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3 ways innovators consistently excel

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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:

  1. Need Seekers
  2. Market Readers
  3. 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.

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