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:
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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