Innovation is elusive, right up to the point where it becomes obvious. Fortunately, it’s also a science. Being several steps ahead is the best investment we can make in the future. What it takes? Clear focus, a worthy purpose, willingness to understand customers beyond the surface level and the confidence to experiment. When these elements are present, innovation usually follows. With these foundations, digital transformation to any degree will be meaningful.
In many organisations, putting them in place can feel challenging. Corporations can be very protective of the status quo, to everyone’s detriment. Today’s status quo is likely to be irrelevant in the future. As the world changes, so should companies. Adapting to the digital age takes more than a simple shift from offline to online. Disruption in many industries is changing business models. Technology disruptors use data and gleaming digital interfaces to make our life easier, simpler and more convenient. They pioneer a new kind of workplace where peak performance is enabled by technology, rather than constrained by paperwork and bureaucracy.
Surviving is one thing, thriving another. Corporate innovation in the digital age requires three distinct ingredients to work. The first is perspective. Knowing that success today can be the enemy of success tomorrow. Understanding that customers care about how their needs and wants are met. Doing so is more important than benchmarking against your competitors. Customers evaluate you against their needs, not your wish to be the best in the industry. They will go with whoever offers the best value proposition. Often, disruptive change is driven by companies you never saw coming. It could be caused by a company that hasn’t even been founded yet. Your perspective must be able to detect these invisible tsunamis of change before they hit your shores.
The second ingredient is prioritisation. According to the Pareto principle, 80% of value emanates from 20% of what you do. 80% of value you provide to customers emanates from 20% of your value creation. You need to find this 20% and concentrate on doing more of that. Doing so requires deep customer understanding and dialogue. When you try to understand people, consider their utilitarian, emotional and functional needs and wants. Most companies lack granularity here, but you need to get this right to focus on creating maximum customer value. And you must engage customers to provide direct user feedback, continuously. Tools like design thinking, lean start-up, jobs-to-be-done and customer journeys can help. But they are only as useful as your priorities. Choose them wisely.
The third ingredient is power. Power? Power to charge ahead and put people, budgets and strategy in service of creating the organisation’s future core business. You need a mandate at the top and a structure to match. Designing organisational structures that support innovation is possible, and essential. Depending on your organisational reality, different approaches can work best. But what they all need is the power to action.
Many people are wondering how to approach innovation and digital effectively. Having been there and done that helps massively. It can feel daunting, but it’s possible. Doing the right thing is the right choice. Now you can learn how, with real-life anecdotes from the command towers and trenches of corporate innovation and digital exploration. This is the story of innovation and digital and how we will build a bright future with them for the collective good.