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The Five Characteristics of Successful Innovators

There is not much agreement about what makes an idea innovative, and what makes an innovative idea valuable. For example, discussions on whether the internet is a better invention than the wheel are more likely to reveal personal preferences than logical argumentation. Likewise, experts disagree on the type and level of innovation that is most beneficial for organizations. Somestudiessuggest that radical innovation (which does sound sexy) confers sustainable competitive advantages, butothersshow that “mild” innovation – think iPhone 5 rather than the original iPhone – is generally more effective, not least because it reduces market uncertainty. There is also inconclusive evidence on whether we should pay attention to consumers’ views, with somestudiesshowing that a customer focus is detrimental for innovation because it equates to playing catch-up, butothersarguing for it. Even Henry Ford’s famous quote on the subject – “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said fast…

Don't Be Afraid to Embrace Boring Ideas

Kikkerland's annual design competition results in an unexpected bestseller.
Dutch design firm Kikkerland is known for bringing whimsy to utilitarian products -- say, a cocktail shaker in the shape of a maraca, or a portable barbecue in the shape of a suitcase. So it was surprised when one of its most successful products of the past year was a… cord organizer. 
The product, the Cable Loft, was born out of Kikkerland’s annual Design Challenge, in which the brand partners with a retail company and a team of student designers, who submit problem-solving ideas for one particular challenge. For 2016, the challenge brought together The Container Store and students from the Rhode Island School of Design, who were asked to create a product for the digitally connected home. Students went through multiple rounds of presentations and critiques before final prototypes were submitted to buyers for consideration. Cable Loft -- an organizational home for a power strip and the many cords that plug into it -- was deemed the winner, and its student designer received a licensing agreement and a 5 percent commission. 
“From a Kikkerland point of view, we thought the Cable Loft was sort of boring,” says founder and CEO Jan van der Lande. “But [The Container Store’s] chief merchandising officer and president, Sharon Tindell, immediately said, ‘This is it! This solves a problem! This is perfect!’ And they know their customer so well.” So they went with it. And Tindell was right. “It’s been a big success,” says Van der Lande. “It’s already sold 8,000 pieces.”

The Cable Loft ($14.99) is currently sold exclusively at The Container Store, though it will eventually join the Kikkerland permanent collection. Given its initial success, the brand is considering further expansion into the seemingly snoozy space. “We may explore other possibilities in cord management and make it a little category,” van der Lande says. “We went outside our comfortzone on this, and it was a big surprise.” 

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