'Companies should know when the market is ready for a product'

VoicenData Bureau
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What is the idea behind grounded innovation?


Any new idea takes a long time to get into the real world, no matter how good it is. The key to success lies in knowing when the market is ready for your product. Innovation is when your technology meets utility. The focus is not on an invention, ie, creating a new technology-but on the whole ecosystem.

How would you differentiate an invention from an innovation?

People often get confused as they think inventing something new is an innovation-that's only one part of it. Inquiry and usability are the other parts of innovation-you cannot come up with a new product with disregard to what users like and what the technology can do for them. If you really want to innovate, you need to work on something new that will be relevant to the real world.


For instance, the tablet computer was originally developed as a 'Pad' 20 years ago at Xerox Parc, California. The product wasn't a success but inspired a number of devices like Apple's Newton Message Pad, which also was a commercial failure. Microsoft followed suit and created a tablet PC in 2001-also a failure. In 2010, Apple launched the iPad, which was foreseen as a potential failure, but there were so many lessons learnt from different products, research, half-functioning prototypes. With the iPad, everything sort of came together.

Why does it take long a technology to be successful?

Many companies focus on invention of new products and technologies in research labs. However they learn the hard way that it doesn't go far commercially. Any new idea or invention takes a long time to materialize into a successful product. Companies need to remember this while they work on new products.


There is also a lot of basic research that goes into studying the world. If we combine this research with invention, there is a higher chance of making an innovation grounded in the real world.

How can companies reduce the time taken from research and invention to innovating?

Grounded innovation is one component of how we do that. Very often, an exciting innovation comes out too early to get it into the market. Moreover they should know when your technology is ready as well as the users.


We can learn from the company 3M, that decided about 30% of their income has to come from products developed within the last 5 years. This forces them to be innovative and innovate with new products.

Internally, there needs to be interaction and conversation between the researchers and product guys. When both of them are in sync, you're closer to an innovation. Researchers who have already known and foreseen these changes for a long time is a very important resource to proof yourself for the future.