Finding an effective solution to a problem is pretty difficult if you don’t understand the why behind the what. A lot of people believe that Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was an innovation wizard. The reality is that Jobs was as practical as they come.
Sure, he had an uncanny sense for design and a terrifying eye for detail but hiding below his control freak bluster, Jobs knew that what customers wanted were seamless, easy to use and cutting-edge solutions.
The cutting edge is easy to do. Just follow TechCrunch for six months and you too will know what direction the technology winds are blowing. Seamless and easy to use solutions are not so easy to create.
Let’s study the history of Apple’s first radical reinvention, the iPod. At its introduction, Jobs pointedly remarked that Apple had chosen music as its next frontier. His observation was based on common sense: everyone listened to music. Only Apple could to it better.
At the time, a Singapore company by the name of Creative Labs was the sure-footed leader of the MP3 player scene. Apple was by no means first. But what it did was to create a seamless and innovative solution that consisted of a 5GB hard drive, and a simple click wheel interface, a fast FireWire connection, and all eventually connected to the iTunes music store, which let people buy music by the song.
Before launching the iPod, Jobs and his engineering team where all over these two questions:
There were challenges aplenty. The Creative Labs Nomad MP3 player, launched in June 1999, was not only expensive at $429 but it only had a 32-megabyte capacity, a laughable amount in this day and age of 320 gigabytes. It featured an FM radio and voice recording. The Nomad was also the first player on the market that let users slip the player into the dock to charge and transfer files. http://anythingbutipod.com/2008/03/10th-anniversay-of-the-mp3-player/
But getting music onto that Nomad was a challenge for the average consumer. You had to “rip” music and transfer it from your computer to your player.
Apple’s iPod had a miniature 5GB hard drive. Sure, it was a major advancement in storage capacity but it wasn’t a major departure in storing music. The same goes for the music format itself. The iPod used regular MP3 files because that was the most popular format at the time. And the LCD screen? I own a Slate tablet computer with an LCD interface that was manufactured in 1983.
Ditto for the iTunes music store. Sony launched an online retail site in 2000, first called Duet then Pressplay.
Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of the iPod’s launch history was the fact that Apple had just come off a year where its revenues were down $2.6 billion from the $8 billion recorded in fiscal 2000. In other words, the company was on the skids.
So you don’t have to be an innovative genius to come up with some pretty groundbreaking ideas for your business. You just have to devise fluid solutions that address your specific challenges:
These are the first steps you must take to boost what I like to call your IQ, or “Innovation Quotient.” Then attend my session in November to hear me answer the question of what’s “bleeding edge.”
What’s the takeaway from this article? A bit of due diligence in researching your target audience can go a long way toward identifying problems that your customers may not know they have.
Remember: Do not put the what before the why and pay close attention to how Steve Jobs approached innovation. Think different.
© Michael Tchong All rights reserved.