Myth: The customer base should always be the focus of innovation
The Truth: Non-customer base is often the foundation for breakthroughs
Customer orientation is a necessity for companies, but is rarely translated into a recipe for success for innovation.
Even with massive investments in innovation, very few companies manage to crack the formula that can lead them to devise and successfully implement a breakthrough in their business. Often times, the scope of innovation is limited because companies focus solely on satisfying their customer base.
Conversely, focusing on neighboring markets and focusing on disruptive innovations can be much more lucrative for companies in terms of profit maximization.
Nike is perhaps the greatest example of how focusing on the non-customer base (which wasn't part of their core business objective) allowed the company to expand rapidly and become one of the leading innovators in recent times.
The company, founded in 1971, initially ventured into the production of running shoes and expanded its activities methodically and scalably in order to open up new fitness markets. Currently, Nike has interests in several neighboring markets, including shoes and apparel for skateboarding, golf, mountaineering, basketball and almost every other sport, and Nike has succeeded in attracting new customers (such as young and stylish athletes).
Most companies can learn from this example and take calculated risks to focus their innovations on the needs of non-customers.
However, innovators must also ensure that they do not lose sight of their core target customers and that they use the company's capabilities to gain an edge over a relatively new segment of the market.