Leap-frog Moments

Yesterday morning I heard this interview while I was getting ready for work, and immediately wished I had a transcript. But I did manage to type out the last question and answer. I think Nuovo’s response a good lesson in design: focusing on what competitors are doing, and recycling the same ideas, isn’t how you innovate.

Interview with Frank Nuovo (about a new $700 Nokia phone)

Morning Edition: Is there a moment whenyou take a box full of everybody else’s phones and dump them out on the table and try to figure out what they’re doing right or wrong?

Frank Nuovo: You don’t gain that much from looking at your competitors. You really gain forward momentum from focusing on the end-customer. Knowing where they’re going… Otherwise all you’re doing is following …very brief moments … little leap-frog moments from competitor to competitor. What you have to do is take your eye further forward and understand where the customer wants to go and that’s the real magic.

(From the Site: Frank Nuovo, chief designer for Nokia phones, discusses the company’s new 8800 cell phone. Nokia is betting on the phone to reenergize its sales and compete against Motorola’s hit phone, the Razr. Nuovo has been designing phones for Nokia since 1989.)

Edited to Add:
I’m sure Nokia does plenty of competitive research. I’m positive they rip apart every competitor product and understand its every atom. The point he’s making, though, is that you only get a small, incremental boost from that work. It’s necessary — if you don’t do it, you’re crazy. But it’s just a small fraction of the work necessary to innovate.

Author: Andrew Hinton

I use information to architect better places for humans. More at andrewhinton.com.