Connecting Human-Centered Design to Innovation

A Human Solution

Humanized design, as noted in a blog, “The Science Behind Humanized Design: Why It Matters and How to Do It,” by Innovolo Group, is “a process of designing products and services tailored to human needs and preferences.” It emphasizes creating user-friendly interfaces, a consistent user experience across devices, and delivering valuable content with attention to detail. The science behind humanized design is based on understanding human psychology and behavior. Ultimately, the benefits of humanized design can lead to increased user satisfaction, more user loyalty and increased sales.

Innovolo highlights some of the key principles of humanized design:

  • Emotional design: Humans are emotional creatures, and their emotions play a major role in their decision-making process. Humanized design considers this by creating products and services that evoke positive emotions, such as happiness, excitement, or surprise.
  • User experience: The user experience (UX) is a user’s overall experience with a product or service. Humanized design focuses on creating a positive UX by making products and services easy to use, intuitive, and enjoyable.
  • Design thinking: Design thinking is a problem-solving process that uses empathy, creativity, and experimentation to come up with innovative solutions. Humanized design is based on the principles of design thinking, and designers use this process to create products and services that are more likely to meet the needs of humans.

Paving the Way to Innovation

In July, All Things Innovation took a look at, “Unleashing Innovation with UX Design.” Taking a design-centric approach can enhance the overall user experience and benefit innovation growth efforts. User experience (UX) is specific to how people use and perceive your products. This design process is said to provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users, and involves aspects of branding, design, usability and function. So how can these key components of user experience work together, create synergies and benefit the marketer in improving the overall experience?

In “Diving into Humanity-Centric Innovation,” we explored the continued emergence and evolving development of artificial intelligence. There rises a question of how humans and AI can work together more efficiently to better our lives in the future. For the innovation community, AI is a mostly positive and useful tool to crunch the data, analyze results and leverage its capabilities to move forward the company’s strategic and product development efforts. But just how can we humanize the data to make it easier for the user experience?

User-Friendly Central

Humanized design processes are centered around making products, services, and experiences more user-friendly, intuitive, and empathetic. These processes focus on understanding and addressing the needs, preferences, and emotions of users. By incorporating humanized design principles, organizations can significantly enhance the user experience. Not without a sense of irony, we asked ChatGPT to outline ways that the humanized design process can support UX:

  1. User-Centered Research: Conduct extensive user research, including surveys, interviews, and usability testing, to gain deep insights into user needs, pain points, and behaviors. Use personas and empathy maps to create a clear picture of users and their motivations.
  2. Empathy and Understanding: Develop a deep sense of empathy for users by immersing yourself in their context, challenges, and emotions. Consider the emotional aspects of the user experience, not just functional requirements.
  3. User Feedback Integration: Continuously gather and incorporate user feedback throughout the design and development process.
  4. Accessibility and Inclusivity: Ensure that designs are accessible to users with disabilities by following accessibility guidelines. Consider the needs of diverse user groups, including those with varying abilities, languages, and cultural backgrounds.
  5. Intuitive Interfaces: Create intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that require minimal effort for users to understand and navigate.
  6. Visual and Information Design: Pay attention to visual hierarchy, typography, and layout to make content easy to scan and understand. Use storytelling and visual cues to guide users through complex processes or information.
  7. Usability Testing: Conduct usability testing sessions to identify usability issues, validate design choices, and ensure that the product meets user expectations.
  8. Reducing Cognitive Load: Simplify complex tasks and processes to reduce cognitive load on users. Provide clear instructions, visual aids, and contextual help when necessary.
  9. Emotional Design: Design interfaces and interactions that evoke positive emotions and create memorable experiences.
  10. Personalization: Offer personalized experiences based on user preferences and behaviors.
  11. Responsive and Adaptive Design: Ensure that designs are responsive and adaptive to various screen sizes and devices, providing a consistent experience across platforms.
  12. Ethical Considerations: Address ethical and privacy concerns, ensuring that user data is handled responsibly and transparently.
  13. A/B Testing and Iteration: Continuously test variations of designs and features to determine which options resonate best with users.
  14. User Education and Onboarding: Provide clear onboarding processes and tutorials to help users get started easily.
  15. Support and Feedback Channels: Offer accessible channels for users to seek help, provide feedback, and report issues.

Creating Engagement

Incorporating humanized design processes into the UX design lifecycle fosters a deeper connection between users and products or services. It results in more satisfying and enjoyable experiences, increased user loyalty, and a competitive advantage in the market. Ultimately, humanized design processes help create products and services that truly meet the needs and aspirations of users. Making it easy and enjoyable for your users may sound intuitive but is the result of a deeper focus on the user experience. Ultimately, in a world where brand trust and authenticity are key, humanizing your product is critical to creating an emotional connection and engagement with your users.

Video courtesy of Interaction Design Foundation

Unlocking Growth Through Innovation

Get Strategic

There are several strategic imperatives that connect to how innovation plays a role in an organization’s growth. Overcoming disruption and striving to have a unified strategic vision for the company as a whole is important, as is having these bedrock strategies in place to anticipate and respond to market threats and opportunities. According to Forbes’ article, “Pursuing Growth Through Innovation: Get Strategic,” by Mike Nolan of KPMG, innovative companies can embrace specific strategies to keep innovation growth flowing:

  1. The most effective innovation strategies are a cornerstone of the broader growth strategy for the enterprise.
  2. Before innovation is pursued, there must be a common definition of what it means.
  3. A company should have a set of guiding principles that defines “what must be true” for the organization to realize growth through innovation.
  4. Accelerating speed to market becomes possible through the formation of diverse teams that reflect all corners of the organization.
  5. It is critical to forge a connected perspective between leaders responsible for managing the innovation process and the rest of the business.

Moving in the Right Direction

In the article, “Balancing Short-Term And Long-Term Innovation Goals,” we looked at some of the key findings from the latest edition of the Innovation Spend & Trends Report. Executives in the field looked back and ahead as they set the stage for the second half of 2023 and beyond. Innovation executives seemed to be weighing cutting costs versus developing new revenue streams. In connection to this, a common innovation question loomed: Focus on short-term gains or develop with long-term growth in mind?

