Innovation is about being different

What is innovation?

Innovation is a strange beast. Most people say innovation is about new technology or bringing new things to the market. Some might think of better processes.

Schumpeter went further and defined it as “The introduction of new goods (…), new methods of production (…), the opening of new markets (…), the conquest of new sources of supply  (…) and the carrying out of a new organization of any industry”. (Source: Innovation Zen)

Innovation is about being different

However, what most of the time is missing, is that innovation has something to do about being positively different from your competitors. When every body in your industry is bringing out new products like in the TV set industry or in the PC industry, then this is no innovation. It is just daily business. You have to do it to survive. It’s a rat race.

However, successful innovation is different. Successful innovation is about being different.

Innovation is….

  • Innovation is when you just offer one telephone handset when your competitor offers 118 devices. Innovation is when you update your one phone only once a year a bit and a major overhaul comes every second year while your competitors bring new devices to the market every months. Innovation is when you see your “telephone” not as a device but as an access gate to whole new world. That’s Apple vs. Nokia. By the way Apple spent only a ninth on R&D than Nokia in the years before the launch of the iPhone (Source WSJ).
  • Innovation is when you understand that not the end customer is your customer but the plumbers like in the case of Geberit that understood that besides products for bath rooms you should make life for the plumbers as easy as possible by providing the right planning tools, an integrated logistics, trainings and higher margin to the plumbers and sticking to the boring, behind the wall part of a bath room.
  • Innovation is when you are the first to introduce understandable product brands in your industry as Bosch did with the IXO power tool instead of using some cryptic naming like BS 14.4 LI as Metabo does.
  • Innovation is when you hire the first young female product manager in a whole male dominated engineering team as the Bosch Power Tool division has done in their R&D department.
  • Innovation is when you define yourself around the jobs-to-be-done instead of the products as Hilti has done in the power tool industry. Hilti is now a fasting technology company.
  • Innovation is when you do not advertise when everybody does in your industry like Zara did.
  • Innovation is when you make a commercial that is so unsexy that it becomes cult like with Fischer Bettwaren Fabrik in Switzerland.
  • Innovation is when you sell products to a customer segment that did not buy the products and that even has detested the products before. Innovation is when everybody in your industry uses happy customers in advertising and you bring an elderly men that just talks about sucking loss and uses other technology slang. Innovation is when you show the dirt you just have sucked in instead of a clean house. That is Dyson, that sells vacuum cleaners mainly to men.
  • Innovation is when you just cut all luxury and just give what customers really want like Southwestern or EasyJet did.
  • Innovation is to offer less service and even do not offer service customers loved in the past like Ikea did with the outsourcing of core activities like assembly and transportation to its customers.
  • Innovation is when you do not have any sales or rebates anymore like all your competitors as Walmart did with its “Everyday low prices” price strategy.
  • Innovation is when you deliberately denounce a broader reach to potential customers and limit your growth pace like Nespresso has done by not supplying supermarket with its capsules.
  • Innovation is when you reduce your choice in order to have higher quality of bread like the Hacke bakery in Germany.
  • Innovation is when you are not customer oriented but just offer what you can do best and you search for customers that fit to you like with the business model of freaks. (added 2023)
  • Innovation is when you do not compete on the technology of today and leapfrog directly to the future as Tesla did or the Chinese car manufacturers with the emobility are doing. (added 2023)

Innovation is not just about being new, but about being different. Positively different from your competitors.

Please add more examples in the comments. Thanks.

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  2. Innovation is ‘newness’; I completely agree that it has to be different. Also, innovation is something that never happened before..Television, introduction of mobile phones, etc can be regarded as innovation ( Apple R & D yes) . It is like narrating an untold story 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this informative post, Liked it!

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