Ask the Expert
How to Innovate a Winning Product
Illustration of Joel Kimmel
Illustration: Joel Kimmel

" "In his 2018 book, The Innovation Navigator, Tucker Marion ’96 calls on executives to reconsider their innovation process. Marion, a Northeastern University professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, suggests executives can improve innovation by maximizing technology. But they must also loosen their hold on the innovation process so more ideas come into play, even from outside sources.

Question 1: Has technology improved product success?
The failure rate for new products and services is about 40 percent — and that number hasn’t changed since the 1960s. For most companies, the challenge is finding the right opportunities on one side and having an efficient process to get that product to consumers on the other side.
Question 2: Why do so many new products fail?
We have 21st-century tools, but we’re using them with a 20th-century approach. We have all these ways to share information now, but companies still rely on their own teams to magically come up with ideas, so they’re missing out on all the other sources of knowledge.
Question 3: Is there a one-size-fits-all fix to improve innovation?
It can take years to develop a system and culture to foster every employee as a source of new ideas. It’s hard work. There is no silver bullet. You need to be comfortable using different modes, and some might be better than others at different points.
Question 4: Is this practical for smaller companies?
Small and middle- sized companies, especially those in traditional industries, need this sort of thinking the most. You want close relationships with suppliers, universities, even competitors. What better way to get ideas?
Question 5: What about protecting ideas from poachers?
Controlling intellectual property is something you need to consider, but there are new approaches to it. Tesla released all intellectual property (with caveats). Toyota just did the same when it released 25,000 patents. There are ways to control intellectual property, but you may need to use different ways to do it.