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Why You Shouldn’t Innovate Too Much

May 14, 2010 Leave a comment

No innovation, please.

Many businesses adopt the canard that process or product innovation is key to stealing a march on the competition. They therefore aspire to deliver stuff to customers in new and innovative ways. Fortunately for themselves, they usually don’t succeed.

That’s because people are a rather conservative breed of animal. They like things to be familiar and predictable, and often find change confusing and disconcerting. More subtly, the ‘normal’ way of doing things can be deemed to have resulted from millions of consumers voting for a particular business model until it became mainstream. Ignore the peoples’ vote at your peril.

Google learned this the hard way when it ventured into the mobile phone business with its ill-fated Nexus One phone. Being an Internet company, Google revealed a bias for the Internet way of buying stuff when devising its distribution strategy. It decided that the Nexus One would only be sold online via a web store.

Failure and low sales ensued. Google is now retreating from that ‘innovative’ way of selling mobile phones, and adopting the more traditional route of selling through mobile phone retailers. It turns out people like to see and touch phones before they buy them, and their considered set of potential purchases is the phones they see at retail.

Lesson? Don’t try to get customers to change their behavior. Your product is unlikely to be great enough for them to go to the trouble. Instead, find out how they like to buy stuff, and offer it to them through their preferred channels. It’s possible to be a little too innovative for your own good.