Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fantastic Four Path Through Innovation Lifecycle

Product and service innovation does not come in the same form at all stages of a product's life. Utterback and Abernathy presented a model in which innovation begins in the functionality of the product, then shifts to its user features and manufacture, then shifts to a cost competition - as shown in this graph.

As these shifts occur, a company may respond in a number of different ways. Four of these are fantastically popular.

  1. The Thing = Immovable. Stay the course, refuse to change, insist that the market will come back to you. This is the most likely path to oblivion.
  2. Human Torch = Specialize. Focus on being the very best at one specific part of the product or service chain. There is always room for the best.
  3. Mr. Fantastic = Flexible. Shift your focus to meet the new dynamics of the market. Transform the company or the product. Behave like a start-up.
  4. Invisible Girl = Hide. Find a crack in the market shimmy down into it and contract to fit the niche. Hope competitors do not come looking in that crack.

Utterback and the Fantastic Four are included in this conference presentation


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