Innovation can tend to be a catch-all phrase that sometimes falls short of the true impact that comes from innovative thinking. Peter Hu of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa asserts that innovation does not and cannot take place in vacuum.
While innovation is at the core of what Huawei does and how it does it, the end goal is always for that process to contribute to the lives of our consumers. Our business philosophy is based on the concept that unless an innovation meets a specific need it serves no purpose.
This is a simple principle, but one that often gets lost in the hype that surrounds the modern culture of innovation. Innovation must be needs driven and must be relevant: ignoring this can easily lead organizations down the wrong path.
This is why Huawei does not innovate for innovation’s sake. We innovate to help people.
This is a lesson that Huawei has applied in all its different divisions and territories in which it operates. And it is one that has come from taking the time to research, engage and understand what our customers want.
In certain respects we’re fortunate to operate in emerging markets where customer needs are comparatively similar. For the most part, a solution that meets a need in Zambia is going to be similar in South Africa, or Ghana, or Kenya.
Improving the battery life of power-hungry smart phones is an innovation that is easily appreciated in all these markets. Similarly, improving geo-location services could be useful, although the need is going to be very different to a user who needs to locate the closest market in their city.
What this approach to innovation speaks to is the need for innovation to have the relevant value proposition.
Which is one of the reasons that Huawei has established innovation centres in key regions around the world to ensure that we are as close as possible to our customers and that we draw on local expertise and skills.
It is only by listening to customer needs that any innovation can gain traction.
The benefit of doing so, certainly for Huawei, has been the ability to grow the value proposition within our chosen markets. These markets also tend to be in emerging economies where disposable income is at a premium, which in no way detracts from these consumers’ appreciation for a well designed handset or feature.
All too often, companies focus on the high end features and attention to detail in only their high-end products. This, we believe, is short sighted: intelligent design and innovative features are not the preserve of high ticket items. As we have demonstrated in our growth in the Zambian, it is possible to apply the same attention and innovation to entry level devices.
Innovation is also not restricted to tangible, physical items.
We believe there is as much value in innovating around issues such as pricing and the value proposition. In many respects, the innovation curve is plateauing as far as the physical attributes and features are concerned.
This is evident in the move away from making smart phones smaller, and the focus on improving performance, reliability and battery life. Our need for innovation has been driven by customer demands for intuitive features and functions. This has been demonstrated in features such as the super-responsive fingerprint reader, enhanced signal capabilities and most recently the combination of hardware, software and proprietary algorithms to introduce class-leading photography features.
We predict that the next wave of innovation is going to focus far more on the software and services embedded in mobile devices. The gains to made in this arena are only just being explored. Not only can improvements be rolled out more quickly, but region specific solutions can be applied with greater ease.
The benefits to users will be enormous, but the real opportunity lies with organizations able to recognize this potential and leverage this grow their own business.