Posted by: rolfsky | December 14, 2007

why innovation?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go on a home research visit with one of our powersellers. When we are developing new products we find it helpful to go out and ask our members what they think, and how it might be improved.

We discussed many things as she walked us through how she uses the site and how she runs her business. The comment I found most interesting was her response to some Innovation projects we were near to launching. While she found them interesting, it was clear we hadn’t hit it “out of the park” for her.

Investigating this further, she asked why we do all this “stuff” and spend money on it when she doesn’t see how it is going to bring her more buyers.

I returned to the office, her comment ringing in my head, wondering if she might be right. My very job title, “Disruptive Innovator” could possibly be seen as someone who directly threatens a steady revenue stream. So why would eBay employ a (very) small team of Disruptive Innovators to think up and build projects where the “value” isn’t readily apparent? The question rattled in my head over the following weeks, popping up to be considered here and there as I worked.

Eventually the idea came to me in the shower one morning:

the eBay marketplace was created by eBay, Inc. but it only exists as long as sellers are willing to list their items there. Both sides of the table must cooperate in equity. The sellers provide inventory and eBay provides the buyers for those items. In order to ensure a continued stream of buyers, eBay is obligated to explore new ways of attracting them and better ways of retaining them. Because the internet consumer is always evolving, part of our responsibility is to make sure that we are following “what’s new” and even thinking it up ourselves is possible.

So why do we innovate? Because it would be irresponsible not to. Many base their livelihood on eBay, and we can’t let our offering become “stale” for buyers.

While it may sometimes seem that all this “stuff” is a little “out there”, it puts us in a position where we can re-use that knowledge when the market is more clearly defined. Innovation is our way of saying, “we know the world is changing, but don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.”



  1. […] about the most important actor, namely the user. Rolf Skyberg wrote a nice post about that called “Why innovation”. In this post he describes how meeting real customers changes his perception on his role as […]

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