The myth of a better mousetrap: A case study in bad innovation

The myth of a better mousetrap: A case study in bad innovation

One of the most famous quotes about innovation goes as follows:

Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door

Unfortunately, this is not how innovation works.

It was apparently attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson (although it turns out this was a misquotation) and tells people that if you create a better product, it will be successful.

And yet, people seem to take this advice literally.

In the short video above, Tim Kastelle takes us through this fascinating example of bad innovation.

Apparently there have been over 4,000 patents for new designs of mousetraps developed over the years, including several hundred applied for each year still now.

And yet, there has only been one version which made any money, patented in 1894:

You can build a better mousetrap, but that doesnt mean that people will want it

You can build a better mousetrap, but that doesn’t mean that people will want it

In reality, innovations only succeed if they add value from the customer’s perspective.

And almost all of these new, “better” designs don’t actually add much value over the simple, cheap, reliable design from 1894. So they don’t end up getting traction from the customers.

So the next time you’re thinking about building a product which is “better”, you need to ask yourself what the customers think would be better, not what you think.

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Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as the world's #5 Innovation blogger in 2016, I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love.
By | 2017-03-17T14:54:06+00:00 March 17th, 2017|Inspiration|2 Comments
  • Barry Hall

    Many thanks Nick for sharing this with me. Great story. – Barry.

  • KENCHAPMAN46

    Listening is core to innovation. Planning is Human. Executing is devine