Aqualisa: Quiet Innovator

British company Aqualisa was recently was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise* because of the organization’s innovative products. Managing Director Harry Rawlinson remarked:

It is a real triumph for everyone at Aqualisa who has supported our ‘digital revolution’ over the last 10 years.

In another place we read:

What’s not to love about Axis Digital? Cool good looks and clever technology.

And the UK’s Intellectual Property Office reports:

In the meantime, the innovation team at Aqualisa is working on the next generation of electronic controls for showers, which will be able to give you a read-out of your carbon footprint, as well as playing music as an MP3.

That’s right; the next generation of showers. “Clever technology”, “digital revolution”, “innovation”, and “MP3” are not terms normally associated with showers. As a result of their different approach, Aqualisa has excelled in a typically commoditized field because of their ability to look beyond what the market is offering to what they’ll be able to create for their consumer-base. They are a design-led firm and that love of design, both in aesthetics and in functionality, has translated into beautiful and useful products for the bathroom

Though this seems like what most “innovative” companies try to do, it is what Aqualisa doesn’t do that is most impressive. Though we can see what the future holds for with the “next generation” product mentioned above, Aqualisa took a purposely iterative innovation approach toward preparing the market to be able to accept and embrace each successive technology. And, with this approach, they are able to make each step toward their eventual vision at the same time they are implementing and adapting to the needs of their customer-base. With this approach, Aqualisa can expect to continue to stay ahead of the competition without staying too far ahead of their customers’ needs.

(I couldn’t help but think of Kramer’s shower experience when I was thinking through Aqualisa’s approach).

*Gordon Brown categorized the “Queen’s Award winning companies” as the “standard-bearers for the very best of British business.” This and Rawlinson quote from: Press Release, accessed 16 July 2008

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