A few weeks ago, Mark Bregman, Executive Vice President and CTO of Symantec, came by Cylab and gave a talk on Symantec's approach to customer-centric innovation.
He made a nice distinction between invention (which we researchers are very good at) and innovation (getting products out into the marketplace that people really want). He also made a statement that really resonated with me. After studying how people use backup systems, Symantec took a step back and thought more about what people really needed (and not what they said they wanted). It turns out it wasn't really backup that they needed, it was reliability, and backup was just one way of offering that.
I like this high-tech variant of "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!". I'll find some ways to incorporate this idea more into my classes.