This latest piece from Steven Sinofsky considers product strategy on 2 axes:
- What problem is being solved and
- How it is solved
The spectrum he paints here runs from the most conservative (old things in old ways, “incrementing”) to the most forward-leaning (new things in new ways, “inventing”). No approach in this matrix is “the answer” in all cases, each has its merits based on timing, product type, stage, customer set, sales approach, or business model. Also a product team growing over a course of 5 to 10 years shouldn’t necessarily always be in a single quadrant on the matrix. It’s helpful to use as a lens to view your own team through.
Why is this so tricky? Because almost nothing we use is entirely new,an invention. Facebook was not the first social network. Instagram wasn’t the first way to share photos. Google wasn’t the first search engine with ads or ad network. Windows wasn’t the first graphical OS. Word, Excel and more were hardly the first productivity tools in those categories.
Yet those products were all very innovative. Innovative products are a portfolio of new and old that lead to creative solutions. Marco Iansiti at Harvard Business School once taught me, innovation = invention + impact. The impact can be to solve new problems, changing market perspectives on categories, or causing customers to consider new ways to use technology.
What this brings front of mind when I think about my own past efforts, or even other products I follow in the market, is that teams focus to much on the new things rather than the new ways. Different approaches to tech platform architecture, deployment strategy, or even productization (pricing and packaging) can often be keys to unlocking new customers or growth with existing ones.