Innovation is a fickle and sporadic muse. A strange blend of research, failure, awareness and sometimes divine inspiration. Like all creative endeavors, there is no set formula. But there are patterns for innovation.
One such pattern is the removal of annoyances.
We tend to think of innovation as solving huge problems or creating a must-have product or inventing an entirely new category. But sometimes innovation is in the small things.
In our over-saturated, over-booked, over-whelmed lives, annoyances become the mosquito in the tent. Not really a threat but certainly damned distracting. In brands, these annoyances create friction points that competitors can later use to differentiate. Think Blockbuster’s late fees vs Netflix.
With some awareness, we can see thousands of these annoyances – each of which are someone’s business opportunity and/or differentiator. A few examples …
Southwest Airlines – They are brilliant at removing annoyances that are SOP for other airlines. Most famously, their bags-fly-free policy. This also includes their innovative on-boarding process, their flexibility with changing flights and using rewards and their entertaining safety briefings. Southwest didn’t invent a different kind of air travel nor did they create a new travel industry. They simply built a brand with smart business decisions, having fun and making the customer experience as annoyance-free as possible.
Amazon – As Amazon came on to the scene, they knew they had to remove as much friction as possible from the search-and-buy process. Any friction points would amplify the highly conditioned bias to “go the store” vs “buy on-line”. There are many ways that Amazon has mitigated annoyance but the best example is one of their most simplest: Amazon Prime. By eliminating shipping and handling fees, Amazon created instance viscosity. They made the value proposition and promise very clear: being a Prime member is a great deal. Now we click-and-buy with ease. Sometimes too easily!
Zoom – Having suffered through the experience of being a GoToMeeting user as well as dabbling in other virtual platforms, I learned about Zoom. Zoom appears to have reverse engineered all of the annoying things about GoToMeeting. You can easily talk to a person. It’s less expensive and has more features. The UI on both the backend and the participant sides is supremely better. And the biggest annoyance of all – minimal to zero tech issues (I’ve had a Zoom session 20+ times and have never had an issue connecting to audio or video).
As mentioned, the opportunities to build a brand around removing annoyances are everywhere. Look in every sector and segment of life and you will find annoyances – the friction points and burs of poor design, dumb policies, missing features. You don’t have to create gold from thin air. It’s in the seams and cracks of modern life.