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Fat snake and the dumbbell


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Fat snake and the dumbbell

  1. 1. The Fat Snakeand the Dumbbell
  2. 2. The Fat Snakeand the DumbbellThis semantic separation of‘better’ from ‘new’ is criticallyimportant in any form ofnew product development.The former is a path to self-sustaining excellence andbrand reputation. The latter is amethod of occasionally refreshingyour product line-up, withoutnecessarily establishing strongbrand equities and longevity.One has a mid -to long- termdirection; one hasn’t, necessarily.Confidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2010. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Innovation. ‘network’ or whatever you call it) and out comes a great new product.One of those words that you are sure you knowthe meaning of, right until you sit down and think If that were true, then you’d be coming up withabout it. Is it a noun or a verb? Is it a finished brilliant new products all the time.‘thing’ or something you’re going to do?Either way, you know you need a bunch of But it isn’t. And you’re not.whatever it is, otherwise your boss wouldn’thave been telling you how you need a lot more So, back to innovation. The word itself comesof it for at least five years now… And you’re from the Latin ‘nova’, which means new - literallypretty sure you need some innovation in order the act of creating the new. But ‘new’ is a highlyto get it. But what the hell is it? subjective concept. In my experience, very few ideas are truly new. The truly new is corrosiveI’ve counted more books on airport bookstands and disruptive. Ideas may be new to theabout innovation recently than even those on person, category or industry receiving them andmacroeconomics and global financial suicide. that’s fine, but you’re not actually looking for theI’ve sat through countless conferences on it and totally new here, usually. And if you were, you’dI’ve come to a dreadful conclusion: most of never get your new product or service off thewhat I hear and read about it seems to be ground in the first place. Why? Because, ifregurgitated hogwash, propagated by people you’re like most businesses, those consumerswho have realised that making a list of ‘10 you put into a focus group as part of yourcritical innovation success factors’, and touring pipeline of development won’t recognise yourit on the lecture circuit, is a much easier way of ‘new’, so you’ll get poor scores and your bossmaking money than actually innovating. will tell you not to do it. And the ‘new’ is untried and therefore very ‘risky’ (aha, another one ofEventually, I realised what’s going on here. those words your boss hates), so that’ll stop itEach of these books, or prophets or medicine- in its tracks hucksters is generally making the samesimple error: that the process of coming up with In fact, it’s very likely that your entire business isa brilliant, unexpected and relevant new idea – structured specifically to do what it was doingand then actually putting it into production – can yesterday, but with a little twist, so you can keepactually be codified, made into an equation; that investment to a minimum whilst getting the mostit can be reduced to a single, linear process, out of what you do already, and calling it new.where you chuck anything or anyone into the Be honest. Why would you do anything new ifproduct development funnel (or ‘pipeline’ or you could sell the same stuff year in, year out atConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2010. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. a great profit? Maybe the only reason you’re or something that adds another bullet on thelooking for new is that your ‘old’ has stopped packaging, as in: ‘Hey look, it does this andworking, or you think it’s in danger of doing so. this’. The communication tail was wagging theOr because a competitor is eating your lunch. product dog.Anyway, new on its own isn’t that useful really,because new rapidly becomes old. And if new What Tefal got, however, was a feature and ais all you got, you have to do another new very benefit: the world’s first cordless kettle. Yes, thequickly just to stay up there. one you have at home. A quarter of a century on, over 80 per cent of electric kettles sold in‘Better’ is much more useful. Europe use that idea. The reason for this is that a cordless kettle is better than one with the cable stuck up its kazoo. But sometimes, better takes time to sink in. Only when used were the benefits of a cordlessCompletely new doesn’t happen kettle fully revealed. Yet the need for it wasvery often in big companies already written into human behaviour. You only had to watch people pulling the lead out of the– especially manufacturing back of a conventional kettle, instead ofcompanies – because they switching it off at the mains, to realise that weare not set up for it. And the were all breaking the rules. We were doing what we do as adaptive organisms – working around‘incremental new’ seldom problems. And this behaviour has the habit ofcontains a vision of where the covering up glaring inadequacies in the system.incremental changes are leading, This semantic separation of ‘better’ from ‘new’so things tend to stay the same. is critically important in any form of new product development. The former is a path to self- sustaining excellence and brand reputation.Twenty-six years ago, Tefal asked The latter is a method of occasionally refreshingSeymourpowell to come up with a new kettle your product line-up without necessarilythat had a feature in the design. Not a benefit: establishing strong brand equities and longevity.a feature. The whole marketing mechanism One has a mid -to long- term direction; onesuddenly jumped into sharp relief for me. hasn’t, necessarily. But this is where things startA feature is something that you can talk about to get a little difficult. Demonstrating ‘new’ to aConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2010. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. focus group is a relatively straightforward thing there isn’t something lurking in the future thatto do, but obtaining useful metrics on what changes the game. If you’re in the dishwasher-someone will want two years from now tablet business right now, you are probably(determining whether the new is relevant, which making reasonable money out of it in theis the point of the research) is a different matter western world. But what if, as has happened inaltogether. As Steve Jobs, the mercurial doyen Japan, some smart-arse designs a machineof Apple, once said: that uses ultrasound rather than surfactant to clean the plates? Then you could be plumb out‘It’s not the consumer’s job to know what they’re of luck, because you own only half the problem.going to want, it’s my job.’ But most businesses are systemically resistantThis from the man who, single-handed, to change. Consider the shampoo example.reinvented the retail music industry right under Forty years ago there was something calledthe noses of those whose lunch it most certainly shampoo. Then someone said ‘This is cleaningwas. the hair, but it’s also stripping off the natural oils that make the hair shine and look good…so let’sThe problem, for those trying to create ‘better’,is that very few people are capable of projectingtheir needs into an imagined, future world that isslightly different from the present, and in whichtheir requirements may have shifted. Great products, and services,The other form of ‘better’ – the incremental are those that are desirable andimprovement of the existing – is usually easier todeal with. A new shampoo that makes your hair relevant. Not just new. They15 per cent more shiny than the last one is have an underlying ethos, whicheasily understood and it scarcely rocks theboat. And people will still have hair ten years is usually about being better infrom now, so the problem is the same in the some way. The Dumbbell lets usfuture as it is now, yes? So if we tackle the get to the better, by making sureissue incrementally, we’ll still have a shampoobusiness ten years from now, won’t we? Yes, we always know what is reallyunless a competitor produces a way of cleaning needed and that doesn’t need a shampoo, or evenwater, for that matter. Incremental only works ifConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2010. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. put them back again!’ And conditioner was something big: a thin line with a big bulge in theborn. After this, you could sell two things middle. Many companies crank up a newinstead of just one. Magic. But since then? programme with very little idea of where they may be going with it. They trundle along, doingNada. the easy stuff (brief writing, stake holder interviews, proposed network etc), then arrive atThe hair washing/conditioning process is ripe the hard bit: coming up with actual ideas andfor a complete reinvention, so why does it not researching them. This is the bulge in thehappen? Not because there isn’t a brilliant, snake. Here, each incremental step in thesustainable, morally defensible, cash-generating process is chopped up, stuck on a board,alternative concept available, but because the exposed to ‘consumers’, re-hashed, re-Big Goo companies are set up specifically to exposed to consumers, beaten and banjaxedmake lots of what they already make. And they and then, finally, set off into the marketplace.have Business Categories that want things tostay nearly the same. And the big retailers have From that point on you lose interest and set offshelf categories specifically set up to go on on the journey all over again (or rather, thereceiving things that are nearly the same... person who takes over your job does). That’s the thin bit after the fat bit on the snake. But theCompletely new doesn’t happen very often in product is a mish-mash of confused messagesbig companies – especially manufacturing and opinions, led by the very people youcompanies – because they are not set up for it. thought you were appealing to. And notice thatAnd the ‘incremental new’ seldom contains a no knowledge passes into the system.. Thevision of where the incremental changes are business suffers from ‘corporate amnesia’ andleading, so things tend to stay the same. Add to probably ends up repeating the mistake overthis the fact that the average marketeer is only in and over again.their job for about 18 months before they jumpship and you realise that there’s often no one Sound familiar?with the will to make big changes anyway. The alternative to this process is the DumbbellSo how do the really clever people get – a thin line with a big bulge at each end. In thisover this? scenario, you begin by finding out as much asBy using the Dumbbell, not the Fat Snake. you possibly can about the habits, motives, dreams and desires of your target market.Imagine your typical new product development When you’ve got a really clear idea of exactlyprocess is shaped like a snake that’s swallowed what they are really looking for or need (the firstConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2010. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. dumbbell), you run fast and true to develop and But this time, the village is the world.create the solution and you get it out there in If you’re not better, there is nowhere to hide.the marketplace (the thin bit). Then you start But if you truly are better, people will get to hearyour real research again, with the actual product about it. The more you spend on getting thein the hands of the purchaser. Only then can product or service better, the less you’ll have tothey really tell you what they like and don’t like spend on shouting about it, because somebodyabout it. You do a lot of this and get a very clear else will do it for you – your consumer.idea of what is needed next. Then you drop thisknowledge (the second ball) into the first ball on So let’s be better. The Latin for better is ‘melior’.the dumbbell and start all over again, this timewith real, honest-to-goodness truth behind you. Innovation is dead.Every time you repeat this, you enlarge theobservatory of knowledge you’ve been building. Long live amelioration.This is exactly what the most quoted example ofsuccessful innovation – Apple – doescontinually. It may take Apple just 16 months toput a new product into production, but it’s beenplanned for years. Apple’s not adapting tocompetitive changes in the market, but taking If you’re not better, there iscontrol of its own future, leaving competitors nowhere to hide. But if yourocking in the jet-wash of its impudence. It’sleading. And each step is better than the last, truly are better, people will getbecause they know where they’re going. to hear about it. The more youGreat products, and services, are those that are spend on getting the product ordesirable and relevant. Not just new. They have service better, the less you’ll havean underlying ethos, which is usually about to spend on shouting about it,being better in some way. The Dumbbell lets usget to the better, by making sure we always because somebody else will do itknow what is really needed and desired. for you – your consumer.And 21st century marketing is about beingbetter. We are back to the Middle Ages incommunication terms: if the blacksmith in thevillage is crap we all know immediately. To find out more please contact design@seymourpowell.comConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2010. All rights reserved.