I found your question about responding to fast-moving competition to be especially interesting. I personally think the key actually lies outside the technology itself: In this market, a relationship with orthodontists seems key. If their technology is (relatively) comparable, relationships with orthodontists based on trust could be the key to maintaining key in a competitive market like this.
Further, it turns out that Align Technologies is actually an investor in SmileDirectClub. They purchased a ~20% stake a few years ago. Investing in a brand that is disrupting its core business is another way that Align can try to protect itself from innovation in the market.
I have some skepticism about investing too much in 3-D printing for mass production. As you mentioned, even by 2030 the expectation is that 3D printing will still cost 10% more than traditional manufacturing. This seems to me like a large gap for a product as expensive to produce as a car. Further, even if Ford does decide to invest, it seems likely that major breakthroughs will occur in startups or at other firms. Many industries are interested in how 3D printing will affect them, so Ford will surely not be the only one trying to figure this out. Instead, perhaps, Ford should make some investments in startups in this space and stay on-top of the trends but not try to lead the innovation pack. I agree with “MH” above that being the second-mover here might not be a disadvantage. (One caveat is that a 10% pricing gap may be something manufacturers are OK with if this way of producing drastically improves operational metrics like lead time. This is something I’d need to learn more about.)
I wanted to respond to your question related to how companies can incentivize suppliers to share their innovation ideas.
There seems to be a fundamental tension here: To the extent that a supplier has an idea for innovation, why would it share the idea with a single customer instead of rolling it out across all of its customers (or leveraging it for its own, private label product)? The only way I can imagine this working is if a supplier and its customer somehow have their long-term incentives aligned. One way this could be true would be if a supplier believes a certain customer has the most promise moving forward (and would therefore generate the most profit by sharing their innovation with that customer). However, an even more innovative approach might be to somehow share economics of innovation between the supplier and customer. Perhaps the supplier could be an investor in the customer’s business to align incentives.
Your essay raises a really interesting question: People often expect technology companies and startups to be the ones who leverage data most effectively, but what about the incumbents that already have so much data collected? In this way, I do think that Comcast’s entrenched position is an advantage. The question then becomes how they dedicate resources to pursuing leveraging that access to data into positive business results. I do think that home-related products is one avenue — though I imagine there are others, too, that haven’t been identified yet.
Very well-done article. I really enjoyed reading your take.
I don’t think that Alibaba’s ability to recommend personalized experiences means that the company knows us better than we do ourselves. However, you raised an interesting point that the products Alibaba recommends can, over time, actually shape types of products we buy and the people we become (e.g., the cycling example you gave).
This is still concerning to me. It’s easy to not realize how personalized an in-app experience is and to assume the products we see everywhere are simply popular among everyone. Clearly, given their use of targeting, this is not actually the case.
Your essay correctly points out that privacy in this context is important AND that individuals increasingly waive their right to privacy. The latter point is especially interesting to me because it seems as though people could actually end up “opting-in” to the distopian future the Gattaca film depicts. Your piece made me think about the possibility that we could reach that point not through some sort of data breach but through the choice of individual people.
I really enjoyed your overview of how Glossier is using open innovation. I particularly liked your use of the term “quasi-open innovation.” I think you could even go further with that comment and argue that this is “quasi-open product development” more so than “innovation” since some of the products are not necessarily breaking new ground.
As to your question about other brands building communities for innovation: I know many direct-to-consumer brands use customer service as not only a way to solve customer problems but also an opportunity to collect information. Emails and phone calls can be tagged in such a way to keep track of what the most requested new products are. This seems like one potential avenue to achieve what you asked about.