Innovation Fail

The following was written by Dr. Atul Teckchandani, one of the great professors teaching Entrepreneurship at CSUF.

Entrepreneurs innovate. Every industry can benefit from innovation. But this trend of putting electronics in everything concerns me – just adding technology to an existing product does not make it innovative. The best innovations are things that meaningfully improve the overall experience of using a product or service.

Let me illustrate this point with an example. An “innovation” that, in my opinion, got it all wrong is the touch-less paper towel dispenser. These are showing up in public restrooms everywhere. I suspect the primary benefit of these dispensers is that it minimizes the transfer of germs from one person to another.

But the added electronics in these dispensers makes them much less reliable than the old mechanical paper dispensers. With the old mechanical dispensers, if they weren’t working it was probably because they were out of paper. But with the new (touch-less) ones, another point of failure has been added: dead batteries.

Our business school has thousands of students who come through on a daily basis. By the time I teach my evening class, it is rare to have a touch-less paper towel dispenser in the bathrooms that is working. All of them are either empty (no paper) or have dead batteries. This happens in every bathroom every day.

And so much for using touch-less dispensers to control germs. I’m pretty sure more germs are now circulating as a result of people not being able to dry their hands or people not washing their hands at all since there is no way to dry them. (There’s a pleasant thought.)

We’re all familiar with the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, here’s a small modification of this popular saying as it relates to innovation:If it ain’t broke, it may not be worth innovating.

The preceding was a post from Dr. Atul Teckchandani, one of the great professors teaching Entrepreneurship at CSUF.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *