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What is Innovation (and why should we care)?

What is Innovation (and why should we care)?
August 24, 2018

We all seem to have some concept that innovation is good; innovation changes things; innovation disrupts our world (for the better); innovation is all around a bright glowing, yet oh-so-elusive prize that we should chase.

Yet, not so many people can articulate how to innovate. Even fewer can illustrate the tangible benefits of their efforts to innovate, even when they exist. And for those with apparent value are often unable to replicate them or to discern what about them was impactful.

To this end, your typical hedge fund places 10 bets with the hope that one to three of them outperform enough to make the bundle profitable at the high expected rates of return that make innovation seems innovative.

However, there are ways to improve your odds of generating innovations that matter and demonstrate ongoing tangible benefits.

To become a truly innovative company, you need to be data-driven. Without the richness of insights and the ability to form a hypothesis, test it, and learn from it, you’re blindly throwing darts hoping that you don’t end up in a blind alley. If you don’t reward failure while encouraging a constant questioning of why you do what you do in the way that you do it, you’ll end up rehashing the same banal solutions over and over again.

To become a truly innovate company, you need to be a truly data driven company.

That said, data itself, isn’t innovation. Until artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced well beyond its current stage, all the insights and measurements in the world won’t tell you what to do on their own. Taking cues from our data, we need to leverage well-honed tools such as Design Thinking to run ongoing Design Sprints and take those valuable insights into actionable ideas.

Further, we must foster a culture that celebrates failures as much as successes for the value of learning so that people take the risks that are needed to innovate. We can minimize the risk of our bets by taking them in small bites through aggressively defined minimum viable products (MVPs) and by using A/B and multivariate (MVT) approaches to beta testing more than layout and headlines.

We must foster a culture that celebrates failures as much as successes for the value of learning so that people take risks.

Finally, if you rely on disruptive innovation in a vacuum, while you might hit some scores, you’ll miss the real opportunity to continuously innovate.

Thinking Beyond Design

Innovation often means understanding otherwise unarticulated needs. In many cases, we design systems, experiences, and processes based on known building blocks and internal ideas of business activities. Worse, we often come up with “innovations” that are simply reconfigurations or redesigns of our as-is world with a “new and improved” sticker in hopes of generating fresh interest.

Instead, we need to break out of our fixed mindset to learn and feel what our users (customers, employees, and vendors) actually need. Rarely does anyone actually need a button on a screen. What they may need, however, is a simple way to access necessary information or an analysis to help them make a decision. Take it a step further and you may find that the true underlying need is even further removed from the button concept. Getting at those needs, and understanding the value of satisfying those needs is the first step toward identifying a direction for disruptive innovation. Innovation then comes as we look at apparent solutions from the conceptual experience of the target and work out possible technical and business solutions that fill the underlying need. When we solve those in an elegant manner that satisfies the core purpose, we are truly innovating.

Understanding the Success of Failure

Understanding the Success of Failure.

There is often more that can be learned from failures than from successes. However, without a systematic method and capability to understand the inputs and outputs and measure them against the expected results, our ability to learn from both success and failure is muddied at best and hopeless at worst.

Likewise, while it’s great to launch a successful product, it’s even better to be able to replicate that success over and again. Unfortunately, for most, that ability to regenerate success is elusive. Why? Because quite often we don’t know why we succeeded, only that something worked. We’ll take credit and form hypothesis after the fact, but without the data and thoughtful measurements before, during, and after, we are no better at predicting the future than your average economist.

Beat the Competition

Finding, understanding, and (re)creating success requires, data, insight, culture, and creativity. But even that may not be enough to generate the outcome that we need. That’s where speed and scale come in. To beat the competition, we need to time our innovations strategy right, and keep on innovating just like the venture capital model.

Global operations that support flexibility at the scale of business matter in this race. Doing so at a cost that is sustainable and effective makes everything hum right along. Global distribution can be a liability when applied poorly, or a boon if done right.

Enabling Innovation at Scale

With HCL Digital & Analytics it’s possible to achieve innovation at scale. Our years of experience across industries have honed a highly effective model for bringing together the components of business, design, and technology to operate digitally at scale with an embedded culture and mechanism to enable innovation that generates positive results over time.

We bring our robust FENIX model for managing product lifecycles across portfolios with agility and industrial strength to create sustainable operations that drive your business success. We infuse this with a culture of scientific inquiry that fosters precision and reliability along with human creativity that incubates disruption and delight. We back this with our global scale and spirit of ‘Ideapreneurship.’