It goes without saying that not all ideas are good ideas that lead to market winning innovations. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that while failures will happen, we can learn from those that have gone before us in bringing innovations to market. This week on the show, we are going to look at the five worst innovation failures and see what could have been done differently.
Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 1: The Apple Newton
In 1993, Apple launched the Newton. While I tracked this product at launch, it was not one that I found interesting enough to purchase. It was not a success because it tried to do too much. What could have been done differently?
- Get the hardware right.
- Determine the most important features users are looking for.
- Establish a model of “continuous innovation” of adding features.
- Only release features when ready and at the quality customers expect.
Palm learned from one of the five worst innovation failures. In 1997, Palm introduced the Palm Pilot, using the lessons learned from the Newton. Palm focused on the minimal viable product. Rather than doing twenty things poorly, the Palm Pilot did its core functionality extremely well. The Palm Pilot dominated the PDA market for years.
Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 2: Microsoft Zune
In 2006, Microsoft introduced their portable music player, Zune. It was Microsoft’s answer to the Apple iPod. Even with a ton of marketing effort the product never took off. There was nothing unique about it that would cause someone to switch from using an iPod to take up a Zune. The product was finally killed off in 2011. What could have been done differently?
- To win you need to commit. Taking half a step by introducing a re-branded product is not a winning strategy.
- To win against an entrenched leader you need to out-innovate them.
Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 3: HD-DVD
In 2006, Toshiba, with support from Microsoft, launched HD-DVD which was supposed to become the Hi-Def successor to the DVD. Standalone HD-DVDs players were sold and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had a HD-DVD option. Most will not recall the HD-DVDs versus Blu-Ray wars. It was a direct repeat of the VHS and Betamax wars. What should have been done differently?
- HP should not have switched its position based on incentives. It injected confusion into the market and impacted its technical credibility with its partners.
- Ecosystem partnerships are critical for most, if not all, major global innovations today.
Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 4: Samsung Note 7
In 2016, Samsung came out with the Samsung Note 7. This failed because it had a problem where it occasionally caught fire and exploded. Out of prudence, the phones were banned on flights and Samsung had to recall the entire line. What could have been done differently?
- Don’t let the schedule dictate launch.
- Get the quality right.
- Customers will always reward quality with loyalty.
- Balance risk of new innovations.
- Learn from others.
Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 5: TwitterPeek
In 2008, Peek introduced Twitter Peek, a hardware device which allowed users to send and receive tweets using Twitter. It was the first Twitter-only mobile device. Peek took the minimal viable product to an extreme. TwitterPeek met broad skepticism in the press. CNN listed it as one of the top ten biggest technology failures of 2009, while Gizmodo went as far as to name TwitterPeek as one of the fifty worst gadgets of the decade. In 2012, Peek dropped all of its hardware devices and shifted to making software for OEM’s. What could have been done differently?
- Be careful of going to extremes.
- Don’t outsource everything to the big design houses.
We can learn a lot from the innovation failures of others. Failure is part and parcel of the innovation game. Don’t shy away from looking deep into failures to see what can be learned.
To learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us in bringing innovations to market, listen to this week's show: Five Worst Innovation Failures.