Web 2.0 companies have some natural advantages that help them innovate fast. The good news: You can use the same Web 2.0 methods to foster innovation, even if your business is offline.
Over the last few years, Web 2.0 has evolved to become not only a design paradigm, but also a development methodology that has become synonymous with innovation. Web 2.0 companies are able to innovate rapidly for four simple reasons:
Taken together, all these methods are geared towards a new model of innovation -- one that emphasizes rapid experimentation and serendipitous discovery. Since every idea is cheap and quick to try out with real users, and the results are easily measurable, Web 2.0 companies get to road test several ideas without spending excessive amounts of time trying to prioritize between them. Similarly, by allowing outside developers to use the company’s data to create applications without any restrictions, Web 2.0 companies are in effect launching hundreds of experiments simultaneously.
This throws the traditional model of product development and innovation on its head. In the old days, companies performed exhaustive (and costly!) analysis to determine which one or two ideas would be most likely to succeed, and then invested accordingly. The Web 2.0 model makes it possible to experiment with a lot of ideas, without investing a lot of upfront cash or forcing assumptions about which idea will deliver the biggest upside. This new model is great for a world in which consumer preferences are difficult to predict and change rapidly.
While your business might not have the same natural advantages as a Web 2.0 company, with a little bit of redesign of your processes, you could use elements of the same philosophy to fast-track your innovation. Here are some tips to get you started:
It’s clear through all these examples that the new model of innovation is for everyone, and not just Web 2.0 companies. Find applications for these ideas in your business, and use them to change the world for the better.
Vijay Chittoor is the director of product panagement at Kosmix, an exploration engine that offers a 360 degree view of any topic on the Web. A former McKinsey consultant, Vijay is a graduate of Harvard Business School and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. He shares his thoughts on technology at his blog..