When Innovating, Always Start With a Problem Worth Solving

September 19, 2013

“Most great efforts in innovation start with an important problem – a problem worth solving.”

We recently read an article called, Exploit Innovation’s Twin Engines: Important Innovations Start with an Important Problem, which spoke about new product development and how most great efforts in innovation start with an important problem. Many new products will short-circuit and fail because they are solutions looking for a problem, rather than a solution that solves a problem. Whether you are an inventor or a product development firm, it is always important to research and understand what others might want, and not base your innovation off what you want.

The article goes on to talk about how, “Important innovations — those that solve important problems — can be developed by either a ‘technology push’ or ‘market pull’ approach to development.”

How do you find game-changing “push” problems?
• Look for new, under-leveraged, failed or aging technologies or patents – and find out what problems they were trying to solve.
• Scan trade publications for announcements about new partnerships or liaisons – to find out what problems are motivating them.
• Visit national technology transfer center(s) (NTSC) – to see what problems others have tried to solve.
• Seek academic partners who see problems or have ideas and energy that need a commercial outlet.

Where are “pull” problems found?
• By asking your customers, and your customers’ customers – and sometimes even your suppliers what they need or want (think “value chain”)
• From talking with salespeople and friends
• By mining your database of complaints, warranty problems, etc.
• From experience, and from primary or secondary market research

“For most businesses, looking at market pull problems provides the best-lit path to a higher-powered future. Yet the truly innovative companies constantly look to both sides as they make their way forward. They keep one eye focused straight ahead on their current customers — and work hard to satisfy them, while keeping their other eye on the lookout for the new technology, new customers and new approaches to business that may be required for future success.”

To read the full article, click here.

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