help businesses develop a pattern for coming up with new ideas. In Africa, SMEs often struggle with the innovation model to use, and there are a lot of inconsistencies on how they come up with their ideas. In an interview, Barry Jaruzelski a senior partner with Strategy & in Florham Park, New Jersey, categorized the various models organisations use in getting new ideas and creating innovative products into 3 - Need Seekers, Market Readers, and Tech Drivers.
Need seekers are businesses that are out to search for and identify current needs or lapses in existing products. They spend time observing how the customers use products with the aim of gaining insights on how to create a new product or improve on it. For young entrepreneurs, one of the ways to beat the market is to understand the needs of the customers, identify problems experienced in using the product including inefficiencies in the product’s function. This helps organisations to improve on their products and come up with great innovations.
Need seekers are more likely to outperform competitors and align their business strategy to their innovation strategy because of the organic nature of this model, and the deep understanding of customers insights gained. It is however challenging to engage and stay with the customers, observe and learn about them, but if you do it right, it pays off.
The second innovation model SMEs can adopt is that of Market Readers. These are innovators that monitor the trends in the market as well as the competitors and customers with the aim of copying the idea. Their aim is to identify any innovation in the market that can easily be adopted and improve on. According to Barry Jaruzelski, “Market Readers look for innovations that have been demonstrated in the market, and then come up with incremental improvements on those innovations very quickly.”
I discussed the gains of ‘imitating business ideas’ in a previous article, and I consider this a cheaper and faster means of introducing innovation into your business. Unlike ‘Need Seekers’, where you spend resources to create an innovation, here you simply monitor, adopt and improve on existing innovation.
Tech Drivers is an innovation model that is based on the ability of a company to innovate on the strength of their technological capabilities. In this case, the innovation is based on the technological skills; not the ability to seek for customers’ need or monitoring market trends. The excitement of technological capabilities motivates entrepreneurs to create innovative products.
Unfortunately, one disadvantage of this model is that it easily leads to product failure. The company may end up making products consumers are not ready for or it’s too expensive to be commercialized. You can be very successful under any of the models as long as it is aligned to your business strategy. If you have the capacity, you can adopt all three. The Need Seeker model may be difficult because of the resources required, however it can help you outsmart your competitors.