In the article, “Setting the Strategic Direction,” we looked at the increasingly central role of the chief strategy officer. A chief strategy officer (CSO) is increasingly becoming a more relevant element to a research and development team in an organization. A chief strategy officer, or sometimes a chief strategy and innovation officer (CSIO), can help streamline operations, implement procedures, work with executive management including the CEO, paving the way towards more fruitful innovation partnerships and long-term strategic thinking.

Driving Growth

Pursuing growth through innovation is a critical strategy for enterprises to stay competitive and adapt to changing market conditions. Here are several strategic ways, according to ChatGPT, that organizations can foster innovation and drive growth:

  1. Establish an Innovation Culture: Create a culture that encourages and rewards innovation. This includes promoting risk-taking, tolerance of failure, increasing training and development and open communication.
  2. Invest in Research and Development: Allocate resources and funding for R&D efforts to explore new technologies, products, and services.
  3. Open Innovation: Partner with external organizations, startups, and innovation ecosystems to access new ideas, technologies, and markets.
  4. Customer-Centric Innovation: Listen to customer feedback and involve customers in the co-creation of products and services. Conduct market research to identify unmet customer needs and pain points.
  5. Digital Transformation: Embrace digital technologies like AI, IoT, and blockchain to optimize processes, develop new business models, and enhance customer experiences.
  6. Product and Service Innovation: Continuously iterate and improve existing products and services based on customer feedback and market trends.
  7. Process Innovation: Streamline internal processes to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and accelerate time-to-market.
  8. Mergers and Acquisitions: Acquire innovative startups or companies with complementary technologies or market presence. Integrate these acquisitions strategically to leverage their innovations.
  9. Strategic Alliances and Partnerships: Form partnerships with industry leaders, suppliers, or competitors to access new markets or technologies.
  10. Agile and Design Thinking: Adopt agile methodologies and design thinking processes to facilitate innovation by rapidly prototyping and testing new ideas.
  11. Measure and Iterate: Implement key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of innovation efforts. Regularly review and iterate on innovation strategies based on performance data and feedback.
  12. Fail Fast and Learn: Encourage a culture where failure is seen as a valuable learning experience. Analyze failures to extract insights that can inform future innovation efforts.

Growth Goals

Successful innovation is often an ongoing process that requires commitment, adaptability, and a willingness to take calculated risks. By pursuing these strategic approaches, enterprises can foster a culture of innovation that drives sustainable growth and helps them stay ahead in the marketplace. By prioritizing growth and development, and keeping employees and partners involved, companies can stay focused on innovation as a growth driver, especially in a fast-changing business world.

Video courtesy of UC Berkeley Executive Education

Living in A Digital Transformation World

Defining Transformation

Both digital transformation and digital innovation are important, and what takes precedence really depends on the company’s specific vision, needs and requirements. Digital transformation is a powerful tool for businesses to unlock their potential and drive new growth by introducing technology into every aspect of the business, from customer interactions and experiences to increasing efficiencies and streamlining processes. This could entail moving from manual to automated processes, leveraging cloud computing, and using big data and analytics.

It’s important to remember that digital transformation is not just about technology. As Richard George puts it in Webo Digital’s “Digital Transformation Vs Digital Innovation: Which Takes Precedence?” transformation is “also about changing the company’s culture, mindset and processes. A successful digital transformation requires a clear strategy, the alignment of technology with business goals, and the engagement of employees at all levels of the organization.” Digital transformation can further better decision-making, open new business opportunities, streamline the supply chain management and increase agility and collaboration across the enterprise.

As Webo Digital notes, there are challenges to the digital transformation process that many companies face. Those challenges can include the cost, employee resistance to change, integration with legacy systems, data privacy and security, implementation issues, and talent shortages, among other factors. Companies must carefully weigh the benefits of digital transformation while planning a clear long-term strategy, management and investment, aligning the technology with business goals.

Looking Ahead

In terms of technology, digital transformation is clearly a key theme in this year’s Innovation Spend & Trends Report, as innovation executives weigh in on the issue of advancing technology in their data capture, analysis and visualization needs.

In the survey, just under two-thirds of the community list digital transformation as the biggest opportunity for the innovation discipline. About 65% of respondents listed digital transformation as the biggest opportunity in the field. Only creating new or next generation products and services ranked higher in the survey, with 78% of respondents selecting that as their top opportunity.

Many people think digital transformation and innovation are one and the same, but while they are closely related, there is a difference. Digital transformation typically refers to change at an organizational level, while innovation more specifically happens at the product, service or solution level. Seth Adler talked with Mike Hatrick, Group Director of IP Strategy & Portfolio at Volvo Group Trucks and Technology, about this very subject, in the blog, “Innovation Vs. Transformation.”

The Digital Advantage

Digital transformation offers numerous advantages and benefits to organizations across various industries. According to ChatGPT, here are some of the key advantages:

