Make no mistake – product innovation isn’t going away any time soon. The product innovation process itself continues to be defined, refined and updated almost as quickly as new product innovations are launched. Why? Having a product innovation process, essentially a formalized ideation engine with established inputs, outputs and a maintenance plan, is today’s business imperative. Without one, a business cannot anticipate success.

Trends impacting product innovation

Digital transformation is a collective consciousness of how individuals and businesses operate, on their own and interactively. Where product or industry mash-ups used to be a source for innovation, they’ve since evolved into a standard part of the ideation process. Finding connections between disparate sources affords businesses with competitive first-mover advantages. This is especially evident for mash-ups between products and services. Case in point, Uber-Eats, which combines a ride-for-hire service with the need to keep drivers always driving and the growing trend of consumers dining at home.

Data has been increasingly driving the product innovation process. As an Internet-enabled user group of around 3.8 billion people, we’re “always on” and currently generating around 2.5 quintillion (that’s an astounding 18 zeros) bytes of data each day. Even more unfathomable is that we’ve created over 90% of the world’s data in the past two years alone. Herein lies the challenge. We are generating so much data that, with respect to product innovation, we are increasingly at risk of “losing the forest through the trees.”

Even though data analytics and data science have evolved to a higher level of sophistication through machine learning, identifying that nugget you need to inform your product innovation effort is extremely challenging. It’s tough to cut through all the noise to get to the insightful bits that will guide your product innovation process. At the same time, it is precisely this convergence of technology, always-on connectedness and data science that have enabled the product innovation process of 2019 to evolve from being static to dynamic and has opened the door to innovative combinations not previously possible.

At the core of all this, is technology advancement. Revolutionary new modes of communication offer an unprecedented level of connectedness. In parallel, disintermediation of technologies where the lines between open-source, API-enabled, cloud-based and proprietary solutions are blurred to work together seamlessly. A technology-forward product innovation process spawned agile development.

The product innovation process of 2019

Do you want to develop something new or improve something that already exists? Are you pursuing a linear, logical, next version path in your product development? Are you considering a side-step with an adjacency strategy? Either way, you can still leverage all the added benefits and intricacies of the product innovation process of 2019.

  1. Ideation and Mobilization: Brainstorming is now enabled through online bulletin boards, focus groups and feedback forums. However, mobilization is a new aspect of the process that requires businesses to think about how they can execute ideation as a rolling process with built-in feedback loops for dynamic alternations.
  2. Filtering and Prioritization: Ideation tailgating and filtering tools have been in place for some time. Yet, they are now being used to actively acquire and assess new information as it becomes available so that these data can be modeled to guide next steps.
  3. Experimentation: With technologies such as 3D-printing, the timeframe from idea to prototype is drastically shortened. The costs of making interim changes are greatly reduced, as well. This change opened new opportunities for experimentation.
  4. Commercialization: Identifying the appropriate sales channels, market positioning, targeting buyers informed through market research, and testing price-sensitivity now all happen interdependently and in parallel. Plus, each is no longer executed in a “one-and-done” mode but is continuously performed.
  5. Adoption and Implementation: All the steps required to manufacture, provide quality assurance, manage compliant-handling and so on are not that different than they were even 50 years ago. However, today, adoption requires systematic rollout and buy-in from executives to employees down the line through the extended supply chain. Without that interconnectedness and collective adoption, dynamic product innovation cannot be supported.

What’s different with product innovation today?

The steps in the product innovation process haven’t fundamentally changed. However, the improvements enabled by new technologies change how each step is executed. In particular, the opportunity for adaptive refinement. Whether or not that adaptive learning is via artificial intelligence or not is a moot point. The key difference is that direct access to consumers through SMS, open forums, communication channels and collaborative co-creation tools like CrowdWeaving®, in combination with sensor technologies which are continuously testing, recording and reporting usage patterns, enables refinements in real time.

Ideation, experimentation and commercialization are no longer separate, static steps in the product innovation process. Their interdependence hasn’t changed. What has changed is that these key steps are now in a continuous, endlessly repeating closed-loop workflow to afford marketers, product developers and business leaders with data that allow them to make informed decisions including cost and risk calculations. This has birthed the era of “agile”, which is a whole new model for product development.

As the world becomes increasingly globalized and advanced, the transformation of innovation is inevitable. Product innovation is the key to achieving and maintaining success in the marketplace. Although each company’s appetite for technology is going to vary, it is vital for businesses to be proactive when researching, developing and augmenting product innovation processes in order to stay ahead of the competition.