Recently, Harvard Business Review published an article on Engineering Reverse Innovations that highlights the idea of designing products and services in developing economies and after exports them to developed countries. Article is definetaly worth reading not only if you are thinking about bringing products and services to the the developing world but also may help to enter markets relatively new markets of European Union where purchasing power is not still as strong as in old Europe. Authors of the article mention few traps and design principles to avoid those however I want to add my thoughts on topics that relate but were not covered by article.
Mental traps are common in our daily lives. We as a business managers tend not to see them and cultivate them. The most common trap is doing our business and constantly making changes to our products and services just to ensure profitability of our business for the next year but not seeing the bigger picture. By bigger picture I mean – do we really improve product / service for the reason why we are doing what we are doing or we are just thinking about the profits and thus locking ourselves in? I want to make it clear, there is nothing wrong about profitable business and products that bring revenues however I argue that focusing only on profitability may result in ‘short term business’ for the company. Why? Because customer cares and even more – competition will probably push you out of the business.
Constant focuses only on profitability as a single goal may not be the single mental trap that is faced daily; another is thinking that we know what customer wants. In my opinion, many times we do not know what customer wants – we probably have some idea of the direction. We as managers have to be visionaries in some sense and foresee the future and deliver future products to the today’s customer that customer did not see coming. This is the innovation that will excite customer and probably this is the way how to bring competition to completely another level.
Breaking our mental traps is probably easier said than done as we tend not to agree that we are in one in the first place. The best practice that I do use in my daily work is questioning everything. Questioning does not mean that I am not sure but I am trying to beat myself in my own game of making products thus seeing myself as a future user of the product or competitor. This practice allows removing any flaws that there might be and get a feeling that I am making the right product for the right customers. Even more, this practice may allow you to beat competitors for your future product by early identifying any imperfections and properties that product may lack.
Another practice is to move out a certain environment because I believe that the environment sometimes may be the one that is keeping in the mental trap. Just go to foreign country, get new experiences and just allow your mind to increase your mental boundaries. In my experience, the best innovation happens when simplicity in a design, processes and usability is introduced. In order to be able to simplify I have to have experiences, experiences for different industries and environments. Different experiences and mix of environments allows me to come up with solutions that probably were not previously the ones of certain industry thus breaking the mental traps and locks.
Companies should consider hiring people from outside the industry thus pumping in new blood and definitely different experiences in their own businesses. There is a question about company culture and ability to accept new ideas and practices not losing their core business and focus but definitely this is a subject of different blog post.