  1. Improved Efficiency and Productivity: Automation of repetitive tasks and processes streamlines operations and reduces manual errors. Access to real-time data and analytics helps in making data-driven decisions quickly. Collaboration tools enhance teamwork and communication.
  2. Enhanced Customer Experience: Digital channels enable organizations to engage with customers more effectively. Personalization and targeted marketing strategies lead to better customer interactions, while better customer support can be implemented through chatbots, self-service portals, and online assistance.
  3. Business Agility: Faster response to market changes and emerging trends. Ability to adapt to customer demands quickly. Agile project management methodologies for faster development and deployment of new products/services.
  4. Cost Reduction: Streamlined processes and reduced manual intervention lead to cost savings. Cloud computing reduces the need for in-house infrastructure and maintenance costs.
  5. Data-Driven Insights: Advanced analytics and AI-driven insights help organizations understand customer behavior and market trends. Predictive analytics can optimize inventory management and supply chain operations. Data-driven decisions lead to more informed strategies.
  6. Innovation and Competitive Advantage: Encourages innovation in products, services, and business models. Organizations can stay competitive by adopting emerging technologies before competitors do, as well as develop faster time-to-market for new offerings.
  7. Scalability: Cloud-based solutions allow for easy scaling of resources up or down based on demand. Expansion into new markets or regions becomes more accessible.
  8. Risk Management: Enhanced security measures and compliance tools help protect against data breaches and regulatory issues. Predictive analytics can identify potential risks and enable proactive mitigation.
  9. Employee Engagement: Modern tools and technologies can improve the employee experience, such as remote work capabilities, training and upskilling opportunities in digital tools.
  10. Sustainability: Reduced paper usage and energy-efficient processes contribute to environmental sustainability. Better resource management through data analytics can reduce waste and carbon footprint.
  11. Customer and Partner Ecosystem Expansion: Digital platforms facilitate easier collaboration with partners and suppliers, while digital marketplaces and ecosystems can expand the customer base.
  12. Compliance and Security: Enhanced data security measures and compliance tools ensure adherence to regulatory requirements. Audit trails and data tracking help maintain transparency and accountability.

The Digital Landscape

Digital transformation is a strategic imperative for organizations looking to thrive in today’s fast-paced and competitive business landscape. While the benefits are substantial, it’s important to plan and execute the transformation carefully to maximize its impact and minimize potential challenges. It seems that once a digital transformation platform is built, the enterprise could use that as a springboard to further their digital innovation goals and to create new products and services.

Both digital transformation and innovation are critical for businesses looking to stay competitive and relevant in the evolving digital landscape. As Webo Digital notes, “In the end, deciding whether to prioritize digital transformation or innovation will depend on your company’s specific goals and needs. By understanding the good and bad of each approach, along with examples and critical areas to focus on, you can make an informed decision and drive the success of your business in the digital age.”

Video courtesy of Eric Kimberling, Digital Transformation

Innovation Principles, 1/7

Arguably, our likelihood for success drastically improves when the assigned teams and leaders have accountability for the entire end-to-end journey (idea to successful product). Partial assignments for just a front end of innovation, discovery, or technology development while expecting to pass a baton for someone else to carry it over the finish line, leaves too many vulnerabilities and decreases our chances to get it right the first time. This is particularly applicable when aiming to deliver transformational results in a complex large-scale enterprise environment involving sophisticated cross-disciplinary technologies under an aggressive time to market pressure.

An entrepreneurial value creation perspective

The Framework

The series of seven articles during the next several months are meant to emphasize the importance of such a holistic, end-to-end perspective when the outcome success is predestined by the interdependency of the entire innovation and product delivery continuum. This continuum is represented here by a product innovation framework consisting of two principal parts: (i) opportunity incubation ─ an iterative front-end innovation spiral and (ii) product delivery ─ a stage-gate product development process. Even though these two constituents of the end-to-end value creation process have essentially different characters, they remain with a strong symbiotic affiliation. The overall framework encompasses a number of time-tested innovation and product development best practices which have been recognized by the majority of innovation practitioners and proven effective in a variety of different fields, including my own experience.

End-to-end product innovation framework

Selected innovation and product development approaches, tools, and best practices that are reflected in the end-to-end product innovation framework.

When creating something new, transformational, and purposeful that is at the same time desirable, sustainable, and profitable, we must wonder if there is a magic formula involved. Are the successes of the modern-age, mega-entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and others, singular episodes in their respective domains? Specifically duplicating what they have done or how they have done it will probably not lead to the same outcomes, but perhaps there are certain principles shared by all successful entrepreneurial innovations regardless if they are disruptive or incremental. They all seem to be deeply rooted in a techno-anthropological understanding of people’s needs in the context of changing lifestyles, social interactions, and technological advancements in order to create highly desirable and profitable solutions. Another humble intent of this series is to present the proposed new product innovation framework for such an ultimate challenge of entrepreneurial dream-catching by leveraging fundamental concepts and base principles.

Critical Thinking

The key notion is that concepts and principles have a holistic and timeless character. They do not necessarily provide instant answers but rather stimulate critical thinking around fundamental trade-offs. When such conceptual principles are organized in a logical, pragmatic, and interrelated manner, they help raise the right questions at the right stage of a solution inception. Even though no one can guarantee victory in a novel, innovative entrepreneurial pursuit, systematically and iteratively answering such questions could maximize our chances for success and help discover potential flaws before significant time and resources are spent.

If an idea is predestined to fail, we should expose it to failure as early as possible. Even today when artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have overcome human limitations in data processing capacity and can readily assist us in outcome decisions, the logic behind their algorithms is still based on first principles and foundational concepts.

Editor’s Note: Selected topics from Milan Ivosevic’s book, Eureka to Wealth: Conceptual Principles of Entrepreneurial Value Creation via New Product Innovation, will be featured as part of this Innovation Principles series in the following months:

  1. Introduction (Oct. ’23)
  2. Entrepreneurial Perspective: Human-Centered Design Entrepreneurship (Nov. ’23)
  3. Entrepreneurial Perspective: End to End Product Innovation Framework (Dec. ’23)
  4. Opportunity Incubation: The Innovation Spiral (Jan. ’24)
  5. Opportunity Incubation: Business Case (Sizing the Opportunity and Go / No Go check) (Feb. ’24)
  6. Product Delivery: Development Strategy (Mar. ’24)
  7. Product Delivery: Delivery Effectiveness (Apr. ’24)

Exploiting the Present to Explore Tomorrow’s Innovations

Searching for Both Solutions

As i8 Ventures points out in its blog, “Exploitation versus Exploration,” in Charles O’Reilly and Michael Tushman’s Lead and Disrupt: How to Solve the Innovator’s Dilemma, published in 2016, the book maps two types of innovation.

