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4 Ways to Avoid Over Innovation In Products and Services

How to Avoid the Frankenvation

If you have ever used a universal remote to manage your TV, CD player, and cable box - you have been the user of someone’s frankenvation.  Buttons that lead to nowhere, other buttons that have mysterious purposes, more buttons that don’t do what you think they should - the TV remote is one of our greatest frankenvations, (barely victorious over the conference phone).  This bloated, confusing, patched-together device is an experience in frustration.

People don’t want a frankenvation, they want to easily manage their entertainment systems.

If we all know that frankenvations are bad design and thus bad for customers, why do we still produce them?  Features added willy-nilly - especially pre-release – means somebody doesn’t know what they are doing, and is hoping that something sticks to the wall.  Or worse, knows in advance that the product sucks and is trying to cover it up by throwing additional features into the mix as the technological equivalent of a Hail Mary.

The four ways to avoid frankenvation:

  1. Apply a formal innovation management methodology to product development.  There are a variety of methods out there, but they all share similar concepts; dedicated innovation leadership, collaborative team dynamics, stage gating process, portfolio management, and a relentless focus on design thinking.   Find the approach that works for you and your team, and be consistent with it.
  2. Develop an environment that not only embraces, but seeks creative discourse and tension, especially when combining the creativity required for innovation with the business needs for actually delivering products on time and within budget.  Make sure “that guy/gal”: the one who asks why, how much, and will this new product feature actually add value? is wrangling your team.   He/she has the ability to filter all brainstorms, and keep the vibe positive even when rejecting an idea in that moment.  Saying “great idea, let’s put that in the queue for exploration another time, and keep going!” takes finesse.
  3. Get very comfortable with the true definition of a minimal viable innovation (MVI) or minimal viable product (MVP): get a functional product into the hands of your customers quickly.  Get into the market fast, learn what is important to your customers, and prioritize what to add in the future.  Take customer feedback, incorporate it into your products, and frequently bring the resulting new features out into the market.  
  4. Don’t build your products in a vacuum.  Embrace co-creation and work with your partners and customers to build products that have real value.  This will reduce the number of frankenvations.  Nothing stops the innovation train like a customer saying, “What the f**k is that???”

The fastest way to alienate your customer is by providing a solution they don’t need.  But burying a solution they do need among all your frankenvations is just as detrimental.  

Keep it simple.  Less isn’t just more, it’s faster and smoother.