Small Steps to Big Change

18 November 10

The Power of Incremental Innovation

Disruptive innovation is exciting. Big breakthroughs like Netflix, Zipcar, and the iPad, generate big headlines. However, it’s important to recognize that many of the most profitable innovations aren’t disruptive at all.

A classic example of non-disruptive innovation is the addition of wheels to suitcases. Many thousands of years after both the suitcase and wheels were invented, the two products were combined in 1970 to make life easier for travelers. This small, incremental change made a big difference and gave suitcase companies a way to differentiate themselves. Incremental innovation is defined as improving, reconfiguring, or building upon a form or technology that already exists. By focusing on incremental innovation, companies can align existing offerings with current trends, expand on what they already do well, and continuously create value.

Many companies practice incremental innovation. Let’s take a look at a few recent examples that demonstrate the value of this approach:

  • Google Instant — Just when you thought the browsing experience couldn’t get any better, Google launches their new search feature Google Instant. This new predictive feature displays results as soon as you start typing. Google estimates that this will save users approximately 2-5 seconds per search. The feature has been so popular that it has inspired programmers to create their own versions, including YouTube instant and Yahoo’s new Rich Search Assist. Read the rest of this entry »

Innovation Tip: Look Beyond the Data

11 November 10

Look at any industry that has been disrupted over the last half-century, and you’ll discover foretelling data in the years prior to the disruption. In the early part of this millennium, the USPS saw a declining growth rate of the volume of mail it delivered despite steady revenue. The same is true for the music industry as sales of compact discs remained steady in the late ‘90s. The music and postal industry giants made the mistake of being complacent because signs of growth were still evident, even as their disruptors, digital music and communications, were gaining steam.

So ask yourself: how is your organization reviewing and analyzing data? All the metrics you track may look healthy, but remember that your metrics aren’t the only data outputs to pay attention to. Think about what’s happening outside your organization. What companies are growing faster than yours? What are these companies doing differently? What are they doing better? How could they transform your industry 5 years from now? Make it a point to sit down with your team on a regular basis to take stock of your industry, its players, and upstarts in adjacent industries as well. The wider you look, the more you stand to learn.

It’s better to push your boundaries and widen your field of vision now than it is to be sitting on the sidelines five to ten years from now.

Retail Revolution

27 September 10

The Future of Retail

At this fall’s New York Fashion Week, the most interesting trends were happening off the runway. While models were showing off new looks, designers and their retail partners were demonstrating innovative ways to connect with today’s shoppers.

High-end fashion houses including Gucci streamed their runway shows live online. Burberry took it a step further with a “retail theater” that allowed at-home shoppers to purchase runway outfits online as models were strutting down the catwalk. Diane Von Furstenberg’s partnership with HP further proved that fashion and technology are now highly integrated. At the DVF Lounge during fashion week, customers were invited to sip refreshing drinks while browsing new DVF looks on HP touchscreen panels. They were even able to conveniently print out their favorites on HP printers. Real-time tweets about the event were on display on another large HP display screen.

It is not only high-end designers who are on the cutting edge of retail innovation, leveraging technology to reinvent the shopping experience and connect with customers; the following are a few more examples of how retailers are reaching their customer in new and innovative ways. Read the rest of this entry »

“What’s In Your Wallet?” May Be A Thing of The Past

13 August 10

With an impressive array of business, credit, metro, and various loyalty cards bursting out of our expanding wallets, a move to digitize plastic cards may come as a pleasant reprieve to many. Earlier this month, Bloomberg uncovered a planned venture between AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to develop a smartphone based payment system designed to compete directly with credit card companies. Using a technology known as NFC (Near Field Communication) embedded into mobile phones; payments would be made by holding the smartphone over a special reader that can communicate with the phone. This method differs from RFID technology, which doesn’t allow two-way communication between devices that would, say, allow for a password to be entered before a payment can be completed.  While Visa and MasterCard have invested in their own mobile payment systems, the new venture, which includes Discover Financial Network and Barclays, will place phone carriers and smartphones at the center of a new financial network. Read the rest of this entry »

Innovation at E3

23 June 10

Innovation is the lifeblood of many industries, but few depend on it as much as the video gaming market. At this year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), the gaming industry’s annual trade show, game designers and hardware companies were out again in full force to show off their latest gadgets and newest ideas. One notable development in the industry began as an announcement made at last year’s Game Developer Conference by a then unknown startup called OnLive.

OnLive had the revolutionary idea of removing the game console from the equation entirely. They use their own servers to render games and stream them to computers and TV’s; essentially, OnLive’s product is the gaming variant of cloud computing. The implications for game developers and consumers are immense, as both can remain platform agnostic while gaining the ability to play the latest games on aging hardware, Macs, and even TV’s. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future of Snacking

9 June 10

I recently led a trends panel at the largest candy and snack show in the country, the 2010 Sweets & Snacks Expo, where more than 2,000 new confectionery and snack products were launched.  With so many options coming on the market, my panel of three trend experts – a CPG research guru, a futurist, and a ‘mommy-blogger’ – convened to discuss which types of products, trends, and other driving forces they think will drive ‘snacking’ in the near future.

With the hardship of having received a box filled with hundreds of new products at our offices to sample (read: devour) as part of our preparation, we were all filled with inspiration about the future. But it wasn’t the new products that shocked me, it was the provocative insights from the panel itself about what’s next for the audience of candy, snack, and CPG execs:

My candy will not be your candy: Large-scale trends from life sciences, like the mapping of the human genome, opens up the real possibility of targeting products to distinct consumer segments or even individuals based on science.  “Imagine individual snacks created based on your own DNA and mapped to your specific dietary or nutritional needs,” said Michelle Bowman, cofounder of AndSpace Consulting.

Nutrition Labeling – putting it out there: Mommy-blogger, Kim Moldofsky, founder of, likes how companies such as MARS are being more transparent about their nutritional values right on the FRONT of their packaging. Read the rest of this entry »

National Running Day: Running Innovations from Head to Toe

2 June 10

National Running DayThe running industry is no stranger to innovation. In the past few years, running gear has gotten more and more specialized, catering to the different needs of different runners. Today, in honor of the second annual National Running Day (a “holiday” created by running associations nationwide to raise awareness for running and its benefits), we’ve decided to share some running innovations to outfit you, from head to toe:

    CX 680
  1. Runners have many headphone options. Some prefer the ipod type earbuds, while others like the ones that hook over your ears for added stability. This year, Sennheiser won the prestigious Consumer Electronics Show Innovation Award in the headphone category for its new CX680 sports headphones. These headphones combine top quality sound and sturdiness with ergonomically-minded design for a better fit and stability, even during strenuous exercise. As an added bonus, they are also moisture repellent. This is a unique partnership between a personal audio company, Sennheiser, and a leading sports brand, Adidas – creating a perfect harmony of sports design and audio quality. Read the rest of this entry »