We all want to be more innovative. We embark on a new “very big deal” approach. It is highly visible. Lots of resources are devoted to it. It fails miserably. What is up with that?
Sustained innovation isn’t easy. It isn’t easy in a small organization and it is even more difficult in large organizations.
So who is going to lead the charge for the next one? In fact, should there be “a next one”? What will make the “next one” different?
A new innovation management initiative will fail unless we all can agree, and very simply articulate 3 things. It does start with the CEO but understanding and commitment is necessary at the C-suite and middle manager level.
What are the questions?
1) Why must we innovate?
2) Where must we innovate?
3) How much must we innovate?
Accenture conducted an international survey to take the pulse of today’s tech consumer. The results are sobering, as a decade of innovation and growth appears to be coming to an end. At least for now, we may be over the shiny new object.
According to Accenture’s findings, consumers are much less inclined to purchase new technology this year than they were 12 months ago. Not only have markets reached a certain level of saturation, but the pace of innovation has also slowed down a bit. Today’s new smartphones, while undisputedly better than they were two years ago, lack the killer features to convince the average consumer of the necessity to upgrade. 47 percent of those who don’t plan to buy a new smartphone this year stated that they are happy with their current device and see no need to upgrade.
As demand for the growth motors of the past few years slows down, it would be the time for a new generation of devices to take the stage. However, smartwatches, fitness trackers and other connected devices have yet failed to make an impression on the broad public. Less than 15 percent of those polled by Accenture plan to buy any of the aforementioned devices hailed as “the next big thing” this year.
Well worth reading and thinking through as an enabler of innovation. Adam really nails this one.
These technologies can be combined in numerous ways, and we are just starting to see companies really taking advantage of the possibilities. These four technologies will have a disruptive impact on your business, almost regardless of which industry you’re in. The question is whether you will choose to adopt them before a competitor does.
What are they?
3. Wireless connectivity
There comes a time where we have to make a decision. What will we invest in to make the donor experience stunning? It is a serious question and not a budget exercise. If we are going to be intentional and proactive, we need to make an investment. At first that may be just our time as a nonprofit executive. Eventually it will be about people, our processes, our strategies and our technology. If we don’t become intentional in our approach to our digital donor experiences we will continue to be haphazard in our approach; reacting, responding, solving toxic experiences in real time. This intention however must be about heartfelt experiences. It must create a passion from our donors for our mission as a digital nonprofit.
There is of course, a very real cost to reacting. Scrutinize your budget and you will see that most of our fixed expenses are reactionary. What if we invested in proactive and intentional experiences for our donors, from the heart, up front? Could we radically reduce our reactionary and bloated fixed expenses? In fact, my guess is the reactionary expenses vastly exceed proactive expenses. I know nonprofits that are ramping up their expenses in reactionary engagement and relationships. The good news is that they are succeeding in shifting the negative to neutral or even the positive.
So what is the outcome of taking a negative and balancing it with a positive donor experience? Is it donor engagement or damage control?
So what is the cost and value of neutralizing the negative donor experience? Shouldn’t we start with the amazing?
What is the return on that investment in the stunning?
What is probably most concerning is that most of us are not measuring much of this in terms of the donor experience. And why are we struggling to generate more donations? Now think about that question. Why is our revenue flat? Why are donors not engaged and not renewing their gifts?
Is the experience we are creating wonderfully sharable? If not, what is our investment over the next 3 months going to be in changing that? We must invest in not only a positive experience but an experience that screams out for our donor and clients to share it with everyone they know. That encourages others to join in. It also offsets any negative experiences anyone else has shared. Think about it. We all read the ratings and comments. If there are 100 over the top ones we can ignore the one that is virally negative writing it off to a weirdo.
What is the biggest deal for our donors? Trying to offset the negative experiences or proactively creating amazing ones? Creating amazing ones is everything. That is not an exaggeration. You know, from your own experiences as a donor, that it is true. The cost of reacting is always eclipsed by the upside of the stunning.
Think of what you want. You are a donor. You are the donor who wants something from your nonprofit you are investing in. Are you looking for the ordinary? No, you are looking for an experience, no, the experience.
