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Infected with Inventoritis

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A colleague, Tatsuya Nakagawa, CEO of Atomic Creative, recently forwarded me a copy of his e-Book, Overcoming Inventoritis, The Silent Killer of Innovation, which I've had the pleasure to read over this past week. There's a great deal of information here, looking at how inventors, product marketers, investors, and R&D personnel can often loose sight of their actual goals because of the passion for the actual new product offering that can easily consume them.

In this book, it clearly describes how passionate innovators can loose sight of the market they are trying to introduce their product or innovation to. Such a disconnect leads to disastrous results. The book goes into great detail of renowned inventors and innovators whose ideas were tremendous but still failed commercially because they did not fill a specific market need.

The book is filled with case studies and examples of how companies that the public at large may consider highly innovative, in fact are not, simply because their focus, energy and resources are spent primarily on the engineering process rather than developing a market strategy that considers up front a specific need of the market they are trying to reach.

Imagine that? Finding out what people want or need and developing that product or offering. Or even coming up with a marketing strategy that convinces folks they may want or need a product even if they in fact do not. Yes that point seems duplicitous, but in fact what this means is that if you have an idea that you are prepared to invest so much time, energy and money into, you must have some idea of how the market will respond BEFORE you begin developing the product.
Coming from a web development background I can think of a long list of web sites that offered services and functionality that just didn't meet a market need or effectively convince the market of their value. Even though they offered cutting edge capability that even in today's Internet were remarkably advanced in comparison, in the end they failed to position themselves in a way that convinced their market of the need to use these sites. But in the end, it's failure that can help inoculate you to the worst of inventoritis.

UPDATE: I had sent information on the book in a seperate email to colleagues of our LinkedIn Group, and I specifically pointed out a qoute that was in the book:

In his 1930 book, 'Edison As I Know Him,' legendary car maker Henry Ford, a close friend of Edison, described inventoritis without giving it a name. Ford described an inventor as one who 'frequently wastes his time and his money trying to extend his invention to uses for which it is not at all suitable.'

I got great feedback from the members including this one I thought I would share. It's from Rob Madonna:

This is an interesting premise but I am not certain that Mr. Ford's quote is entirely representative of invention today. Creative product design professionals have come up with new approaches to discovering new functionalities with existing products. An approach called "emergence research" explores the functionality of products that seemingly have no obvious connection. Take, for example a mobile phone and a device that tests insulin levels. Two very functional products -- one to communicate and the other important for those who are diabetic. LG Electronics researched how these products could work together and the result was product innovation. "EMERGING" from this exercise was a new product that married the functionalities of two devices one for mobile communication device and the other to conduct a blood test. The new product using existing functionality in one device can test insulin level in peoples' blood and communicate the results to a health professional/physician. So -- here are two products that when combined, a new functionality exists. My point is, today Mr. Ford's quote, while insightful might also be limited and relative to its time. Suitability therefore, takes on new meaning in this case.

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