Product Innovation… More than a Bright Idea

Early this morning I endured my second session of shockwave therapy for a painful case of plantar fasciitis. While biting my knuckles and holding back tears, the following thoughts crept into my head:
Why did I ever decide to train for a half marathon? Who figured out shockwaves could help cure foot afflictions? Were they sadists?

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is more commonly used on horses (nice). But humans are now reaping the benefits of this bazaar treatment. Thanks to some bold medical innovation, I can turn up at my doctor's office, get my treatment, and within 10 minutes, walk out of the door.

Yet studies show that this kind of cutting-edge innovation is on a downward spiral, with many companies choosing to make small improvements and modifications to existing products rather than risking it all on a big idea.

Compared to a decade ago, new-to-the-world products have decreased by half, and cycle times in product development have gone down to 24 months, from nearly 42.

Conversely, companies are becoming more inefficient, with the same R&D-to-sales spending but much lower profit margins.

Is it becoming more difficult to innovate? Perhaps. But in today's mature markets, it's crucial.

Investing in the right people and creating a culture where creative ideas are given a chance to grow is a huge step. Modifying traditional idea-to-launch processes to make them more agile and adaptive is another key.

The most successful innovators know how to bring a new concept to fruition, and they have the right people, processes and technology in place to help get them there.

Come to think of it, product innovation is much like running a marathon. It starts with a big idea, but requires a lot of planning, dedication and flexibility to get you to the finish line. And maybe, for the utterly entrenched, some shockwave therapy too.

Ailbhe Coughlan

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