Any nonprofit that recognizes you, remembers you, and gives you an amazing service experience will win your heart. And it is all about your heart. You will be loyal to them no matter what. That is what we know as relevance. A passion of our heart that transcends anything else. What would the answer be if you asked you donors the following question: Can you imagine the world without (XYZ Nonprofit)? On a scale of 1 to 10, what would your average rating be?
And so, that heartfelt experience is not just a so-so something. That heartfelt, amazing donor experience, is everything. That kind of vision is the father of innovation. Who needs the mother of invention in that kind of world?
You have a number of alternatives before you as a nonprofit executive. Which will you choose? One filter should be which of the experiences will create an emotional connection to your mission. Have you factored that into your decision analysis? You can actually measure the difference in terms of engagement. Does one alternative improve engagement or not? Some level of rigor in measuring the results will help.
There are constraints in terms of investments. Consider small tests with some level of “A-B” spilt analysis. “A-B’ tests are not just for the marketing department.
Here are the key ideas:
- There is a difference in the mediocre / ho hum donor experience and the stunning. Begin to believe in the amazing. If inspires you it will inspire your donors.
- Decide you are going to decide. Not seeing you have alternatives can create inertia that can undermine progress.
- Reacting to donor pain points is a “net zero” game. It stops the bleeding but doesn’t improve your health. You do need to stop the bleeding however. It can’t be ignored.
- Having stopped the bleeding if you need to, start investing in the stunning. It is one thing to prevent a problem, it is another to improve your wellbeing.
- In considering your investment in the amazing donor experience, test your alternatives to help make the decision.
There is a shiny, new toy available. It isn’t your toy. What do you do?
You need your own strategy framework for product innovation. It is probably a losers game to always be reacting to someone else. It is imperative that you and your leadership know where you are going, how you are going to get there and have a rigorous continuous improvement process in place.
And whilst we use these to identify specific trends, there’s also one overriding meta-trend that we’re continually struck by: on an absolutely global scale, the quality and quantity of innovation is relentless, fuelled by – and at the same time fuelling – consumers’ insatiable NEWISM.
The “shiny, new toy” isn’t going away. Here are 5 strategies to consider.
- Focus on and Invest in the Traditional Business
- Ignore the Innovation — It’s Not Your Business
- Attack Back — Disrupt the Disruption
- Adopt the Innovation by Playing Both Games at Once
- Embrace the Innovation Completely and Scale It Up
Which one is right for you? Consider MIT’s suggested approach based on your motivation to respond and your ability to respond.
Everybody is on the innovation bandwagon. It is the “buzzword” of the year. Unless what we are talking about is disruptive, we are probably talking about monumental change and change management.
This may be the “elephant in the C-Suite” but it is an elephant none the less. Innovation is great but it may not be what is really necessary. Change is important and done well it will be very disruptive.
Got innovation? Just about every company says it does.
Companies throw the term “innovation” around but that doesn’t mean they are actually changing anything monumental. Leslie Kwoh reports on digits.
Businesses throw around the term to show they’re on the cutting edge of everything from technology and medicine to snacks and cosmetics. Companies are touting chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies and even innovation days.
But that doesn’t mean the companies are actually doing any innovating. Instead they are using the word to convey monumental change when the progress they’re describing is quite ordinary.
As digital executives, we need the courage to lead a digital transformation and we need the wisdom to listen to our customers. This is the age of the customer. The customer is in control. For the customer, you are who they see and connect with digitally. If you are not digital, you are increasingly become irrelevant for most customers. That may be painful to hear but it is reality. There is good news. You can transform your business. In the age of the customer, business is digital.
In a world where technology is empowering customers like never before, you can help them discover your company, explore who you are, buy from you and engage with your brand and products. It is clear that the speed in which consumers are embracing this world is one of a dizzying pace. It is easy to feel like you are woefully behind. We all feel like we are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.
As digital executives, we must lead our companies into this new world. We can’t delay. We must have a sense of urgency. We must transform, not evolve. We can’t afford to be the dinosaur.
We must embrace the challenge of engaging the digital customer. Their experience of us is the only thing that will matter to us in the long term. We must drive agility. A slow pace will kill us. We also must drive efficiency through digital operational excellence.
