The Realities of Innovation: What You Won't Learn at the Consumer Electronics Show

With the tens of thousands of people attending 2011’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and hundreds of thousands more tuning into news reports from afar, LUMA Institute feels the need to share some sobering facts about all of the so-called “innovation” being unveiled.



Sobering fact #1: “90% of new products fail.”
(Source: U.S. Department of Commerce)
So, for every 10 new gadgets you saw, read about or tweeted on, only one will be around next year. Nine will go the way of the fearless and flightless dodo.

Sobering fact #2: “95% of returned consumer electronic products have no defects.”
(Source: Accenture and Consumer Electronics Association)
Let’s talk about that one in 10 you saw, read about or tweeted on that will be around next year. Many products will be purchased and a lot of those purchased will be returned. Why? It’s not because they were broken. Only 5% of returns will be for that reason. The vast majority will be returned because the product either didn’t meet customer expectations (not useful) or consumers thought it was broken because it didn’t work the way they expected (not usable). According to a 2007 Accenture CEA study, this represented a $13.8 billion problem in the U.S. alone.

Sobering fact #3: “Once a system is in development, correcting a problem costs 10 times as much as fixing the same problem in design. If the system has been released, it costs 100 times as much relative to fixing in design.”
(Source: Tom Gilb, author of Principles of Software Engineering Management)
Let’s talk about those other 9 out of 10 products that will not be around next year. Why? According to many reputable sources, it isn’t because they didn’t work. Companies on the whole can be relied upon to create properly working products before they hit the shelves. What they struggle with is making the “right” product; that is, a product that consumers find useful, usable and desirable. The tragic likelihood is that 9 out of 10 products exhibited at CES will fail, and it won’t be because they weren’t good ideas.  It will be because the teams behind those products waited too long to bring real customers into the product development process.

New products often fall prey to the “speed to market” trap. We often find ourselves racing ahead to get a product to market because we think it offers some competitive edge. But because consumer electronics are hard to make, the tendency is to move forward without devoting time to make sure the “right” product is being built in the first place. This costs companies fortunes!  For the sake of all this litter and wasted resources, there is a new adage we would like to propose: “speed to market traction!” It is not about how quickly you can get a product into the hands of your customers, but how quickly you can get a desirable product into the hands of your customers. There is a difference and it can make all the difference.

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About LUMA Institute

LUMA Institute is a training and development company that helps organizations and individuals (from K through CEO) learn and leverage the practices of Human-Centered Design. LUMA runs workshops that teach companies methods that drive innovation and bolster their product development efforts. For more information about our workshops and programs please visit


Pete Maher




CONTACT: Pete Maher, +1-412-488-2900,

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