The story of Apple’s iPod innovation

The classic innovator’s solution is to figure out what job customers want/need to get done and then build a product that is just good enough to get that job done.

One of the most disruptive innovations of the past decade, the iPod, didn’t begin life that way, according to this Wired piece.

In Apple’s case, Steve Jobs and co began with a simple proposition: We need to sell more Macs. To do that, we need a product that extends our brand. So they looked around and saw that digital cameras were good enough and cell phones were good enough, but portable music players of the time sucked. It also so happened that at the time Napster was hot and college kids were using their shiny new iMacs to rip MP3s to CDs. So there was a job-to-be-done angle, but Apple’s approach wasn’t to make a product that was just good enough — they set out for vastly superior from the start.

Read the story of the team effort to improve and refine an idea that already existed.

Is the API/N2, Christensen-inspired approach the right approach?

What if the answer isn’t in trying to be disruptive (though I have very strong ideas about what disruptive opportunities exist out there)? Maybe the answer is in building vastly superior digital distribution channels that enhance our brands and help us sell more newspapers (though, I think our goal shouldn’t be, per se, to sell more newspapers; it should be to reach more people in our communities for both the benefit of those people and our advertisers, through any means available)?

Up until now, newspaper companies have responded to the Web with largely defensive postures, and a general philosophy that the Web merely extends the brand. That approach hasn’t worked, or hasn’t worked as well as it should. But what about enhancing the brand? (Hint: More of the same isn’t enhancing the brand.)

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