If you have to play it safe.

I get a "Tip of the Day" email from Harvard Business Publishing.  Here's today's tip:

Despite millions invested in innovation, 40%-90% of new products fail. That's because consumers are more comfortable staying with familiar products they already know how to use. Meanwhile, companies overvalue a new innovation's benefits, wrongly assuming consumers will leap at the chance to buy. Result? A gaping mismatch between what innovators think consumers want -- and what consumers really want.  

To get new products adopted, manage consumers' resistance to the changes your innovations will require. For example, Toyota enhanced the appeal of its hybrid Prius by outfitting the vehicle with internal-combustion and self-charging electric engines, reducing required behavioral changes. The resulting driving experience virtually matched that offered by gas-only cars.

Today's Management Tip was adapted from the Harvard Business Review article,
"Eager Sellers and Stony Buyers: Understanding the Psychology of New-Production Adoption," by John T. Gourville.
(Publication date: June 2006)

Usually they are very good, and I highly recommend them, but today's made me chuckle.  Not because it's wrong, but because it fails to mention that if you have to do this, it's too late.

By too late I mean that it's too late to find out that the millions you invested in innovation may not have been spent on the right things.  Too late because if you don't know what your consumers value, you are trying to find out by putting products into the market in a trial and error fashion.  Too late because if you're worried about how to change your consumer's behavior, then you haven't worried enough about whether or not your product is satisfying deep fundamental needs - the real drivers behind why they buy anything in your category.

Most companies don't do those things.  They work hard to predict which new technologies will become hottest, which types of products can utilize their production capacity, and which types of work can get done within their existing processes.  If that's how your company invests in innovation, then I suggest you read the full text of the article that the tip came from.  It will help you out a lot.

The rest of you won't need it.