Making Products is Easy, It’s Making Product Decisions That Are Hard

The saying is ‘Hardware is hard’, but it isn’t really. Companies continuously strategize, develop and launch successful new products in every category in existence. This can only happen if the skills, process and tools to innovate are widespread and mastered by many.

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The saying is ‘Hardware is hard’, but it isn’t really. Companies continuously strategize, develop and launch successful new products in every category in existence. This can only happen if the skills, process and tools to innovate are widespread and mastered by many.

Almost every CEO will profess that innovation is critical to their company’s success. But how many CEO really understand innovation. How many have created or developed innovations themselves? How many CEOs encourage ambiguity and uncertainty? How many CEOS spend their days listening to customers, have experience making the tradeoffs of cost and performance, experience the meritocracy of brainstorming or know how plans go awry and how to get them back on track.

It’s this last point, that projects never go as planned, which is important to keep in mind. It’s important because just about all books written about innovation, particularly the books in the business section that CEOs might read, describe only the most straightforward of paths from unmet need to successful new product launch. Beit an innovation technique, a way to identify market opportunities, how to reduce risks, or how to think like a designer, most books about innovation promise a process that is reliable, repeatable and always successful. If it were that predictive 95% of new product launches would be successes, instead of failures.[i]

I believe it’s often due to unrealistic expectations that lead executives to mismanage innovation, misallocate resources, invest in failures and have their companies disrupted by competitors and startups. This is a bias, (it’s actually called the overconfidence bias) is insidious and nearly impossible to argue in the moment. I hope this article helps CEOs be set realistic expectation for innovation by giving them the foresight of how innovation development often goes wrong. Then, with this foresight help them set strategies to avoid pitfall from the outset and tactics to bring innovation back to plan.

I don’t believe any article, much less this one, can instantaneously teach an executive the strategic thinking, creativity, patience and leadership needed to be a great enabler of innovation. There is a learning curve to leading innovation, just as there is a learning curve to everything. Hopefully, this enables more balanced expectations of innovation and a better partnership between leadership and their innovation teams.

The role of executives and CEOs in innovation is unique. CEOs and executives are the ultimate innovation deciders. They make judgements, assess options and set direction. When it comes to the ways that executives and CEOs fail innovation, it’s due only to the decisions they make.

[i] INC Magazine. 95 Percent of New Products Fail. Here Are 6 Steps to Make Sure Yours Don’t. by Marc Emmer. 6 july 2018. https://www.inc.com/marc-emmer/95-percent-of-new-products-fail-here-are-6-steps-to-make-sure-yours-dont.html.

Proven business leader with a track record of creating, launching and growing consumer-driven brands.