Do We Really Need an App for That?

We live in what the Huffington Post calls an evolving “Clickocracy,” one nation, under Google, with email and viral video for all. There’s no question that the ever-expanding universe of technological innovation pushes all of us to seek out the next big innovations of our own. Some organizations, however, are better at embracing new innovations than others.

Take, for example, the now ubiquitous iPhone App. When Apple launched its App Store back in 2007, it invited pretty much anyone to submit applications for the device using a toolkit of neat technologies. Some organizations have gone on to create genuinely useful, innovation applications for this platform. Like the popular website Yelp, whose app not only allows users to easily find and read reviews of nearby brick-and-mortar business, but nudges into the world of augmented reality by allowing users to hold their iPhone cameras up to a business storefront and instantly see ratings and reviews of that location without having to type a thing. For every App like Yelp, which takes full advantage of the iPhone’s interface and feature set and adds value to Yelp’s core offering, there are ten more that are, to put it mildly, completely useless.

What some companies fail to recognize is this: just because the technology is there, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. One recent example of two competing luxury brands comes to mind. While we applaud all companies’ innovation efforts, we also caution organizations against simply innovating by “jumping on the bandwagon.” Innovation has to fit your purpose, brand, and customers in order to really work. Some organizations have been extremely successful in connecting with customers through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the numerous other social media and technological channels available today. Others haven’t had the same luck. While these new channels represent numerous opportunities, they do not represent innovation unless you use them in a way that makes sense.

It’s important to take a step back and look at innovation in terms of problem solving. What are the issues your organization needs to tackle? Why do those issues exist? In answering these questions, don’t think about how new technological solutions might fit your organization; simply focus on how to solve problems. Use tools like 40 New Opportunities and Concept Builder to focus your brainstorms and ask better questions—don’t go into an idea generation session saying “What’s our iPhone App going to be?”

How does your organization integrate new technologies into its innovation game plan?

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