Innovation is the New Black

Post by Jany Xu

About two years out of college, I’ve started attending panels and discussions. There’s so much to be learned, and with marketing and communications moving at such a fast pace, I realized that my education has just begun. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying the quest.

Last night’s panel at Swissnex, a forum dedicated to connecting Swiss companies with those on the West Coast, the topic was innovation and design and their contribution and sustainability of big business, a.k.a. the Fortune 500. Reena Jana from BusinessWeek did an excellent job moderating.

GM was brought up as the old dinosaur that lacked the processes to change, while GE became the epitome of companies who transformed it’s corporates structure to be able to continually innovate.

[Photo via Baia’s Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.]

The point that stuck was that from a designer’s perspective, good innovation is something that the customers and designers both wanted. It’s the glue that held business and sustainability and marketing and engineering. I don’t necessarily agree. The struggle with marketing and engineering is that what the customers want doesn’t always overlap with why the engineers want to create. Of course, customers don’t always know what they want. Until BOSE designed super small speakers, their audience didn’t think it was an option. So how can companies know what’s the next best thing?

All the panelists agreed that focus groups and customer surveys rarely make a good indicator of if the product will do well in the market place. And just because a small group of evangelists at the company love the idea doesn’t necessarily correlate to a stellar sales record.

[Photo via Baia’s Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.]

It’s a problem the companies deal with on a daily basis. Is there a one size fits all solution? Or will some companies follow the suggestions on the market, while others like BOSE and Apple simply continue forging ahead and presenting their audience with what they think the people want?

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