3 examples of innovation flops from which you can learn
Between 75 and 90 percent of all product interventions do not prevail on the market. These three examples of innovation flops that have one thing in common show just how difficult it is to actually place innovations: All had the potential for a real breakthrough innovation. Read in this article why Google's data goggles, the parallel parking fitting for windows and the Segway one-person means of transport were not successful, and what you can learn from them.
Google Glass: The web before your eyes
Measured by the technical features and the resulting possibilities, Google Glass had what it takes to change the everyday life of all of us. The glasses made it possible to use almost all the features of a smartphone without even having to take it in your hand. The wearer was shown the desired information directly in his field of vision (augmented reality), could use voice commands or gestures to shoot photos and videos, or, for example, have a foreign-language menu translated by simply looking at it. And that's not all, of course. Google Glass was designed as a separate platform for developers to create their own apps; their own "glassware", so to speak. The possibilities for success with this innovation seemed to be unlimited.
Glasshole instead of transparency
In 2014, Google brought the device, which is often referred to as "data glasses", to the people as part of an exploration program. It is estimated that tens of thousands of test users bought the glasses for around 1500 US dollars. But there was no enthusiasm. US consumers rejected the product primarily because of privacy concerns. The wearer's environment in particular felt uncomfortable because the camera was clearly visible and could not be switched off. Cinemas, bars or casinos soon imposed a carrier ban, partly for data protection reasons. For people who wore their Google Glass almost always and everywhere, the term "Glasshole" was invented. Some quite entertaining videos about this species are circulating on the net. In addition, the battery of the device did not last long, the glasses themselves warmed up, and had a number of other teething troubles.
No sales launch for Google Glass
In the end, Google did without a sales launch. However, the Internet company has not completely abandoned the project. Now the Google X laboratory is continuing its research into a new version of the data glasses. Why Google's glass failed the consumer seems clear in retrospect:
- Google has been dazzled by the many technical possibilities of its data glasses and has not asked itself whether consumers want or need such a device at all. Maybe a reality extended by information from the web is (still) just too much?
- Contemporaries are already annoyed when they get too involved with their smartphone. Because the other person never quite knows whether the other person is dealing with what is happening around him or whether he has just drifted spiritually in the online world. A device that makes even greater demands on the sense of sight and hearing without the surroundings noticing it further increases their discomfort.
- Google has disappointed the high expectations of the public with a technically not mature product (battery, heat development, design). The Silicon Valley motto "better done than perfect" can therefore also be exaggerated.
Parallel opening instead of tipping
Technical immaturity cannot be accused of the parallel parking fitting for windows: Special fittings allow a window not only to be opened or tilted, but also to be fixed in a position only a few millimetres away from the window frame. This position has many advantages:
- Air circulation is more efficient than with a conventional tilted or open window: The fresh air enters the room more slowly and evenly. Despite open windows, there is no unpleasant draught.
- Because the fresh air flows more slowly and evenly into the room, it heats up faster. This prevents the loss of heating energy, especially in winter.
- Even in the heaviest rain, a window equipped with a parallel locking fitting prevents moisture from entering the room.
- The windows are burglar-proof even when open. Especially because they are not visible from the outside as open.
- The handles do not have to be attached to the centre of the window, but can also be mounted further down. This makes it easier for children and the elderly to operate.
- The fitting can also be equipped with a motor and a radio remote control. They can therefore be ventilated at the push of a button when they are not even there. This possibility helps to avoid damage to the building substance - for example through mould.
Consumers want to maintain control and experience ventilation
However, the innovative fittings still have a niche existence. Why? It's probably the psychology of consumers. Just like doors, we want to keep control of our windows. We want to see when they're open and when they're closed. And we want to be able to do this ourselves if possible.
Segway: Revolution for urban mobility
With the Segway Personal Transporter, the user experiences anything but a loss of control. The one-person electric vehicle can be operated really intuitively after an acclimatisation phase. It also works perfectly and is actually an ingenious invention. The company itself, Seagway Inc. also had the financial means to present the Personal Transporter as a revolutionary solution for urban mobility in the media.
Niche after 15 years
But history teaches us that trendy revolutions are not taking place. Even 15 years after the market launch, this future does not seem to have begun for Segway. Why?
- The Segway is only one part of the solution for one-person mobility. Every means of transport needs an infrastructure: at Segway, the electricity charging stations, special parking spaces and also the certainty of where it is even allowed to drive with them. All this was missing when entering the market and is still missing in some cases today.
- The purchase price, by which a cheap small car is already available, was also incompatible with the positioning as a means of mass transport.
- Similar to Google Glass, Segway Inc. has not given any thought to who exactly should use the innovative device. Instead of occupying one or more niches, the company immediately turned to an unspecified "mass market".
However, there is certainly room on the market for an alternative, electrically powered means of transport for urban areas, as the success of the Chinese start-up Ninebot shows. When Gao Lufeng and his fellow student Wang Ye founded the company, they always had Segway as a role model. Until April 2015, when Ninebot bought Segway Inc. with the help of a number of venture capitalists. If the imitator buys out the inventor, it's really bitter.
Imitator enters niche
It remains to be seen whether Ninebot, with its much cheaper product range and a new Segway portfolio, can change urban mobility in the long term. At least the number of producers who try the rolling, electrically driven version of the seven-mile boots is growing. Like the makers of the IO Hawk for which there are even cheaper alternatives. However, some of these means of transport marketed under the term "hoverboards" have life-threatening defects.
Conclusion: Innovations can be strategically planned
Google Glass, the parallel parking fitting for windows and Segway did not succeed on the market. Nevertheless, they may have opened the way for further developments and subsequent breakthrough innovations. However, this does not help developers who have invested a lot of time, money and love in realizing their vision. Because it can sometimes also mean the economic end.
Unfortunately, the reasons for failure can only be clearly seen by everyone afterwards. That's the bad news. But there is also a good one: you can strategically plan innovations - in the sense of invention plus market success. By looking at the trends relevant to your industry, combining them with a timeline, defining exact search fields and finally ending up with the LEAD user method. This ensures that your company will not produce examples of innovation flops in the future.
Born and raised in Vienna. Since 2012 she has been in charge of Business Development at LEAD Innovation with the functions marketing, sales and communication.