Making Innovation Pay Off

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When it comes to product innovation, the return on investment usually doesn’t measure up to expectations.

That was a message from “Learning From Failures,” a panel at the CTAM Summit here July 23, lead by Asheesh Saksena, director of North American Cable Strategy at Accenture.

Saksena, presenting results from analysis of some 1,000 companies relative to innovation strategies, execution and results, said the company’s research indicated that innovation failed to live up to management’s return-on-investment expectations 96% of the time. After the presentation, Saksena said that cable as industry has done “better than average” in terms of its ROI innovation rate, without disclosing a percentage.

Unlike some industries, like consumer electronics and retail, which sometimes have been too isolated, cable’s advanced offerings have succeeded more often owing to collaboration with other entities.

“There’s intelligence from different standpoints in working with networks, devices and content providers,” Saksena said. “A lot of time and joint effort is spent working [toward a product release], so there is a certain amount of checks and balances built into cable’s product innovation.”

Saksena’s remarks came within the context of such failed product launches as Knight Ridder’s Viewtron, RCA’s Videodisc Player and France Telecom’s Minitel, that required large investments and yielded small consumer take rates because there was no real trialing or consumer research.

Today, companies looking to innovate, he said, should spend time working on products that can work across or in conjunction with different platforms, and should place increased emphasis on trialing different iterations of the good or service.

“It’s very important to track product development from the original plan, so management is not caught unaware,” said Saksena, who advised it may be better “to launch a relatively good enough product” and then let the market take shape.

Saskena said there had been movement toward management becoming more open to innovation that doesn’t necessarily hold the promise of becoming a $1 billion product.

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