design-thinking, driven by product companies wanting to reduce the risk of creating the wrong product or wrong innovation. I'm predicting that more product teams will invest in user research and prototyping, so that they can be more sure that they are focusing on creating the products and features that will provide the most value to their customers, and hence provide the biggest return.

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