Do you think that the speed of innovation is too fast for your customers? or just right? Do you know how your customers feel about the pace?

I was reading about the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer the other day and saw this finding:

More than half of the global informed public believe that the pace of development and change in business today is too fast, that business innovation is driven by greed and money rather than a desire to improve people’s lives and that there is not enough government regulation of many industry sectors.

I’m curious how that differed by age/age groups but was only able to find that “informed public” respondents were 25-64, with no breakdown by age group.

Only 30% of respondents believed that improving people’s lives was a catalyst for change/innovation, and only 24% felt innovation was driven by a desire to make the world a better place. So if you’re not innovating for your customers, for whom are you innovating? Apparently respondents felt that technology, business growth, and greed are the top three drivers of innovation.

Toluna QuickSurveys found that 45% of US iPad owners were not happy about the timing of the new iPad 4 launch (only 7 months after the release of the latest iPad 3). Was that greed? or innovation?

Are companies upgrading and updating too quickly? Are they offering new features and functionality at a pace that customers can’t keep up with? And not necessarily with regards to purchasing the latest gadgets but also from the perspective of, “Hey, I’m still trying to figure out this one. Now you’ve built a new one with a zillion more features I’ll need to learn.” Is that driven by greed? Is that truly innovation? Or is that just the normal enhancement of products in the product cycle?

And yet, innovation is important to the growth of a business, to developing new categories or businesses or industries, and, ultimately, to improving lives/making the world a better place, so it’s sad that the perception is that companies innovate because of greed and a misguided focus (on themselves rather than on customers). Perhaps some do.

I read in another article that you have to innovate both to prepare for change and to make change. If you don’t innovate, then you’ll always do what you’re doing today; you’ll remain stagnant; your competitors will sail past you; and your customers will get bored and leave. Unless, of course, no companies innovate, or they all slow innovation, and then we’ll just all be bored. Imagine if you were still walking around with a Walkman today. And isn’t it more convenient and fun to scan Netflix for a movie you want to watch than to walk into a Blockbuster – assuming it’s open when you want to watch that movie – hoping that one of their five copies of your chosen movie is available?

The Edelman findings go on to say that: Building trust is essential to successfully bringing new products and services to market, and building trust in new business innovations requires that companies demonstrate clear personal and societal benefits, behave with integrity and engage with customers and stakeholders throughout the process.

The last point is an important one. Innovation can’t be done in a vacuum. Or, as Jeremy Gutsche says: Innovation starts by intimately observing your customer. If you want to innovate for your customers, you need to engage with them, listen to them, understand who they are and what they’re trying to do, and so much more – but most importantly, you need to understand what they are trying to do: what task, what job, what are they trying to achieve.

So how do you know if you’re innovating too fast? Should you be moving at the speed of innovation? or at the speed of customer?

In Michael Schrage’s HBR article, Are You Driving Too Much Change, Too Fast? he states:

The issue is less about how fast CEOs are willing to move than how quickly their most reliable customers are prepared to change. The most effective and important diagnostic I’ve observed for assessing organizational speed and tempo appears obvious but underappreciated: How fast are your customers willing to change? Your own rate of change is determined less by the quality or price/performance of your offerings than the measurable readiness of your customers and clients. Their internal readiness matters more than yours. Their inertia matters more than your momentum.

Bottom line: it always comes down to listening to your customers.

What do you think? Some say that customers don’t know what they want/need, so how then can they tell you at what pace they are willing to change? Can they be trained to change or turn on a dime, as Michael Schrage states has happened in some industries (mobile, computers, social media)?

When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts. -Larry Ellison