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What is Product Innovation?

Think of the first smartphone. A combination of many functions that already existed individually, but not in this combination. That is exactly a product innovation. A bundle of functionalities that no one has ever offered together.

A product innovation can be a physical product, but it doesn’t have to be. A new type of life insurance or other services and service products are also product innovations in this sense.


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What are the Challenges and Risks of Product Innovation?

Product innovations are the most difficult innovations of all. On one hand, product innovations are not obvious. Developing good ideas for product innovations is a great challenge. In addition, product innovations require a high level of imagination. To imagine a product that doesn’t yet exist is not easy for many.

On the other hand, there is an additional challenge in addition to the technical and economic details: Above all, social acceptance determines the success or failure of the product innovation. First of all, this is difficult to predict. Second, success is very closely linked to having the right innovation at the right time.

The greatest risk is the lack of acceptance on the market. Maybe because the innovation is ahead of its time. But there are also other reasons, why it does not find acceptance. This goes hand in hand with the risk of backing the wrong horse for too long. Because the hope remains that the breakthrough is just around the corner.

Kopf mit Zahnrad

High Level of
Imagination needed

Zahlen hoch

Technical and
economical Challenges

Daumen runter

social Acceptance

Who is responsible for Product Innovation in the Company?

The product manager is usually responsible for product innovation. In companies that mainly have only one product in their portfolio, it is often the company management itself. This also applies to startups that usually start with a single product and perhaps also offer variants.

With a broad product portfolio, the portfolio or program manager often comes into play. Especially if the products in the portfolio are overlapping or close coordination makes sense.


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Innovation Team with Rapid Paper Prototype as a symbol for Product Innovation - TOM SPIKE

How does Innovation Consulting help with Product Innovation?


No innovation comes from players outside the industry more often than product innovation. Why is that? It’s the blinkers. Product managers and managing directors don’t see what others already know. Innovation consulting helps to open your eyes and think outside the box. The external view is important and cannot be replaced.


It is not the customer’s job to know what their problem is [Steve Jobs]. But if you are clever, you even know what tomorrow’s customers want. Many years of consulting experience with the right innovation methods and tools helps. In individual coaching, in co-creation innovation workshops or in other formats.


The more functions the better, overengineering and innovations that the world doesn’t need. In contrast. With a crystal clear product definition and market positioning the innovation will be a success. Here as well, an outside perspective and guidance is almost irreplaceable.


No matter how smart you are or how beautiful your idea is, if it doesn’t stand up to experiment, it’s wrong [Richard Feynman]. Putting assumptions and hypotheses to the test of reality is important. And painful. As innovation consultants, we make the pain bearable. With a clear product innovation process and a treat.

What Tools and Procedures are there for Product Innovation?

The time machine is particularly important for successful product innovations. It reveals where a product is headed and what the next generations of the product will look like.

There is no product innovation on the green field. There is always a previous solution that met similar needs. In the case of smartphones, it is the mobile phone, the camera and the PC. Or ultimately even the stagecoach. With the Walkman, it was the stereo. With the headphones it was the loudspeaker. With the Thermomix, the food processor and the oven, etc.

A tool that is closely intertwined with the time machine are the laws of development or evolution of technical systems that support precise forecasts.

The multitude of options, functions and modules can be packed into a product innovation makes the product definition particularly important. This is best done by the innovation QFD. An almost unbeatable and indispensable combination of needs analysis, positioning, benchmark and product specification.


Still more questions?
Our innovation consultants will be happy to help you.

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