Don’ts of Product Innovation

By: Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

Last week, I shared some insights into best practices on product innovation. This week, it seems appropriate to visit the flip side. Don’t let these “don’ts” sabotage or highjack your product innovation process.


  1. Don’t operate in silos.
  2. Innovation doesn’t belong to a single department, function or position. It’s all around us. Think in terms of ‘Big I’ innovation and ‘Little I’ innovation.” There are different kinds of innovations. And when they all come together toward a focused mission, great things happen.

  3. Select vs. settle.
  4. Great people beget great products. While it’s tempting to settle for the talent you already have, selecting the right talent is well worth the extra effort. Settling results in subpar performance. Worst yet, putting someone into a role they will struggle with is a lose/lose. Don’t settle—be picky and you’ll come out ahead. Gallup EP-10 and StrengthsFinder and psychometric assessments like Predictive Index can help you maximize each person’s potential on your team.

  5. Don’t believe you always get it right the first time.
  6. You can avoid the high failure rate of innovation by experimentation and iteration. Talk early on with potential customers, avoid a one-size-fits-all solution, go beyond the price point, and finally, pick the winning pricing strategy–being conscious of communicating said innovation’s value. Remember, pricing drives behavior. What type of behavior do you want to drive with the pricing strategy you implement?

  7. Don’t fixate on price early on in your market discovery and validation efforts.
  8. Innovation is a nail-biting endeavor in and of itself. Save yourself from unnecessary frustration by knowing if your product is viable for the respective market before going live.

  9. Don’t assume consumers will buy in right away.
  10. “Build it and they will come” is not a good philosophy on which to hinge your efforts in product innovation. Take for example, Google’s approach to the development of Google Glass. The tech giant built the product assuming consumers would buy it. As a result, the product flopped. However, had Google developed Glass for the professional and B2B segment, the product might have met a different fate. Take a look at a recent Businessweek Magazine cover story to see the high price Alphabet is willing to pay for “moonshot” innovations. Alphabet calls its innovation efforts “Other Bets” in its annual report and has racked up over $6B of losses in the last three years.

For many entrepreneurs, production design and launch is intense and personal. It’s easy to get so passionate about the idea that you believe everyone will want to line up. Confidence is good — until it gets in the way, causing you to be blind to what’s obvious to others.


  • Customers buy solutions not products. You have to address the pain, problem or job to be done.
  • There is more to the innovation story than just product innovation. We will explore these models of innovation in upcoming blogs.
  • It takes more than one iteration or experiment to get your product right. Your first idea is seldom your best idea.

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