How Can We Innovate the Humble Pen-Drive?


The best part of MBA life is all the competitions and the adrenalin rush before them. We had our first mini case competition some time ago sponsored by a few Product Management alums at my school and the case was – how can we innovate the flash drive in this day and age of growing cloud usage to stay relevant?

It definitely is a very powerful question, because there are whole companies that could go down if they can’t diversify or rethink the flash drive. My team’s recommendations got us the third place (and some sponsor company swag!) and the other two teams above us had some great ideas as well. Here’s the run down-

  1. Starting with my team, we recommended that there be a software interface that pops-up every time a USB is inserted and enables functions such as cloud storage sign-in and automatic sync (if you can’t beat the cloud, join the cloud), one-click encryption of important files/data (we lose our pen-drives often) and most importantly – in-built anti-virus protection. I remember those days when my USB’s lifespan was shortened solely due to being inserted in corrupted machines.
  2. The runner-up team spoke about wearable technology. They identified the pain point to be customers losing or forgetting where they kept their pen drives. This prompted the team to redesign the pen drive as a wearable piece of jewelry such as a ring or necklace that could be on the person of the owner and they’d never lose it again. Innovative indeed!
  3. Lastly, the winners recommended a slew of ideas, which overlapped with what all of our teams did. One stand out recommendation was to add NFC technology to the USB drives – this way a drive could share with another person’s drive by just tapping the two drives and completely eliminates the process of transferring to the computer and then sharing. Reducing customer labor is always a good way to think of improving products!

Other ideas ranged from apps that helped locate your lost flash drive to high storage customized drives to cater to the gaming industry. I was excited to see that all of us thought deeply through this and began with identifying a customer pain point, target market and creative ways of implementation, just as all product journeys should begin. And by the way, though we don’t have copyrights for these ideas right now, you read it here first!

What do you think? Do you have ideas of your own? Comment below! is a blog where I share thought-provoking 1 minute business bytes. Follow the discussion!

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