Innovating for Customers: Adjacency Innovation


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Lee McEwan in his Serendipity Book blog spots an interesting approach to innovating for customers. This is a simple variant of what Vijay Govindarajan at Tuck Business School, currently seconded to help GE with their innovation, calls ‘adjacency innovation’: Take two unrelated things and stick them together to produce a novelty.

Govindarajan defines ‘adjacency innovation’ as taking a core competence and looking for an ‘adjacent’ space you can expand into. I’d broaden that a bit and say you can also take a well-established practice in one sector, and transplant it into a sector where it is a novelty. Customers instantly recognize what they are supposed to do with the new proposition, because they are used to it from other sectors. Therefore, the danger of novelty – The “What on earth is that and what am I supposed to do with it?” reaction from customers – is removed in advance. So, you get the benefit of innovation while minimising the risk (rejection of the novelty as ‘too weird’).

It’s what Virgin Airlines (and other airlines) did with drive thru check-in for Upper Class passengers – took the fast food principle of a drive thru and applied it to VIP check-in.

The pen top cutlery is, of course, a ‘novelty’ in the other sense of the word, too. But, it’s by looking at the extremes and the slightly weird that you can spark off your own ideas for bringing together two mundane things to make something new for your customers.

Phil Dourado

Phil Dourado
Author, Speaker, Independent Consultant
Founding editor of Customer Service Management Journal in the United States, and of its companion title, Customer Service Management Journal (now rebranded as Customer Management Magazine) in the United Kingdom. He is the author of The 6 Second Leader (Capstone, John Wiley & Sons, 27).


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