Weekly Column: 2017-10-20
Over the past few days, as I frequented Korea and Hong Kong, I was able to meet many companies and come across many products. There were numerous unique products and many products I would have never been able to think of, and the commonality is that the founders were all proudly displaying their products. It was good to see them emphasize how their product was unique while showing which parts were different from others and to see them working diligently to attract the attention of others while personally showing how the products worked.
Strangely, however, I do not remember staying by any of those booths for a long time. To put it precisely, I was unable to find a perfect product that was especially memorable — the perfect product that made me want to have it. These products were undoubtedly truly excellent. I could tell that they had excellent performances and that they were quite different from the other products out there. However, should I say that they all felt like I had seen them somewhere before or was something I had expected to see? Of course, I was not expecting anything as impactful as the iPhone, but it has been quite a while since I have encountered a product that no one else has thought of.
Recently, many products have been forced to be innovative. Even Apple, the company that has been synonymous with innovation, has been receiving criticism over their fading innovation. Apple, of course, despite consumer criticism, is defending itself by saying it has continued to be innovative for the last 10 years. That said, it is undeniable that Apple has recently been unable to fully meet consumer expectations. This shows that innovation is not something that belongs solely to Apple.
Innovation, in fact, is something that is akin to a risky venture. It is too obvious that it is not easy to set off on a risky venture without checking things first. So many companies focus on maximizing product competitiveness while minimizing costs. However, it is impossible to try to be innovative with costs. The sad thing is, currently, there is no culture where you can go off and take a risk and be innovative. So I think that is the reason there are so many products that are developed that have functions that existing products lack, rather than new products that don’t already exist. That is why all these products, although they are all differentiated, seem like a product that already exists.
“To be innovative, you must take risks. Innovation is difficult. However, it is the only way for a company to survive and be successful. In the past, innovation was thought of as a risk, but now, not being innovative is the risk.”
Perhaps, at this very moment, there are companies that are debating between innovation and competition. It is their choice to decide between taking the risk for innovation or to choose the safe road of winning out the competition. It is hard to say what is right, but the most important thing is this is a time where it is more dangerous not to take the risk.
I feel that the best companies of this time, such as Google, Apple, and Amazon have chosen risk instead of safety and are being rewarded greatly for their decision. If they had not chosen the risk for innovation, would they have been able to grow into the large companies they are today? Of course, it will come to a time where you will have to choose between what is efficient and what is not. You should not forget that right now is not the time to be debating between innovation and competition, but a time to decide how much risk you are willing to take for innovation for your competition and the future.