<trp-post-container data-trp-post-id='28074'>Innover : a status spirit

Innovation will always pit the proponents of supply-side marketing - where everything rests with engineers and other technicians - against those of demand-side marketing - where there is no salvation without asking consumers questions.

The social web and new technologies do nothing to change the situation: at the very most, they exacerbate the oppositions. Start-ups, galvanised by the success of a would-be Steve Jobs, believe only in their own creative genius, while the latter prefer to argue about the multitude of insights left by web users.

Two contradictory approaches that reveal a profound lack of understanding of the innovation process ...

Innovation takes a long, long time

One day, Steve Job looked at his Apple II and said to himself: "People work in an office, so we're going to put a desk on their computer". ... In fact, it drew heavily on the work of Xerox, which had been working in this direction for years.

This led Bill Gates, who was accused of copying Apple by launching Windows : "We both benefited from the work that Xerox Parc did in creating a graphical interface - they weren't the only ones, but they did the best job.".

The interesting thing about this remark is that it is not so much the Microsoft founder thumbing his nose at his rival as an admission that all the major players in the sector were thinking about the issue, with varying degrees of success.

The research that leads to technological advances takes place over an extremely long period of time, during which all the competitors ask themselves the same questions - and even discuss their work in standards bodies!

To develop the famous mp3 in 1995, the Fraunhofer Institute drew on work initiated by RCA in the USA 20 years earlier, as part of a project funded by the European Union as part of the Eureka programme.

Once the technologies had been perfected, it was a race to be the first: despite starting late on the portable digital music player market - Thomson had helped to develop the mp3 standard, Archos was already marketing a hard-drive device - Apple was able to adapt the iPod to user expectations in terms of ergonomics and take first place.

A consumer who expects nothing

Studies carried out by the Direction Générale des Télécommunications, the forerunner of Orange, clearly showed that the overwhelming majority of French people had no interest in a telephone that would allow them to talk in the street.

As we have already pointed out, research is a long-term process, and you can't call years of work into question just because consumers don't see the point.

That's not to say that we shouldn't be concerned about their real expectations; it's just that direct questioning isn't always the best way to do it: because it was obvious that in an increasingly urban and fast-paced world, people would be in favour of a system that allowed them to stay in touch with their microcosm wherever and whenever they wanted.

Quite simply, you can't look at things from the small end of the telescope; you have to take a broader view of societal trends and emerging phenomena... and not just from the narrow angle of your own business.

We need to consider our customers at the centre of a gigantic trade-off: for €30 or €40, a young person can buy an outing or ... a microwave: not the same use, but they will have to make a choice if they can't afford both.

At Thomson, to get a better grasp of such phenomena over time, we set up a network called the Consumer Insight Network, where we shared our knowledge with Orange, PSA, Danone, Prisma and a few others, to get a better grasp of consumers as a whole.

Consumer Insight Network

Within this network, we organised meetings not only between marketing people, but we also invited engineers, designers, sales people, product development... and sometimes even lawyers and financiers.

Not forgetting experts from outside our companies - sociologists, ethnologists, futurists, etc.

Innovation is a strange alchemical process to which everyone can contribute: the Consumer Insight Network provided all its members with stimuli to enrich their own thinking.

Innovating also means taking a different look at reality, examining it from a different angle: an engineer, a marketer or a lawyer will never see it in the same way: combining different points of view means multiplying the points of rupture necessary for an original reconstruction.


And what about today? Everything has changed... and nothing has changed.

Everything has changed, because time has accelerated considerably and opportunities have multiplied.

Not the time for fundamental research, but the time to bring a product to market: everything is now done in a kind of absolute urgency.

The cause: the multiplicity of "elementary bricks available on the market. In the past - and still today - none of the big names in High Tech had all the licences they needed to develop a new product: so each of them did their shopping with... their competitors; the tradition continues: Samsung is still Apple's number one supplier....

On the other hand, to launch an Airbnb, BlaBlaCar or Uber, everything is available on the Net. It's almost the same for a connected watch: you can shop around among a host of subcontractors.

But it's not enough to have the Airbnb didn't invent anything by offering private individuals the chance to rent out rooms to others via the Internet; but they were the first to reach the critical mass that enables them to lock the market behind them.

Hence the urgency and the techniques adapted to this urgency, such as Growth Hacking: you test 'stuff', it works or it breaks... and if it doesn't work, you try something else... or you close up shop! That's what Airbnb did when it hijacked Craigslist customers.

A question of posture

Everything has changed... but nothing has changed.

Nothing has changed, because by doing so, you're not really putting all the odds in your favour: startupers only have eyes for unicorns and are often a little too quick to forget that more than 9 out of 10 startups disappear within two years.

Innovation doesn't just mean putting the emphasis on technology, without worrying too much about the consumer - nor does it mean wandering endlessly through social media hoping to find the Holy Grail by serendipity!

Serendipity is above all a state of mind - or rather an open mind: always being ready to pick up relevant information where the majority of surfers would see absolutely nothing.

Innovation is the same thing: it's a question of posture, a state of mind.

To look at the world with a technician's eye - not to fall into the trap of supply-side marketing; but not to fall into the trap of demand-side marketing by looking only at the surface and the present moment.

Innovation means embracing the major societal trends while keeping in mind all the available technologies: sometimes you have the vision of a genius, but very often it's better to work together to combine all your skills.

After that, we tighten and refine.

Both sides are improving their techniques and fine-tuning them to suit their future buyers.

They we have fact confidence. Discover our achievements