Professor Touts The Importance of “Bad” Innovations

There is such a thing as “bad” innovation and it can sometimes mean more than creating the next overnight sensation.

I came across an interesting article written by a professor in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California-Davis. The article shares examples of how innovations that are not blockbusters can play hugely important roles in the development and growth of a company.

Aside from world domination, the author lays out four “perfectly good” reasons for innovating.

  1. Innovation as a placeholder. If you are already a major player in a market, you may wait to see if some new niche product gains hold before thinking about how to respond. That would be wrong. “By the time the impact of that product becomes clear, you may have lost your window to launch a version that will gain traction. Instead, consider developing and launching a me-too product.” As an example, the author uses the Apple Watch. While not perfect, it definitely put the kibosh on anyone else trying to build a smartwatch to work with iPhone users.
  2. Innovation as provide ground. Smaller projects can serve as test cases and proof-of-concept for potential big innovations down the line. Pixar, for example, released a number of short films before taking big swings with movies like Toy Story and Finding Nemo.
  3. Innovation as trust building. It takes a huge commitment to launch a major product. Waiting for those opportunities to build the bonds of trust between co-workers and departments can mean waiting too long. “If your company isn’t regularly making commitments to drive new product or process innovations, you’re losing your ability to do so. People stop believing in each new project, having learned from the last that if they just wait, this too shall pass.”
  4. Innovation as a long game. Nobody gives birth to a 17-year-old who is the valedictorian and captain of the football team. “Instead of thinking about whether the first product will be a success, consider whether the first product will enable you to build the right capabilities, understand the market potential, develop key partners, and guide the market toward where you want to be in five years.”

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