To innovate, close your ears?

February 9, 2010 at 7:50 AM 1 comment

In case you missed the obituary, user centered innovation is dead. FutureLab and Design Sojourn are among those who gleefully echo Roberto Verganti’s pronouncement in HBR: the iPad splash proves that innovation occurs not by connecting to your users, but ignoring them and devising stuff your users could never dream of.

User-centered innovation is perfect to drive incremental innovation, but hardly generates breakthroughs.

Whoa. There’s certainly a distinction between radical innovation – innovation that creates new paradigms – and incremental innovation. But it’s false to say that radical innovation excludes the customer or listening.

Radical innovators listen deeply – they tend to gain a deep understanding of users’ passions and concerns (that goes well beyond how they use the product in question). They also have a broad language of technical possibilities. Achievements like this and this unite user passion with technical possibilities in new ways.

I don’t pretend that customer input can directly create a breakthrough. For one thing, customers lack the knowledge of technical possibilities that innovators need. But if divorcing invention from the user’s needs becomes an overpowering trend, we’re in for lots of hype and little value. I’ll have my eye on the obituary section.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , .

How Not to Generate Leads Empathy & Innovation: Now We’re Talking!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. What’s the Sound of Two Ears Closing? «  |  February 18, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    […] reliance on focus groups as the only alternative to pure, out-of-thin-air invention. As I’ve said before, innovation relies on a deep and intuitive understanding of the customer’s experience — […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Thompson Morrison

Thompson Morrison

About Thompson

As CEO of FUSE Insight, Thompson Morrison uses powerful new web interviewing technologies to help businesses better align their brand with the needs and aspirations of their customers. Learn more at


"The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization." -- Tom Peters



%d bloggers like this: