Yeah, right. Innovate like Apple. You can do it. Sure.
One of the smartest guys I know is James McQuivey, who works with me at Forrester Research. James decided to take a close look at how new breakthrough products actually get created. You know, products like the iPad that make a complete change in people's behavior. Because if you do that , you can make boatloads of money. It's in his report called "Innovating the Adjacent Possible."
It's very human to think about the linear evolution that created a product like the iPad. In that linear evolution, the predecessors of the iPad include products like the Palm Pilot, Windows tablet PCs, and iPhones. It's easy to imagine that the iPad is the "natural" evolution of those products.
It's also wrong.
In fact, breakthrough new products come about from a combination of forces. Within the company and outside, people are inventing new technologies and new ways of using them. Apple sees how people are using its products and imagines what they could be doing. The environment makes an innovation possible -- both technology advances, like the big iPad touch screen, and business forces, like the digitization of media and the pressure on media companies to find new digital channels. McQuivey calls these "adjacencies" since they spring from what's happening right now. As the report says, "The cyclonic force of these converging adjacencies continues to draw in ideas, services, and companies, leading to new experiences Apple did not even anticipate."
You can do this too. It's not just about technology products -- technology changes all businesses now, which means this sort of innovation is possible whether you're in retail, financial services, packaged goods, B2B, whatever. McQuivey explains it himself in a video here. Here's how to do it:
It's not that easy, you say. If so, you can go ahead and keep making those tiny little improvements. Keep fighting for share with your traditional competitors. But somebody's going to put the pieces together to create this type of breakthrough innovation. It might as well be you.