Most new products and services are developments or combinations of […]

Most new products and services are developments or combinations of existing offerings. But just adding features can lead to a product overloaded with ‘feature bloat’. Instead try giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Add something different and take away something of little value.

Start by focussing on the market leading product (or products). List its top features and identify the benefit which customers get from each of the features. What problems are solved and how important are they? Then prioritise the list. From a customer perspective which are the most valuable and least valuable features? You may need input from a survey or focus group to help at this stage.

Ask what features could we add to our product to make it more valuable and different. Brainstorm this topic and come up with ideas which will appeal to some customers and make your new product stand out. Prioritise the ideas by customer appeal and feasibility.

Now look at the features of the leading product and ask – what elements could we eliminate? In particular look for ways to make the product or service simpler, easier to use and cheaper to produce. Focus on the items which are of lesser value to the customers but add complexity to the offer. Prioritise two or three.

Next put together your new product packages. Add and subtract. Can you differentiate your innovation and increase the appeal of the product – maybe to a certain segment of the market – by adding something and removing something else? Does the new combination work? It does not have to appeal to the whole market. It is more important to find one segment which would love it.

Consider the Apple iPhone compared to the Blackberry. The iPhone added new functionality such as camera and music while eliminating the physical keyboard. Similarly with the low-cost airline Ryanair. It eliminated allocated seating and travel agents. It added new destinations of smaller airports that the major airlines did not use. And it offered lower cost.

Don’t just add features for the sake of adding features. Add something special and at the same time eliminate something costly or awkward. Give with one hand and take away with the other.

About the Author

Paul Sloane is the author of The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills and The Innovative Leader. He writes, talks and runs workshops on lateral thinking, creativity and the leadership of innovation. Find more information at



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