Time and time again, we’ve seen innovations fail only to return at a later point and succeed. Sometimes it’s the customer whose needs or expectations change, enabling the innovation to connect, like trusting ratings on Airbnb to rent rooms to or from complete strangers. Other times the product isn’t yet ready for prime time, like Google glasses, and the customer may only get there via a series of incremental steps, such as comfort with digital assistants.
When looking for innovations, step back and reexamine older products that may have failed. If you didn’t do a post-mortem at the time, try to understand what wasn’t working the original time. Did the product deliver what it promised better than competitors? Did it reach the most receptive audience? Was the customer ready to make the leap? And what has changed today that may make the product successful now (maybe with modifications)?
When bagged salad mixes were first introduced in the 1990s by The Pillsbury Company, they included dressed lettuces. Needless to say, pre-dressing the salad wasn’t great for quality. The convenience worked, but the execution failed. Other companies later led the consumer to it in baby steps: first, just clean & cut bagged lettuce (value add = no washing & cutting). Then the lettuce with a pouch of dressing (value add = complete salad). Then a bag with the dressing plus additional ingredients (value-add = more tasty salad). The original idea was right, but just too far ahead of the consumer. Only the incremental steps could bring the consumer on the journey to create a billion+ industry.