On a trip to a construction site to research builders’ needs, researchers from Stanley Black & Decker Inc.’s DeWalt division watched carpenters struggle to cut large pieces of molding on the industry-standard 10-inch saw.
As a result, the company developed a 12-inch miter saw, a top seller.
DeWalt is an example of a Need Seeker, a company that ascertains the needs and desires of consumers, then develops products that address those needs before the competition does.
In a Booz & Co.’s annual study of the world’s biggest R&D spenders, researchers found that highly innovative companies consistently outperform by being good at the right things, not at everything.
Nearly every company followed one of three fundamental innovation strategies:
- Need Seekers
- Market Readers
- Technology Drivers
Market Readers pursue customers more cautiously and innovate incrementally, closely watching competitors.
Technology Drivers develop products their customers may not know they need.
Example: A few years back, company representatives from The Masco Corp., noticed some interesting technology at a trade show—a wireless, battery-less switch. They saw potential.
“We vetted the technology, brainstormed specific applications for the home, and developed a pilot,” says Masco manager Thom Nealssohn.
“Every time we showed it to someone, we learned a little bit more, and that gave us the fuel that we needed to go back and make it better.”
The result? Masco launched a new line of innovative programmable lighting products based on the technology—Verve Living Systems—in 2009.
— Adapted from “How top innovators keep winning,” strategy+business.