Written by Grant Ralph (topic: innovation platform)

The emphasis on Innovation

Today, big business places a large emphasis on innovation and it’s easy to understand why. Technology is changing the world that we live in at a rapid rate and one of the biggest consequences of this is that customers are expecting more from large, established organisations. People are comparing the experiences that they have when using, for example, Uber’s taxi service or AirBnB’s accommodation service, to the experiences that they have with their other product or service providers. The result is that customers now have less patience for anything that doesn’t address their needs or feels clunky. They are demanding more and if they don’t get it, they are likely to go looking for it somewhere else. Only the innovative organisations will survive.

The vectors instrumental for Innovation

There is no doubt that innovation can mean very different things to different organisations but more and more it’s becoming accepted that there are certain pillars that organisations can put in place to foster and enable innovation.

Katharine Schwab, writing for Fast Company’s fastcodesign.com, has reported that Ideo, the world-famous design firm, has conducted a study of its own 26-year old archive of client projects (as well as some external resources on innovation) to establish how best to measure innovation in any organisation. In summary, Ideo report that “the most important element is the organisation’s ability to adapt and respond to change.”

Through its research, Ideo “identified six basic vectors that it says are instrumental to an innovative, adaptive company”:

  1. Purpose: “A clear, inspiring reason for the company to exist — beyond just making money.”
  2. Experimentation: “Trying out new ideas and making evidence-based decisions about how to move forward.”
  3. Collaboration: “Working across business functions to approach opportunities and challenges from all angles.”
  4. Empowerment: “Providing a clear path to create change in all corners of the company by reducing unnecessary constraints.”
  5. Looking out: “Looking beyond the company’s walls to understand customers, technologies, and cultural shifts.”
  6. Refinement: “Elegantly bridging vision and execution.”

Scaling the principles for Innovation using an Innovation Platform

These 6 vectors from Ideo are a great top-down summary of what it takes to enable innovation within large organisations. But how do you scale these principles for innovation throughout the organisation? How are these vectors elevated beyond just a paragraph in a mission statement? How do they become a part of an organisation’s DNA? The answer, in part, is through the use of an Innovation Platform (but not one that only facilitates the crowdsourcing of ideas). Here’s why:

  1. Purpose: One of the ways to be purpose driven is through the pursuit of a particular strategy. However, as with most theoretical documents, a carefully crafted strategy only has the desired effect if it infuses the organisation’s innovation efforts. Strategic drivers should filter and prioritise new products, services or business ideas. Ensuring strategic alignment is made easier if each innovation initiative is linked back to one or more elements of that strategy. An Innovation Platform is always present, is scalable and can act as the gatekeeper.
  2. Experimentation: Large organisations struggle to identify the good ideas and fail the bad ones quickly. The most successful organisations are close to the customer and agile enough to repeatedly respond to customer needs. But how do you get closer to the customer? Design Thinking combines collaboration, user-centred design and creative thinking to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and financially viable. Lean Start-Up is a methodology for testing ideas and encourages you to constantly identify your biggest assumptions and to use creative ways to validate them. Ultimately, it is the combination of Design Thinking and Lean Start-Up that is helping organizations generate ideas, test them, and iterate their way to market success. Even though these methodologies are not altogether new, typically you’ll find that only a very small amount of any organisation’s employee base is practised in the practical application of these disciplines (and these employees can’t always be involved in all of the new product or service work). An Innovation Platform delivers Design Thinking and Lean Start-Up tutorials, step-by-step guides, templates, canvasses as well as tips and tricks to everyone’s desktop and can be leant on during every moment of the journey from Customer Discovery to Minimum Viable Product.
  3. Collaboration: People with different responsibilities, skills, talents and backgrounds see things differently and when they collaborate a much deeper understanding of any opportunity is achieved. However, this desired level of collaboration is very difficult to achieve in large, siloed organisations. But what if all the organisation’s employees were registered and using the Innovation Platform? Any employee pursuing an idea but requiring additional skills and experience on their team would be able to search for suitable colleagues to join and contribute the additional skills and know how required (they’ll even be able to see how that person has been rated on their contributions to previous initiatives).
  4. Empowerment: How often do initiatives lose momentum because senior management has meeting after meeting to do with business as usual. In addition to the ability to guide employees along a tried and tested framework for innovation, an Innovation Platform provides a place for anyone to, at any time, virtually review prototypes, customer feedback and learnings and to provide their input, or to even recall why a specific idea was failed by a team at prototype phase.
  5. Looking out: Large organisations should be looking both internally and externally for solutions. For financial institutions, Matchi.biz are a global fintech innovation match-making firm. Matchi has worked with over 100 leading banks and insurance companies around the world and has a database of over 2,500 FinTech companies with 700+ curated solutions. Their platform connects financial institutions with leading-edge financial services technology solutions and companies worldwide. Have a look at 11:FS Pulse as well for “immediate insight into your competition’s best digital banking experience”.
  6. Refinement: Ideas are cheap, Minimum Viable Products with early adopters and sustainable business models are rare. During the uncertainty of new product or service development, comfort can be found in an innovation framework and Innovation Platform that has delivered products and services to the global market.

Perhaps some of this has resonated with you, please let us know if it has!

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