Innovation is increasingly seen by organisations as a must have, - to the point that it becomes innovation for innovation’s sake. Looking at the market reality however - ideally, innovation should be a medium to achieve business goals. Expanding the customer base, capturing market share or optimising a production process are business goals that can be achieved by innovation. Customers are either the starting point or an essential checkpoint to produce meaningful innovations.

Grounded blue sky thinking

It is quite easy to end up with a number of interesting and innovative ideas that look pretty awesome on paper. Although intellectually stimulating this kind of blue-sky thinking is often not grounded in business reality. In any innovation process it is fundamental to have a clear understanding of who are you innovating for (customers) why should you do it (business objectives) what it will involve. (organisational impact).

The price of technology as major driver of innovation

Technology driven innovations can create a substantial competitive advantage but can be highly resource intensive and costly to achieve. Technology breakthroughs can have results that are simply ahead of the market, making them difficult for customers to accept and adopt. Therefore the focus should not be on the technology itself –  on what is feasible – but on how to make that technology relevant for customers’ current and future expectations.

The price of technology as major driver of innovation
Technology will change primary healthcare, but the demands on the organisation should not be underestimated.

How to approach systemiccally driven innovation[1]

When innovating in large and complex systems, such as healthcare or public transportation, projects are often top-down driven and use budgets as the main lever. This requires significant investment, change management, portfolio management, and systems to share and implement successful solutions. The alternative; high volume of small, quick innovations driven bottom up -requires broad training to develop the right skills and culture for innovation. Both approaches require a profound and continuous engagement of users, stakeholders and staff to succeed.

Data + customer context = valuable insights

Organisations gather staggering amounts of data about their processes, systems and customers and analyse it to identify patterns and behaviours. However, this data is often inaccessible and meaningless without the right context. By mapping the data onto the context of the customer lifecycle it can be used to create a heath map for problem identification and informed decision making.

When customers become a source of meaningful innovations

A profound knowledge of customers’ needs and expectations is fundamental in order to conceive innovations that are relevant for your customer base – that are timely for the market, and sustainable for the business. Innovations inspired and guided by customer insights are cost effective and have a higher success rate. Having in place the right tools and methods for engaging customers and extracting insight becomes key.

The price of failing after launch is on average 100 times more than that at the design stage.

Seek the tipping point for economic acceleration

Innovation projects need clear goals – commercial or otherwise – before they enter the market. Monitoring the number of sales or brand equity in isolation is useless – understanding what drives the performance is key – in knowing where to put money and resources. Actively pursuing feedback from customers and tracking behaviour of users is needed to change tack and to push momentum towards the tipping point of achieving commercial success.

Innovations driven by the business, sponsored by the organisation

Innovations developed and ready to be launched into the market can face a major obstacle: the internal organisation. All innovations – not just the radical ones –  require an internal process to introduce and embed them into an organisation. These innovation processes require strong internal champions, common language, clear goals and the right level of funding. Piloting innovations is not just to test the market, it exposes the potential impact on the organisation and prepares it for what is to come.

Innovating around customers brings sustainable value to the business

Even the best ideas fail in the market if the customer experience isn’t right. Innovating around customers’ needs, prototyping and testing solutions around customer experience before launching, is fundamental to success in most markets. Being able to innovate around what customers really need and within the evolving capabilities of an organisation is the real competitive advantage.

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