Exploitation innovation emerges from existing assets of the organization and improves them through innovation. This kind of innovation is relatively moderate, focused mainly on enhancement and efficiency — most managers of organizations feel comfortable with it. It deals with questions familiar to them, such as improving existing products. They know the customers and their expectations and thus find it relatively easy to address the challenge of exploiting.

Meanwhile, exploration is the type of innovation that requires the organization to leave its comfort zone and examine new markets, products, and business models unfamiliar to them. From the managers’ perspective, this type of innovation obliges them to venture into unfamiliar territory.

Despite the challenges and opportunities for both perspectives, certainly in an ideal environment, the management, innovation leadership and team could be focused on both. The authors suggest that the team first needs to exploit existing assets and capabilities, and develop incremental improvements, by getting more efficient. This pipeline would then provide for sufficient exploration programs and more radical developments so that the company is still moving forward, and not rendered irrelevant by changes in markets and technologies.

Staying Ambidextrous

All Things Innovation recently looked at the ambidextrous organization, in “Balancing Innovation with Ambidexterity.” Innovators have long been tasked with being a flexible part of an ambidextrous team, as part of an organizational cog that can easily pivot and manage tasks on several levels—both exploitative and explorative. This approach entails focusing on the big picture for the company when needed, yet at the same time being focused on the small, incremental steps that often define and are necessary for entrepreneurship and innovation. Yet, this is a complex and challenging task for both managers and teams in the innovation field. It is a balancing act that looks to require executives to explore new opportunities while exploiting existing capabilities. It is this balance between exploratory (radical) and exploitative (incremental) that is key to the manager’s ability to multitask.

TMRE will be held this year from October 23-25, at the Gaylord Rockies Event & Convention Center, Denver, CO. In the moderated panel, “Examining The Evolution Of Insights Spend & Trends,” All Things Insights’ Seth Adler will explore how dynamic shifts in consumer behaviors have met a flood of new solutions to create a completely unique industry inflection point. Client-side and solution-side industry leaders discuss and debate how organizations have been grappling with change and are now harnessing new tools for transformational outcomes. The panel includes Keith Phillips, Director, Dynata, and Kathryn Topp, CEO and co-founder, Yabble.

Exploiting the Present

Exploitative innovation refers to the development and improvement of existing products, processes, or technologies within an organization. While it might seem that macroeconomic factors primarily influence explorative innovation (creation of entirely new products or services), they can indeed play a significant role in exploitative innovation as well. Here’s how macroeconomic factors can impact exploitative innovation:

  1. Market Demand and Consumer Behavior: Macroeconomic factors such as economic growth, consumer confidence, and income levels influence market demand and consumer behavior. In times of economic expansion, consumers may have more disposable income, leading to increased demand for improved or upgraded versions of existing products. Exploitative innovation can help businesses capitalize on this demand by delivering enhanced offerings.
  2. Competitive Landscape: Macroeconomic conditions can affect the competitive landscape. In a competitive market, businesses need to continually innovate to maintain their market share. Exploitative innovation can involve adding new features, improving efficiency, or enhancing customer experience to stay competitive.
  3. Cost Efficiency and Resource Management: Macroeconomic factors such as inflation, changes in input costs, and supply chain disruptions impact a business’s cost structure. Exploitative innovation that focuses on cost reduction, process optimization, and resource efficiency becomes more relevant during economic downturns when cost pressures are high.
  4. Regulatory Changes and Compliance: Macroeconomic factors, including changes in regulations and compliance requirements, can necessitate improvements in existing products or processes. Exploitative innovation might involve making adjustments to ensure compliance while maintaining product performance and quality.
  5. Technological Advances: Macroeconomic trends can drive technological advancements. Businesses often engage in exploitative innovation to adopt emerging technologies and incorporate them into their existing offerings. These advancements can enhance efficiency, reduce costs, or improve product quality.
  6. Customer Retention and Loyalty: During economic downturns, customers might be more cautious about their spending. Exploitative innovation can focus on retaining customers by enhancing the value proposition of existing products or services, thereby promoting customer loyalty.
  7. Consumer Preferences and Trends: Macroeconomic factors can influence shifts in consumer preferences and trends. Exploitative innovation allows businesses to adapt to these changes by modifying existing products to align with evolving customer needs and preferences.
  8. Globalization and Market Expansion: Macroeconomic factors such as international trade agreements and global economic shifts can impact market expansion strategies. Exploitative innovation can involve tailoring existing products for new markets or modifying them to meet local preferences.
  9. Risk Mitigation and Business Continuity: Macroeconomic uncertainties, such as economic downturns or geopolitical events, can create risks for businesses. Exploitative innovation can focus on diversification, risk mitigation, and building resilience to navigate challenging conditions.

The Explore/Exploit Continuum

In essence, macroeconomic factors influence the overall business environment, which in turn affects the motivations and opportunities for exploitative innovation. Organizations must carefully consider these factors and their implications when planning and executing their innovation strategies, even when the primary focus is on improving existing products or processes.

The explore and exploit continuum rests on different levels of uncertainty, points out Strategyzer in its blog, “Juggling between the future and the present.” For existing exploit business models, you operate with relatively high certainty, and it is possible to make accurate forecasts about sales, and predictions about growth. These business models can be managed and improved through detailed planning and proper execution.

Exploration, meanwhile, is about searching for new value propositions and business models in an environment with high uncertainty. And the further an innovation is from your core business, the higher the uncertainty. A different financial approach, skillset and culture are required to cultivate creation, discovery, validation and acceleration of new ideas. As Strategyzer notes, “However successful today, they don’t rest on their laurels—they are already working on tomorrow.”

Video courtesy of University of Oxford Saïd Business School

Sustaining the Self-Disruption Journey

The Self-Disruption Journey

In uncertain times, the fear and denial of disruption can hurt any business. Yet, “Responsible leaders who dare to anticipate disruption and take steps to self-inflict it to their organization in a smart and controlled way are best positioned for the future”—so makes the case for self-disruption by operational consultant, Patrick Giry-Deloison, in his insightful article, “Why Let Others Disrupt You? Take the Smart Self-Disruption Journey!” on Innovation Management. Giry-Deloison notes that the current business environment is fraught with change and challenges, from digitalization to globalization. Businesses, whether they are established companies or start-ups, must stay ahead of the curve, anticipate changes and take advantage of all their available resources from the angle of risk management and business strategy.

The author cites Netflix as an example of disruptive change. In 2011, Netflix decided to radically change its pricing model by increasing the price of DVD rentals and to promote the use of Internet streaming. “This ‘self-disruption’ by Netflix of its own flourishing business model was the result of a strategic analysis: rather than being overtaken by new players leveraging the new streaming technology over high speed Internet and trying to defend DVD rental at all cost, Netflix took the lead and was quick.”

The self-disruptive journey, then, is a means to anticipate the change, at scale, scope and speed. Giry-Deloison says the “purpose is to create the new conditions to allow the management team to put itself in the shoes of ‘disruptors’ of their company’s activities and lead a collective reflection on the strategy in a totally new framework. As a team, they set themselves the objective of answering together the question, ‘In the scope of our business, what transformations can be carried out to evolve and react better in the context of an external disruption?’” In essence, this gives management and the company the leeway to become agile entrepreneurs and creators, to develop and accelerate an innovative culture, optimize resources, integrate risk and to undergo a collective learning process.

As noted in Giry-Deloison’s blog, the self-disruption as a journey is further characterized by:

  • A change of mindset, which goes from defensive to offensive, but without becoming aggressive.
  • Highlighting, even questioning, what is left unsaid and shared beliefs.
  • Collaborative and cross-cutting work to decompartmentalize the organization.
  • A strong connection between strategic thinking and operational action.
  • Acceptance of the principle of failure for certain of the ideas generated throughout the process, since some of the planned tracks will be modified or even abandoned down the way.
  • A dynamic of innovation based on collective intelligence.

Defining Disruption

In All Things Innovation’s “Defining Disruptive Innovation,” we further looked at the theory, which some debate has been diluted. Disruptive innovation is often a phrase used to make a splash in the business world. Some may debate that the label has been applied carelessly at times to anyone shaking up the market. Yet, just what makes an innovation disruptive? It depends on your point of view. But some make the case that it still remains a gradual process of change, as a smaller competitor gains a foothold in a low-end or new market, and moves its product upmarket to challenge the incumbents. Disruptive innovation encompasses a transformation at the core of the business and the marketplace.

TMRE will be held this year from October 23-25, at the Gaylord Rockies Event & Convention Center, Denver, CO. The panel session, “Leading High-Performance Insights Teams Through Change and Disruption,” will look at how disruption – whether economic, from a re-org or some other outside factor – can also be seized as a moment for opportunity. This panel will cover how to lead efficient insights teams during change; tips for transforming people, processes and tech to better serve customers, and ways to communicate data and insights to the c-suite to influence business outcomes. The session will be held by Clay McKissack, Senior Vice President, Retail Sales & Market Insights, GE Lighting, and Elizabeth Oates, Senior Director, Consumer Insights, Ulta Beauty.

Embracing Change

Self-disruption refers to a deliberate strategy where an organization proactively disrupts its own business model, products, or processes to drive innovation and maintain competitiveness. By embracing self-disruption, organizations can pave the way for a successful innovation journey. Here’s how self-disruption can lead to innovation, according to ChatGPT:

  1. Encouraging a Culture of Continuous Improvement: Self-disruption forces an organization to critically assess its existing processes, products and strategies. This mindset of constant evaluation and improvement creates a culture where innovation is not just an occasional event but a continuous effort.
  2. Identifying New Opportunities: Disrupting one’s own business model or products often leads to the discovery of new opportunities. Through self-disruption, organizations can identify unmet customer needs, emerging trends, and untapped markets that can become the foundation for innovative offerings.
  3. Challenging Assumptions: Self-disruption prompts organizations to challenge their own assumptions about what works and what doesn’t. This process can lead to rethinking long-held beliefs and finding new ways to solve problems or meet customer demands.
  4. Fostering Creative Thinking: The need for self-disruption requires teams to think creatively and explore unconventional solutions. This mindset shift encourages employees to generate innovative ideas that might not have been considered otherwise.
  5. Overcoming Complacency: Organizations that have been successful for a long time can become complacent and resistant to change. Self-disruption shakes up the status quo, helping to overcome complacency and encouraging a willingness to embrace new ideas.
  6. Embracing Risk-Taking: Self-disruption involves calculated risk-taking. By willingly taking risks and stepping outside the comfort zone, organizations create an environment that encourages experimentation and innovation.
  7. Driving Organizational Learning: Self-disruption forces organizations to learn quickly from failures and successes. These learning experiences contribute to a more adaptable and agile organization that can respond effectively to changes and challenges.
  8. Staying Ahead of Competitors: By disrupting themselves, organizations can pre-emptively address potential competitive threats. This proactive approach helps maintain a competitive edge by continually evolving in response to market dynamics.
  9. Creating a Sense of Urgency: Self-disruption introduces a sense of urgency to innovate. This urgency can motivate employees and stakeholders to actively participate in the innovation journey and drive meaningful change.
  10. Building Resilience: Organizations that are open to self-disruption develop a higher level of resilience. They are better prepared to navigate disruptions and uncertainties, which are essential skills for long-term success in a rapidly changing business landscape.
  11. Reinforcing Adaptive Leadership: Self-disruption requires strong leadership that is willing to challenge the status quo and drive change. This emphasis on adaptive leadership helps guide the innovation journey effectively.

Sustaining Growth

Self-disruption is a proactive strategy that pushes organizations to innovate by challenging themselves, embracing change, and exploring new opportunities. By disrupting their own practices, organizations can transform challenges into opportunities and embark on a successful innovation journey that leads to sustained growth and relevance in a dynamic market. Certainly, it may not be a journey for every company. But for those companies that take this path, it could be a high impact approach.