This is a clearly a challenge. It is a tall order. It is hard stuff to be sure. Rest assured there is help to make this journey.
The Bottom Line: Digital Darwinism Is Unkind To Those Who Wait – Disruption is waiting around the corner. Speed is of essence. Delay is not useful. Now is the time to have a sound, effective and speedy digital strategy. Transformation is essential. Read more here …
Transformational leadership is needed and it is needed now – Leadership in the digital transformation world is purposeful in its approach to creating a long term sustainable change. Change efforts will be designed in a top-down approach in some cases. And they will be constantly refined from the bottom-up. Employees are not expected to conform as much as they are expected to be involved and engaged. The communication approach of digital executives is more like a campaign rather than a carefully refined command and control approach. Change activities are more likely to be a refine and reinforce approach. Read more here …
Do you have an innovators heart for your company mission? Where is the sense of urgency? – There is a gap that is growing in your company. It is the gap between the connected customer, their expectations and the programs, products and services you are offering. 80% of the U. S. adult population uses the internet. Most of them have smart phones or will soon. Most of your customers are constantly connected from the time they wake up to the time they go to sleep. As companies, our reality is a digital world. And so do you have a sense of urgency to bridge the gap? What does it take to compete for the hearts of your connected customers? Do you have a plan? Is that plan funded? Read more here …
Do I have enough courage to be a digital executive? – We live in a digital world. Our business is essentially “eBusiness”. If not so much today, then surely soon. The alternative is probably to be out of business. Some great questions to think of:
- Can I be shrewd enough as a business leader?
- Am I digitally savy?
- How competent am I technically?
- Am I ready to be a transformational leader?
More than all of these things, we need courage. The road isn’t always easy. We have a vision and can marshal the resources. Can we be bold enough to see it through to the end? Read more here …
“Companies who are not thinking hard – across the executive suite – about how they will position themselves in the digital landscape may find themselves woefully unprepared for the next ten years.” ~Lindsey Anderson – Many of us face an interesting question. Who will lead the digital charge in our company? Why is that important? Read more here …
How to be ready for digital disruption and the rough road ahead – A central question to answer as a digital executive is “Is my company ready to be disrupted?” Critical to this question is the premise that you are going to be disrupted fairly radically if you don’t get ready. Do you personally believe a “radical change” is happening now? Of course, if you don’t believe that, no need to ask the question. Read more here …
Digital transformation is turning every business into a tech business – Disruption is here or at least on the horizon. The cost to start up and create new models of business have come way down. Some aspect of your business that should be digital right now or soon needs to be transformed. Maybe it is your whole business model. Trust that someone else out there is already doing it or will be soon. Now is the time. Today is the day. Embracing digital transformation is a key initiative for every executive. Customers get to decide. They are in control. Are they happy or about to jump ship? Read more here …
This makes so much sense. It is the combination of technology that becomes so powerful in this model.
Well worth reading and thinking through as an enabler of innovation. Adam Richardson really nails this one.
These technologies can be combined in numerous ways, and we are just starting to see companies really taking advantage of the possibilities. These four technologies will have a disruptive impact on your business, almost regardless of which industry you’re in. The question is whether you will choose to adopt them before a competitor does. The Four Technologies You Need to Be Working With – Adam Richardson – Harvard Business Review
What are the technologies to combine to innovate?
3. Wireless connectivity
Earning relevance with your customers requires much more than the adoption of the latest technology or being on the social media flavor of the month. All of that can be for naught if the experience wasn’t enjoyable, didn’t meet the customer’s needs or was too complex. All of your innovation should about the user experience and simple design. All of your innovation should be about understanding what customers need and then solving them in a simple, enjoyable way.
Technology and channels must be chosen with the fact that it will enable the customer journey and engage them in your mission. If you don’t know that it will, perhaps a small test is in order. Channels should be chosen with an end in mind for the customer. What difference does it make if you are on Pinterest but none of your customers find that helpful?
