Whenever you feel the need to add something, do exactly the opposite.
One of the most common approaches to product innovation is to keep on adding functionality: “our newest product now also has this feature, plus it can …”. And-and-and. We all know the examples. But what happens is that by adding features, the product becomes more complex and sometimes even too complex for its users. Besides, consumers often are not aware of the full range of a product’s features and a lot of functionality remains unused. This type of innovation typically offers companies only a small incremental benefit that comes at huge costs.
The proverb “less is more” is generally true, also in innovation. If you feel like you have to do more to prove your point, think again. The answer often is to do less.
Instead of adding new features and components, start thinking about which elements you can remove. Take away something that is considered essential to the product: remove the glass of a bottle, eliminate the voice calling functionality from a phone, take away the screen of an umbrella……. It is not about cutting costs, but finding new benefits and creating new value in the marketplace. Innovation is all about creating new value and ideally a lot of it.
This subtraction principle also generates great new ideas when applying it to business models. Chances are that you have rented a car before. Imagine a traditional car rental company and boldly start eliminating some of the essential elements of the value proposition. Let’s remove the pick-up and drop-off locations, next take away the choice of cars and eliminate the minimum duration of rental. What new benefits can you generate? What new value can you capture? What potential new business model do you get?
Next time you get your team together to come up with new ideas for your products, resist the temptation to add something to the product. Instead, systematically remove essential components and ask yourself the following question over and over again: “what new benefits could potentially be created by eliminating this element?”. You will be surprised by the great number of creative ideas that are generated and that may lead to discovering new opportunities.
© Ernst-Jan van Batenburg, FlyWheel Business
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