Creativity In Product Design


Do you build what users ask you to or do you not? Pavan Soni, Innovation Evangelist at Wipro and Research Fellow at IIM Bangalore, strongly advocates the latter.

The Opening Question

What is the one common thing that unites the products below? Do take a minute to think!

not ask

No one explicitly asked for these products! Yet, these products turned out to be phenomenal successes!

The same follows for the following disruptive companies:


Such instances truly beg the question: Should you build what your customer asks you for? Should you even talk to your customer when building game-changing technology?


If necessity the mother of all invention, then timing is the father. The first High Definition TV was not launched in the 21st century. The first HD TV was launched by Sony in the 1980s, however, the market was not ready. Timing is of core importance when dealing with innovative products.

“We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple’s retail stores]. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products.” – Steve Jobs

The beauty about innovation is that innovation looks impossible in foresight, but obvious in hindsight.

When To Talk To Customers

It is advisable to speak to customers when making incremental changes to a product and not when coming up with innovative or disruptive technologies.


Innovative Companies

As some of you may have learnt if you’ve read Clayton Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma, the below graph encapsulates why new entrants with disruptive technology trump incumbents.

Incumbents catering to high-end technology demands are quickly displaced by new entrants. Emerging tech caters to the low end of the market first and quickly progresses to eat up the share of the incumbent. While the incumbent grows at a sustainable pace, it is too little, too late.

Breaking Down Innovation

Can innovation be broken into some key components?

Creativity is the catalyst that fuels innovation. Creative people, processes, and techniques are the tools by which one can work on a problem to come up with an invention. This invention on commercialization yields innovation.


People often confuse inventions with innovation. Inventions aren’t nearly valued as much as innovations. This sentiment is resonated by PayPal founder Peter Thiel too, who believes that R&D, albeit necessary, does not translate to rewards or results. The following picture further proves this point:

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Should You Aim For Perfection?

The answer is no. In the pursuit of perfection, you will never make it to a 100% in the time needed. Gmail started as an invitation-only beta release on April 1, 2004 and it became available to the general public on February 7, 2007, though still in beta status at that time. The service was upgraded from beta status on July 7, 2009. It took Google a little more than 5 years to upgrade Gmail from beta.A good thumb rule to have while releasing a product is to release it when it is at 70% completion.

Final take

Extremely innovative companies are rare and such hyper growth companies tend to be outliers. It’s best to focus on creating a great product in the case of new, disruptive technology and to speak to users when making increments in technology. In the end, improvisation trumps improvement. Execution trumps perfection.

Written by Suhas Mallya

About the speaker

Pavan Soni is an Innovation Evangelist at Wipro and Research Fellow at IIM Bangalore. To know more about him, check: or you can mail him at