And one hopes it is a continuing journey. As Giry-Deloison notes in his blog, “It is a practice that should be regularly renewed to keep the dynamics created by the process, acknowledge new events within and outside of the given sector and integrate insight from new team members.”

Video courtesy of Workforce

Reinventing Innovation Through Organizational Development

Coaching Change

Executive coaching and leadership training, on a more personal level, is one road to organizational development. This is a self-development process that focuses on the executive’s enduring capabilities, assessing strengths and weaknesses and how to manage a corporate transformation and organizational change. This is a reinvention of sorts and not just merely reinforcing the executive’s skills. According to Projections’ blog on “Innovations in Organizational Development,” executive coaching is designed to help several skills when faced with the company undergoing constant change:

  • Develop change agility
  • Build stronger internal and external networks
  • Improve the performance management process
  • Enhance listening skills, including feedback
  • Increase organizational member engagement
  • Improve the expression of personal qualities
  • Drive alignment of changing strategies
  • Build or revitalize an agile, adaptive, inclusive, and positive organizational culture
  • Build a strong leadership pipeline
  • Effectively communicate
  • Drive and support innovation and change

Effective change management underlies the ability to learn, apply and adapt to change. This applies to continuous learning. In its blog, Projections notes that leadership capabilities include imagination, empathy, resilience, teaming, social and emotional intelligence, critical thinking, adaptive thinking, and emotional intelligence. In organizational development, “leaders develop the ability to continually assess how the organization is functioning and can identify and respond with course adjustments as necessary.”

Creating A Safer Environment

In terms of leadership, when you start to talk that way and lead that way, people do feel more psychologically safe to support change and support innovation that’s happening. This highlights how companies can better facilitate a safer environment for workers to feel secure enough to take risks to develop change. Claudia Reuter, Director of the Roberts Innovation Fund at Yale University, joined Seth Adler of All Things Innovation in “Fostering Innovation” to discuss people being the centrifugal force of innovation and digital transformation. They are the glue that holds things together, and when they are put together in an environment that feels safe enough to conduct that change, innovation happens.

TMRE will be held this year from October 23-25, at the Gaylord Rockies Event & Convention Center, Denver, CO. In the session, “The Spirit, Mindset and Process of Agile Innovation,” Shilpa Khanna, Associate Director, Transformational Growth Insights, The Clorox Company, will explore developing a flexible system to adapt and allow for bigger innovation faster; the mindset of startup thinking; and the process, which includes the right players and the open toolbox.

Register for TMRE now to see the session.

Getting Organized Systematically

Organizational development refers to the deliberate and systematic efforts to enhance an organization’s capacity to adapt, change, and grow in order to achieve its goals more effectively. This system plays a significant role in supporting and benefiting innovation within an organization, as noted by ChatGPT:

  1. Cultivating a Culture of Innovation: Organizational development efforts can focus on fostering a culture that values and encourages innovation. This includes promoting open communication, risk-taking, creativity, and continuous learning.
  2. Empowering Employees: Organizational development initiatives that empower employees by delegating decision-making authority, encouraging autonomy, and providing opportunities for skill development can lead to increased innovation.
  3. Cross-Functional Collaboration: These efforts can facilitate collaboration across different departments and teams. Cross-functional collaboration encourages the exchange of ideas, diverse perspectives, and expertise, which are essential for generating innovative solutions that address complex challenges.
  4. Flexible Structures and Processes: Organizational development can focus on creating flexible structures, processes, and workflows that adapt to changing needs and market conditions. Flexible structures enable quicker decision-making and the ability to pivot when pursuing innovative initiatives.
  5. Leadership Support and Role Modeling: Effective organizational development emphasizes leadership behaviors that support and encourage innovation. Leaders can role model innovation by valuing new ideas, providing resources, and promoting a willingness to take calculated risks.
  6. Learning and Development Opportunities: These initiatives provide learning and development opportunities, such as workshops, training programs, and innovation labs, which can enhance employees’ skills and creativity.
  7. Performance Measurement and Recognition: Organizational development can introduce performance metrics that assess and reward innovation efforts.
  8. Change Management and Adaptability: ODpractices help organizations navigate change more effectively. As innovation often requires change, having strong change management processes in place ensures a smoother transition when implementing new ideas and initiatives.
  9. Inclusive Decision-Making: It can emphasize inclusive decision-making processes where diverse voices and perspectives are considered. Inclusion leads to more well-rounded discussions, better problem-solving, and the generation of more innovative ideas.
  10. Alignment with Business Strategy: Organizational development ensures that innovation efforts are aligned with the organization’s overall strategic goals. This alignment prevents innovation from becoming isolated and ensures that innovative initiatives contribute to the organization’s long-term success.
  11. Risk Management: It can introduce structured processes for evaluating and managing risks associated with innovation. By addressing potential risks and uncertainties, organizations can better plan for potential challenges and minimize negative impacts.

The Culture Club

Organizational development and innovation are intertwined in ways that support the growth, adaptability, and overall success of an organization. By creating a culture of innovation, empowering employees, fostering collaboration, and aligning with business goals, these initiatives contribute to an environment that nurtures and benefits from innovative thinking and action.

It’s further important to chart your own path. Each organization, of course, has a unique transformation need, and leadership might be at different stages of development, and each workforce has specific needs. Yet, don’t be a “culture chameleon,” advises Tiffany Yates in the Organization Development Network’s article, “The Five Ways Organization Development Can Deliver an Innovative Culture.” Yates notes, “Organizations should delineate what outcomes they desire from a culture, define how culture can create those outcomes, create a roadmap of how to change culture over time, and implement the plan to do so. If you want an innovative culture, then intentionally design your company culture around it.”

Video courtesy of KMWorld Conference

Champion Innovation by Engaging with Stakeholders

Mapping Out Early Advice

Most projects involve multiple stakeholders, and getting their feedback early in the process could be key to the progress of an innovation project. Stakeholders need to be identified, consulted and involved in the project if you want to move it forward. It’s also important for a research initiative that perhaps shouldn’t go forward, points out Brant Cooper of Moves the Needle, in the blog, “Identifying and Engaging Key Stakeholders to Get an Innovation Initiative Prioritized.” Consulting with stakeholders ahead of time, and identifying a project and canceling it quickly since it might not be aligned with the core business or its values, could save time, money and energy as well. Knowing your stakeholders might give you the knowledge to pivot.

Reaching out and recruiting stakeholders early is crucial. Communicate with them and address their concerns. Identify their goals. Stakeholders can provide information, resources, feedback and insight to a project as it moves towards its goals. Cooper notes, “Innovation leaders need to identify and engage stakeholders early and often because these influential team members have the ability to support, influence, or kill a project based on their beliefs about what a team might be working on and how the project affects their own goals.”

Identifying the stakeholders is the first key step. Just like you create an innovation plan and the solution you are striving for, create a plan for who to engage, advises Cooper. “To do this, think about the problem your team is aiming to solve and identify all of the potential business units who might be involved. Using this information, you can come up with a stakeholder map and a plan to educate the individuals on that list about what you are doing when it makes the most sense to do so.” Once you’ve mapped out your stakeholders, engage with them and get their buy-in and prioritization to move forward.

Meeting the Collective Intelligence

At FEI, All Things Innovation conducted a special roundtable, Achieving Transformational Innovation, bringing cross industry, cross disciplinarians together to talk about transformation and how to make it a reality. Transformational innovation, digital transformation, and the decision making around it.

Gaining stakeholders is a key part of the process. As Oscar Barranco Liebana, Innovation Director, FIFA World Cup 2022, puts it, “One important thing that we learned from the interaction of so many different stakeholders is that each organization has their own agenda, their own processes, and their own way of thinking. So, what we learned is that if we can maximize the collective intelligence from different stakeholders, we were improving the intelligence for innovation. And that means that we are breaking the silos, we’re breaking the processes, and the collective intelligence of the ‘super mind,’ what we call different stakeholders from different perspectives.”

TMRE will be held this year from October 23-25, at the Gaylord Rockies Event & Convention Center, Denver, CO. In the session, “Getting a Seat at the Table,” it’s all about the influence of insights. But much like innovation’s focus on stakeholders, explore how to build an insights culture that has influence and is an indispensable partner in driving consumer-centric thinking and guiding decisions. The session will be held by Christopher Frank, author, Co-Faculty Director, Columbia University, and Thomas Walker, Vice President, Global Consumer Insights, eBay.

Register for TMRE now to see the session.

The Steak & The Sizzle

Stakeholders play a crucial role in the process of innovation due to their diverse perspectives, influence, resources, and potential impact on the success of innovative initiatives. According to ChatGPT, here’s why stakeholders are important to the innovation process:

  1. Diverse Perspectives: Stakeholders represent a wide range of perspectives, including customers, employees, investors, partners, suppliers, regulatory bodies, and more. Their varied viewpoints provide valuable insights into different aspects of the innovation process, helping to identify potential opportunities, challenges, and risks.
  2. Feedback and Validation: Stakeholders can provide feedback on innovative ideas, concepts, and prototypes. This feedback helps refine and validate ideas, ensuring that they align with the needs and expectations of the target audience and market.
  3. Resource Allocation: Stakeholders often control or allocate resources such as funding, time, and expertise. Engaging stakeholders early in the innovation process allows for resource allocation and planning that supports the development and implementation of innovative solutions.
  4. Risk Mitigation: Stakeholders can help identify and address potential risks associated with innovation, whether they are financial, operational, legal, or related to market acceptance. Their input can lead to more informed risk assessment and mitigation strategies.
  5. Buy-In and Support: Innovative initiatives often require buy-in and support from various stakeholders to succeed. Engaging stakeholders early and involving them in the decision-making process increases their ownership and commitment, which can lead to smoother implementation.
  6. Expertise and Knowledge Sharing: Stakeholders bring their expertise and industry knowledge to the table. Their insights can provide a broader context for understanding market trends, technological advancements, and best practices, contributing to the development of more effective and relevant innovations.
  7. Networking and Partnerships: Stakeholders can facilitate valuable networking and partnership opportunities. Collaborating with stakeholders can lead to strategic alliances, joint ventures, or partnerships that enhance the innovation process through shared resources and complementary expertise.
  8. Alignment with Business Goals: Stakeholders help ensure that innovative initiatives align with the overall business strategy and goals. Engaging stakeholders in the innovation process helps maintain a clear connection between innovation efforts and the organization’s larger vision.
  9. Market Adoption and Acceptance: Stakeholders, especially customers, are often the end-users of innovative products or services. Involving them in the innovation process increases the likelihood of creating solutions that resonate with the market and are more likely to be adopted.
  10. Change Management: Innovation often brings about changes in processes, roles, and organizational culture. Engaging stakeholders helps manage the change effectively by addressing concerns, communicating benefits, and involving relevant parties in the transition.

Championing Innovation

Stakeholders are critical to the innovation process because they bring diverse perspectives, resources, expertise, and influence that contribute to the success and sustainability of innovative initiatives. Engaging stakeholders fosters collaboration, alignment, and a holistic approach to innovation that considers various factors necessary for its successful execution.

Engaging with stakeholders can lead to the creation of “innovation champions,” true partners and allies to your research and development projects. As Cooper reminds, “If this step is forgotten, valuable time might be wasted on developing products that are not strategically aligned with the core of the organization instead of spending that time on solving customer problems that fall within the realm of possibility.”

Video courtesy of Edward Shehab

Identifying Good Friction to Improve the Experience

Yu starts the conversation with a movie reference: “Ever watched the movie, Wall-E? Do you remember how the humans are basically sitting in these floating chairs. And even if they need a drink, there’s a floating cup with a straw that goes right into their mouth, and they’ve literally put forth no effort. No effort, and they look like big amoebas. And it’s funny how Disney movies can be predictions of what the future might look like if we take away all friction,” he says.

Of course, there’s not really one type of friction, points out Yu. It about identifying the positive and the negative friction.

