Friday, December 23, 2016

"Little Improvements Crowd Out World-Changing Innovation"

From Justin Fox at Bloomberg View:
The notion that we’re getting worse at generating big, world-changing ideas has been gaining currency. As the Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip wrote earlier this month:
Outside of personal technology, improvements in everyday life have been incremental, not revolutionary. Houses, appliances and cars look much like they did a generation ago. Airplanes fly no faster than in the 1960s. None of the 20 most-prescribed drugs in the U.S. came to market in the past decade.
Is this because all the “low-hanging fruit,” a phrase that I think my Bloomberg View colleague Tyler Cowen should get most of the credit (or blame) for popularizing, has been plucked already? Is it because government regulators are standing in the way of innovation? Is it because investors are pushing too hard for immediate gratification?

I don’t know! I’m not even sure we really are witnessing a slowdown in world-changing innovation. But I do have yet another theory for why we might be: We’ve gotten so good at non-world-changing innovation that we don’t have time for the world-changing stuff.

This thought occurred to me while I was reading “Superconsumers: A Simple, Speedy, and Sustainable Path to Superior Growth,” a fun little book by Eddie Yoon, who works at the Cambridge Group, a consulting firm that’s part of market-research giant Nielsen Holdings Plc.

Yoon argues that paying close attention to the most committed, enthusiastic consumers of a product can teach you lots of things about how to market and improve your own offerings.

The notion that companies should identify and focus on their best or most profitable customers isn’t new. Neither is the idea that understanding customers’ needs and desires is important. What Yoon describes is an approach that mixes serious data mining and personal connections (his wife, for example, is a superconsumer of scissors ) to help companies find new sources of growth....MORE
HT: Ritholtz@Bloomberg