The Gap between New and Innovative
The self-styled ‘innovation event of the year’ has been and gone. At CES 2013 over 3000 consumer electronics companies showcased the fruits of years of R&D, insight and innovation with the products they hope we will be buying in the coming year. So what have we got to be excited about?
Although I didn’t get to spend a week in Las Vegas, from what I have read there’s not too much to hold your breath for; the big news being that 2D is this new 3D, (It was only last year that 3D was heralded as the future) with other highlights including a vibrating fork, a second screen for your mobile phone on your wrist and headphones designed by Jersey Shore star Snooki.
There a couple of factors that explain the general disappointment in the innovation showed off at CES this year;the first being that large trade shows are no longer the ideal launch pad for innovation that they used to be. In an ever connected social web, it’s much easier, cheaper and faster for companies to generate awareness and hype for their ideas themselves.
The second is a continuation of a trend towards the importance of software. An area where innovation tends to be much faster and fluid than hardware. Almost all the gadgets that did get people excited where linked to and supported by software, usually in the form of an app. For example the HAPI fork, a fork which tracks your chews per minute and average meal time before syncing with a smartphone app helping you to analyse and change your eating habits to lose weight.
But I think the biggest reason for the lack of excitement behind CES’s launches this year is a lack of two of the most important factors in creating great innovation; Insight and Commerciality. Just because a fork can be made to link to your iPhone doesn’t mean it should. For many businesses now innovative thinking seems to stop at making something that links to a smartphone, no matter whether there is any benefit or value in it doing this at all.
There are many reasons why HAPI fork is a bad idea, the first and foremost being the impracticality of the device outweighs any benefit that you can get from it. (Unless I’m wrong and in 12 months’ time we are all carrying around our own forks everywhere we go and have also bought the matching HAPI spoon so we can also track our cereal and soup eating habits as well).
Just like Nike’s fuel band, the ability to analyse spreadsheets of data on your own behaviour comes at a premium price and I’d argue that more data is neither what people really need nor value. What was missing from CES this year where innovations that looked beyond just sticking an app on it and genuinely delivered something new to consumers that they are happy to pay more for, a feeling epitomised by the TV manufacturers who launched TVs with even more pixels and price tags of over $1000.
As innovators we shouldn’t be limiting our thinking to increasing the number of pixels, or linking devices to apps because we can, we should be working harder to understand people’s lives and challenging our business models to identify what we should be doing to get people excited and reaching for their wallets in 2013.
By Mark Killey, Senior Consultant