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For product innovators, the stakes have never been higher. As it is, 90 percent of product launches fail to meet essential milestones, such as reaching sales forecasts or driving sales volume. Meanwhile, Forrester predicts that firms across all industries will face a 25 to 50 percent increase in revenue risk as more customers switch brands more frequently, searching far and wide for better products, services and software.

Companies are starting to think creatively about how to innovate and solve problems under immense market pressure. Looking at our top three product innovation trends for 2017 and beyond, you’ll notice a common theme of converging challenges, customer-led decisions and speed to better ideas.

Finding answers to complex problems in unexpected places

As we face increasingly complex, globally connected problems, we’ll see a greater convergence of solutions across industries and competitors. Seemingly disparate fields are suddenly tackling similar challenges.

For example, PwC’s Health Research Institute found that 40 percent of American adults researched multiple doctors and health systems for the best price—a 26 percent lift from the year before. While empowered patients shop around for the best care, health care leaders are realizing the need to innovative quickly and shift with changing consumer expectations. Where do they look? Retail. Many health care companies are developing retail strategy councils, where retail’s forward-thinking, consumer-driven innovations inspire and inform advancements in health care.  

Finding inspiration in otherwise incomparable businesses could prove to be a competitive advantage in the coming years—especially as challenges continue to intersect across industries.

Making customer-led business decisions a priority

Another trend we’re seeing is more customer-led companies. This is where decision makers throughout the organization turn to their most engaged customers for feedback, inspiration, validation and answers. Before making substantial investments in product development, companies turn to their customers for validation.

Cliff Condon, chief research and product officer at Forrester, predicts that becoming customer-led will make or break businesses in the coming years. “2017 will be a year of action for many companies, as they address the realities of a fast-moving customer-led and digital-centric market,” Condon explains in a recent Forrester report. “Empowered customers are forcing the hand of virtually every industry. And so the question for most companies and business leaders is not if they will respond to these market dynamics, but when and how. Inaction presents immediate revenue risk—or much worse—a threat to a company’s existence.”

Take Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, for example. After a Tesla owner tweeted to Musk, complaining about how fellow consumers used local charging stations as personal parking lots, the CEO took immediate action.


Just six days later, Tesla updated its policy, launched a new app feature to alert owners once the car was almost fully charged and added an additional fee for those who misused the stations. As strategy consultant Richard Jhang puts it, “Idea to execution in six days. Copy that.”

Killing bad ideas faster

To keep up with the pace of market, companies must identify—and kill—bad ideas quickly. As Greg Satell, author of ‘Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age’ and thought leader behind Digital Tonto, puts it, “enormous amounts of time and effort can be wasted.” But “if nonviable research can be pruned at the next coffee break, resources can be focused on areas that are more likely to lead to a true breakthrough.” All too often, the sheer pressure of bringing products to market quickly causes profit-driven companies to overlook better ideas with greater market potential.   

Companies that can tap into real-time customer feedback easily can validate ideas and products before investing too much time, effort and money. Feedback can also be a great source of inspiration and contextualization, helping innovators understand why consumers prefer one product over another, or finding ways to improve on an idea that may not have been originally considered.

Final thoughts on product innovation trends

Breakthroughs lead to more breakthroughs. For this reason, innovation is never a single event caused by any one organization or inventor with a big idea. Instead, ideas are connected. The iPhone and Tesla, for example, weren’t imagined out of thin air, but instead built upon past inventions and failed attempts. The faster that product innovators can connect and improve upon ideas, the better.

Learn how companies like Wolverine Worldwide turn to their customers for product innovation inspiration and validation.

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