8 innovation lessons you won't learn from Steve Jobs

How to create great new B2B products your customers will love -- and buy

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Just because Reinhold Messner -- one of the world’s greatest mountain climbers -- makes a solo climb of Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen, doesn't mean you can. But with training, oxygen, the right team, and an easier route, you might still enjoy the same view. My point is, if you want to win in the marketplace, tip the scales in your favor. Why not avoid unnecessary risks when you can?

Remember, these risks can be costly. During a time period that Jobs was absent from Apple, the company had its share of new product flops. You might recall the Newton MessagePad. Or how about the Apple Bandai Pippin, the gaming console technology created by Apple, or Cyberdog, the Internet browser Apple created back in the late ’90s?

Sure, it would be great if your next three products were MacBook, iPod, and iPad. But if they are Newton, Pippin, and Cyberdog, will you still even be working at the same company?

3. Learn how to attack the right market.

When Apple develops a new product for the global consumer electronics market, it can be assured it is pursuing a market that is large, growing, and open to change. Unfortunately, it's possible -- and all too common -- for B2B suppliers to pursue far lesser markets.

Smart B2B suppliers focus their scarce resources on just those market segments with the best prospects for growth, adequate size, reasonable competitive landscape, and so on. You can learn much of this information by doing solid secondary market research. But you often need to spend time interviewing customers in potential market segments as well. Sometimes you'll find an over-served market that is looking only for lower pricing. That's a good hint it's time to pursue a different market.

4. Uncover customer outcomes.

Steve Jobs makes a good point when he says you can't just ask customers for "the next big thing." But the next big thing is the solution, which is supposed to be the supplier's area of expertise. The customer's area of expertise is the outcome -- what they want to have happen or what they want a new product to do for them. When you find out what kind of outcome your customers want, you can provide their solution.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Steve Jobs did do market research before he developed products. And in doing that research, let’s say he interviewed potential Apple customers and uncovered the following outcomes:

1. I want to search a broad range of music.
2. I want to instantly purchase music.
3. I want to purchase one song at a time.
4. I want to transport music wherever I go.
5. I want to store my music on multiple devices.
6. I want to organize my music, so it is easily searchable.

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