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If Innovation Could Be Simplified, Everyone Would Do It

Posted on March 29th, 2017 by in New Materials & Applications

breakthrough innovation ahead

By Wonder woman0731 [CC BY 2.0], via flickr.com

It’s human nature to look for shortcuts or to simplify concepts for the sake of conveying something new. In contemporary society’s technology driven quest to achieve enlightenment in 140 characters or less, is amelioration of concepts as complicated as product innovation even realistic?

Coming from an engineer who has a tendency to over complicate matters – just ask my wife – combined with how I’ve couched this post’s lead question, you would be incorrect to assume I’m not a proponent of simplification. It is a key concept and viable approach to making problems solvable and to innovating new products that consumers adopt. However, after reading a recently published article in Design News entitled Five Fundamentals of Product Innovation by Charles Murray, I couldn’t help but question at what point the “KISS principle” crosses into oversimplification causing young designers and engineers discouragement when reality doesn’t quite cooperate.

To be clear, I am not questioning the veracity of Mr. Murray’s article or the approach of Bryce Rutter that it documents. The five principles he describes for creating breakthrough products each have merit and are as follows:

  1. Watch and Listen
  2. Human Factors
  3. Finding Simple
  4. Build to Learn
  5. Every Detail Matters

Supporting evidence on each is well presented and worth the read, but the list seems applicable more to the upfront conceptual design portion of the process and less to the realization end of the process where speeds, feeds, and economics become increasingly important. As the audience of Rutter’s original presentation was apparently designers, perhaps the agenda was tuned appropriately.

Successful product innovation is not just about gathering and refining new ideas. They must also be marketable, profitable, producible, and supportable. The following video from the Syddansk Universitet describes the course of study for the university’s Product Development and Innovation degree program and the concepts covered from a fledgling engineers in today’s economy:

When it comes to explaining complex concepts such as product innovation, whether the list contains 3, 5, or 10 bullets is immaterial. What’s important is devoting enough time to cover each important nuance and prepare your audience for any eventuality. By all means keep it succinct, but make it a KISS worth sharing so more people will do it.

How many steps are in your company’s new product introduction process? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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