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Why innovation needs to reinvent itself… and do it quickly

What better place to share why we’ve been rethinking innovation than Amsterdam, the EU City of Innovation. The so-called circular city is a pioneer in reinventing the experience of city life. Having abandoned everything linear for the circle, they’re bringing to life a new worldview where everything is infinitely connected, sustainable and scalable.

With what thinking process was this new circular world imagined?…surely not a linear innovation process? …

We’ve all passed through those linear innovation stage gates… feeling each gate passed is progress, and yet reaching the end to feel our product or service solution still has inherent flaws, unanswered questions, or doesn’t land with end users in the way we expected? Did we just have the wrong idea or not make the right decisions along the way, OR is it the process that’s inherently flawed and needs reinvention. Should we be thinking in circles as well as living in them?

What we’ve learnt from our recent work with product and proposition innovation teams in large financial services brands – points at the urgent need to rethink how we innovate. The world outside has changed (it’s uncertain and it’s constantly changing) and those often slow, linear processes we’ve been using for years, just don’t work anymore.

Start and finish

We’ve identified 3 common symptoms applying pressure to traditional methods:

  1. Scale and Pace Growing Pains. There’s an increased demand for brands to innovate and the opportunity landscapes are widening exponentially as traditional sector borders are being broken down and regulatory change forces transformative challenges to service capabilities and offering. So a key challenge is how to consider multiple, transformative opportunities effectively and at pace. Throwing more people at it just doesn’t work.
  2. Seismic Organisational Change. This new opportunity landscape, is taking brands into risky waters. Incremental innovation is being displaced by strategic disruption, meaning the impact of a go/no go decision might have seismic impact on an organisations business and operating models. Usually risk adverse organisations are drawing breath on how to approach potentially transformative opportunities and their challengers are already entering the market.
  3. Delivering right but not the right thing. Organisations innovation culture is often focused on delivering quickly and delivering well. Often those opportunities which seem more attractive are those that we know we can deliver rather than those which will have most impact on the business AND its customers. Understanding of impact and outcomes is still frustratingly poor beyond knowing that something has been delivered.

Despite these aches and pains, we’re seeing many clients openly adopt new ways of managing innovation and with our help, embracing a customer led, iterative approach to opportunity management.

The good news is there are 4 growing trends smoothing the path for more effective innovation:

  1. Design thinking from start to finish

The fuzzy front end of innovation has traditionally been driven by commercial and product teams before handover to design teams for delivery. But design thinking is being put to use far earlier in the proposition development process, instituting a more holistic, iterative and multidisciplinary decision making process.

  1. Design thinking from start to finish

Being customer led these days demands more than an input of customer insight, customers are being embedded in the proposition development process through co-design approaches and facilitation that lead to more fully formed propositions and better informed go to market strategies.

  1. Opportunity Portfolio Management

More rigour is being applied in comparing the relative attractiveness of multiple opportunities in terms of potential impact on business and customer as well as viability and brand fit. The sheer scale and number of opportunities means more well thought through selection and abandonment criteria are required and a broader church of functional stakeholders are being involved in opportunity selection earlier in the innovation process.

  1. Innovation Operating Model

Most significant is probably the emergence of more well defined swim lane approaches to managing innovation operations. Acknowledging the fact that very different thinking and decision-making approaches are required for different categories of opportunity, a one size process does not fit all and key to innovating effectively at pace is diversification of innovation operations.

If this has got you thinking, (in a non- linear way of course!) about how you might improve product and service proposition innovation in your organisation, please get in touch. We’d love to help or hear if our thoughts resonate with your experience on the ground.

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