“Not all friction’s created equal, there’s a lot of bad friction. And stuff that quite frankly frustrates us, things that create uncertainty or risk. Things that are redundant. We definitely need to eliminate all that. But there’s a lot of good friction in the world. Stuff we actually need to have such as great, strong personal relationships, good relationships with brands and creating loyalty, and things that actually create what I call happy chemicals, which help us create dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, even adrenaline. All those things are not created when things are too easy. The book really looks at how we create happy chemicals through good friction, what are the seven types of good friction, and how do we actually bring them to bear in product services, employee relationships, companies and individuals,” says Yu.

Two examples given in the book is that customers need to do superhuman tricks to get a North Face jacket and they are thrilled when they do it. And the popsicle hotline is an effort by an otherwise nondescript hotel, which beats out every other hotel in terms of ratings because they have created these things which are more difficult than they need to be and thus, have created memorable experiences.

“Those are two great examples of where companies have actually made it harder for you to either get a product or to do a transaction or to participate in the brand. Let’s look at the North Face one,” he says. “There’s a store in South Korea. And it’s set up in a way where one of the walls has all the rock climbing sort of nubs. And they usually get one customer into it and then the store staff just sort of sneaks out, closes the door and turns on a button. And what happens is the floor actually starts coming out from under the customer. In a way where basically it’s pushing the customer towards the wall with all the rock climbing nubs. And so naturally, the customer starts freaking out. I better grab these nubs. And then a screen pops down, says you have thirty seconds. While that screen comes down, the top of the line jacket also comes down from the ceiling. And it says you have thirty seconds, and if you grab this jacket, it’s yours. And so naturally, it’s way up there. So you actually try to do a little bit of rock climbing, get to a level where you can jump and sort of feel confident enough that you’re not going to fall and can try for the jacket. All the customers are doing that and it became such a big hit.”

Yu continues, “What it really did is it created the idea that, it’s not just about going into a North Face store and having a transaction. It’s about engaging with the brand and the idea that if you’re going to wear this jacket, what do you want to do with it? You probably want to go explore the world. You probably want to go climb or go take a path. And this is part of that journey. We’ve simulated it in the store for you and guess what? On top of that, there’s a reward. You may or may not get it. And the excitement of both the serotonin that comes out when you feel that there’s something to accomplish. And then the dopamine that is elicited in terms of doing it. Can I get it? You know, if I work at it, maybe I’ll grab it. And then when you actually get it, the high of that dopamine, all that creates what I call good friction. People remember it. And because of store experiences like that The North Face in Korea is the most profitable North Face in the world.”

When talking to innovators, those that are responsible for making sure that we transform our products, businesses, and industries: What are the keys to making sure that it is actually good friction and you don’t fall into a bad friction spell? How do you practically operationalize the idea of good friction?

Yu explains, “We work with a lot of companies in terms of helping them rethink either designing their product or designing their experience. Let’s just take a typical experience. First thing we do is we actually map out the moments. We take a typical customer journey. We create a diagram of the journey. We want to figure out what are the moments inside of that journey that are the most pivotal that have either opportunities for getting rid of bad friction or opportunities potentially of inducing good friction. Understand why that might be. The first step is to create a canvas potentially, then to think about adding good friction.”

See the video from FEI for more on Seth Adler’s conversation with Soon Yu, as they discuss good and bad friction, Disney’s initiatives to delight the customer, the year of uncertainty, artificial intelligence and more.

Playing the Game of Disruption

Carvajal feels there is a clear choice in the market today. She says, “What it comes down to is really understanding who you are, what markets do you serve. And being ahead of the times, in a way, thinking about how the world is changing around you—not just for you, but for your customers, your customers’ customers, where things are going, and having the foresight to take actions or make decisions. Whether or not to disrupt or be disrupted? That’s a choice.”

Foresight is certainly its own growing discipline, which seems to be needed now more than ever, with the economy, wars, inflation and so on. Just how can one act on those big trends as opposed to the noise of in-the-moment trends?

“One must separate signals from the noise,” Carvajal says. “There are things you can predict, and I think there are things that you cannot predict like COVID. Sometimes there are seismic shifts that you just don’t anticipate, that in themselves provide ground for disruption in one way or another. So how to read the tea leaves? I think there’s a certain amount of discipline, deliberate action, to really be aware of what’s going on around you.”

She continues, “It’s not just reading the news and following what your competitors are doing, thinking how do I disrupt for the sake of being a disruptor. That’s not necessarily going to give you results. It’s ultimately understanding what is the problem that you’re trying to solve and for whom. And what is the extent of the ecosystem that surrounds that problem that you need to address. It’s not really in the small trends or temporary trends that are happening in the moment or that you can’t even predict. It’s really in how far do you look across your ecosystem to understand what the opportunity is.”

What are some key hurdles or opportunities when you have decided to “go” on a disruptive innovation?

Carvajal observes, “Once you make a decision to go, you need to understand how the market will react, what are the actions that your competitors might take? Who might become obsolete? Are they ahead of the game or ahead of the curve? Or do they have some competitive advantage to circumvent your moves. You need to be a little bit of a player. Play the game and just be smart in a way to position yourself for success. Ultimately, you want to create value that’s sticky. What you cannot lose sight of is the value that you created, the benefit, and the stickiness of that benefit.”

Besides looking externally, an organization must also look internally during this moment of disruption.

“Organizations underestimate the amount of effort for the type of transformation and change that needs to take place for your innovation to be successful in the market,” says Carvajal. “You may have the best product. But if you’re disrupting an entire industry, you’re disrupting business models potentially, maybe even your own. You would need to make a decision, do I build a completely new organization, new business model, or do I adopt or cannibalize some of my existing practices in order for this to be successful. For innovation, and transformation, they are continuous processes, they never stop. Just because you’re ready to launch, the game is not over. The game is just beginning.”

See the video from FEI for more on Seth Adler’s conversation with Angelina Carvajal, as they discuss the momentum of innovation, the age of consumerism and the digitization of things.