Nielsen: Innovation Has Nothing to Do With Genius

Does your “innovative” product offer consumers something that performs tasks where all currently available solutions are lackluster, or nonexistent altogether? According to information and measurement company Nielsen, this is the right question to ask when discussing innovation, and its very foundations – “when consumers discover these products, they pull them into their lives again and again.”

Nielsen’s latest Breakthrough Innovation Report focuses on China, where 15 products (out of 24,654) are said to meet the requirements to earn the title of Breakthrough Product. Examples include the Colgate 360 Charcoal toothbrush and the Haizhiyan sea salt lemon water. Lest you live in China, you are probably surprised to hear these things even exist, let alone impress, Not only they exist, but they are in huge demand. And the reason is simple, according to the metrics firm: the companies behind these products employ a “demand-driven operating system.”


It’s not about being smart. It’s about playing smart

If up until now you thought that creating real value demanded sheer brilliance, rest assured it’s not mandatory. In fact, it’s not even important. What’s important is to pay attention to the signs.

While most companies struggle to brainstorm ideas internally, innovative organizations operate in an outward manner, looking at customer needs and grievances, and addressing them. Innovators like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs have repeatedly stressed the importance of focusing on quality versus profits, because achieving good quality inevitably drives profits. According to Nielsen, this is as true today as it was back then.

Six takeaways from China’s top innovators

To improve innovation outcomes, Nielsen decided to burst some marketing myths by sharing these key findings from its Breakthrough Innovation study (emphasis ours).

  • Game changing innovation is possible in any company, across any category and for any product regardless of its level of maturity
  • Organizations perform better when more focus is placed on addressing consumer need rather than looking inward for what to produce
  • An entrepreneurial spirit and quick decision making are invaluable when leaning into consumer centric innovation
  • Innovation success has little to do with luck or genius – and even less to do with magic. It’s a purposeful and meaningful set of activities that creates value.
  • The majority of the Breakthrough innovation winners root their success in profound understanding of the unmet needs from the local market of consumers and refrained from borrowing existing products from other markets. They owe their success to Chinese consumers’ buying better products in pursuit of a higher quality of life.
  • Corporate managers use many definitions of innovation. Consumers use just one: innovative products perform important “jobs to be done” in consumers’ lives that currently have incomplete soluitions or no solution at all.

Here’s the Breakthrough Innovation Report in full.


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