Innovation Challenge – When should a product die?

Innovation Challenge - When should a product die?All companies – whether they make cars, electronics, software, etc. – know that there is only so much new life that they can breathe into their existing products by introducing new improved versions. Ultimately any product will reach the end of its life, and a brand new one will have to be launched in its stead.

The critical question is: when?

Assuming the product life-cycle follows the typical S curve, nobody in their right mind would wait until the product has started to actually decline and lose market share, to trigger a replacement. Yet, it can be difficult to recognize that the end is nigh, that a new improved version will not revive the product, and that a brand new one is necessary.

Product S Curves

What are the signs that companies can read to recognize that the end is nigh and that it is time to make the clear-cut decision to design, develop and launch a new product?

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Yann Cramer is an innovation learner, practitioner, sharer, teacher. He’s lived in France, Belgium and the UK, he’s travelled six continents to create development opportunities with customers or suppliers, and run workshops on R&D and Marketing. He writes on and on twitter @innovToday.

Yann Cramer




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  1. Patrick Lefler on August 21, 2010 at 6:29 pm


    Great topic – very informative. Here’s a similar way to look at this that comes from Peter Drucker…

    “When the French economist J. B. Say coined the word entrepreneur 200 years ago, he meant it as a manifesto and a declaration of intent: the entrepreneur in his scheme was someone who upsets and disorganizes. Later, Joseph Schumpeter, the only modern economist to take entrepreneurship seriously, described the process as “creative destruction.” To get at the new and better, you have to throw out the old, outworn, obsolete, no longer productive, as well as the mistakes, failure and misdirections of effort of the past. To put it another way, think of the old medical saying: “As long as the patient eliminates there is a chance. But once the bowels and bladder stop, death does not take long.” If organizations cannot get rid of their waste products, they poison themselves. They must organize abandonment, a most difficult thing to do, because most organizations develop a strong attachment to the products they make.”

    I think it’s one of his strongest essays…


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