As some of the readers of this blog know, I frequently travel by RV.  Given that we have many clients scattered throughout North America, many in small, difficult-to-reach places, an RV makes a lot of sense.  Plus, I get to travel in the company of my wife and, this trip, my dog (not sure how she likes it).

One of the things that happens when I travel by RV is life tends to slow down and I have more time to read articles and books I don’t normally read.  On this trip, I have focused on news about innovative new products, specifically in fields that may be over saturated, or there is the feeling that there is no room to innovate.  I want to highlight three that caught my attention.

  • Rethinking the office desk: Altwork, a California-based start-up is reinventing the office desk.  Perhaps better stated, they are reinventing the way we interact with office equipment such as computers and phones.  Their design is a radical departure from the traditional office desk but as the company’s promotional video notes, many things around have changed and improved but little has changed about the office desk.  They are out to do this!
  • Taking less and creating more: Two former NC State and NFL football players came up with an idea to improve the gloves used by football players.  Having played in both college and the NFL they were frustrated with the gloves they used because they weren’t getting the feel they wanted.  So, they designed a product called Gryppers.  They began selling the product in May and have discovered the gloves have many applications beyond the football field.  In addition to other sports, inquiries from the armed forces, motorcyclists, and construction workers, among others are pouring in.  The story of how they came up with this innovative new product is fascinating.  Read it here.
  • Three wheels are better than four: Elio Motors, a Phoenix, AZ-based company, is a car manufacturing company unfamiliar to most.  It has developed a three-wheeled, enclosed car (that is how 48 states define it) that gets 84 miles to the gallon.  It is aimed squarely at the urban/suburban commuter.  In addition to innovating with the product, they are also changing the way cars are sold and serviced.  See what they are talking about by clicking here.

There is another reason these three examples caught my attention.  Each one is bypassing traditional channels to get their products to market.

  • In the case of Altwork and Gryppers, they are selling online and bypassing the traditional office furniture and retail stores.
  • Elio Motors will have sales centers that are designed to be as self-service as possible, but it will not be a traditional car dealership. In fact, servicing of the vehicles will be outsourced.

There are two key messages from these examples:

First, there are always opportunities to innovate present in most every market.  Before you accept the notion that there are no innovation opportunities in your markets, think again.  You may have to think differently.

Second, part of the innovation process is changing the way products get to market.  In the case of Altwork and Gryppers, the products are sufficiently different from traditional options that they believe they can best explain the product benefits through a well-done website.

It is going to be fun watching these three companies to see if their ability to innovate pays off in supposedly challenging markets.