With all the technology opportunities you have in front of you, where do you start? This is where your goals and strategies come into play. The key is to match technology investments with goals to improve the overall unified experience your customers want and need. The tough work is to prioritize opportunities with investments that have a customer experience return. That will help develop a culture for recognizing an emerging technology to adapt to the right platform before someone else uses it to disrupt you.
Technology can be very disruptive if someone else solves a customer problem or obstacle before you do. If the technology they use makes it easier, more enjoyable for your customer, loyalty will go out the window. They become relevant and you lose relevance. If it happens enough with enough customers, your mission suffers tremendously. Is that happening now?
It is important to leverage investments in disruptive technology through the filter of your long-term strategy combined with a deep knowledge of your customers needs.
If you are investing in every social and mobile platform, are you becoming a jack-of-all trades and a master of none?
Solving a real customer problem, with the right emerging technology that is enjoyable and simple is in fact a game changer.
Apple gets voted as the most innovative company in the world by R&D professionals. In the survey, conducted by Booz & Company, almost 80 percent of the respondents named Apple as one of the three most innovative companies in the world. Google is a distant second with 43 percent of the respondents naming the search engine provider in their top three. This result comes at a time when many are starting to wonder whether Apple has lost its magical innovative touch. Although the company recently updated its entire product range, people are missing revolutionary new features from the company that re-imagined the mobile phone with the iPhone.
What’s interesting is the fact that Apple has the lowest R&D intensity (the ratio of R&D investments to a company’s sales) of all companies in the top ten. In fiscal 2011, Apple spent 2.2 percent of sales ($2.4 billion) on research and development. Google and Microsoft, two of Apples main competitors, each invested more than 10 percent of sales in R&D. Overall there is surprisingly little correlation between R&D expenditure and perceived innovativeness. Only three of the top ten R&D spenders in 2011 made the list of most innovative companies as perceived by the industry experts.
This chart shows a ranking of the most innovative companies in the world, based on a survey among 700 high-level R&D professionals.
The customer journey is evolving (albeit very, very fast). That shouldn’t surprise you but it is good news. You haven’t been left behind completely. Your customers have changed though. Their experience of you and your mission may not be what any of us would want. In this case, relevance is defined by how relevant the experience is. Passion for your products and services is contingent on amazing experiences.
How you personally decide to react or lead is up to you. It, of course, is not about technology. What is the journey of getting closer to customers and staying relevant really about? Here are some ideas:
- Creating a culture built around the customer and their experience being the focus of all you do.
- Empowering employees to do what it takes to create amazing experiences.
- Opening up the floodgates of innovation.
Saying we want to get closer to customer won’t get senior management on board. While a customer revolution is at the C-Suite doors, someone (meaning you) needs to convince the top that change is imperative. Without that we will fail.
You know that most executives don’t use social networks personally. While they have smartphones, their primary utilization is for email and looking at the calendar to know where to go to next. The reality is that most in the C-Suite won’t read this won’t read this book. Trying to make a case that this is about technology will be a losing battle.
What is the future of companies built on? It isn’t about how Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, tablets or real time-time geolocation check-ins evolve. The future of companies does depend on relevance and the ability to at least understand technology to be able to make decisions about new opportunities. It does require the ability to strategically adapt to the new opportunities to create a competitive advantage.
So much of this is about change. There is a technology revolution occurring. Other companies understand this. But it is also about a whole series of real-world revolutions that are seizing how your customers live which impacts their experience with you. Expectations are moving fast. You can’t afford to get left behind. The kind of change we are talking about involves three things:
As a digital executive, you can create the culture to make the change. If you can’t change the company, you can change your department or work team. You have a sphere of influence. You can make an impact.
Rick Johnston is a Vice President for ICF Interactive (an ICF International company) in Richmond (Glen Allen), Virginia. He is also the Team Leader for ICF’s association group practice. Follow him on Twitter @rjohnston. Rick joined Ironworks Consulting in July 2005 and helped grow the company over seven years before it was acquired by ICFI in 2012.
Rick has worked on Web strategy with such clients as the American Cancer Society, American College of Physicians, American Institute of Architects, EDUCAUSE, American Council on Education, School Nutrition Association, ISACA, The Nature Conservancy, PBS, National Wildlife Federation, Discovery Education, Dominion Resources, NASDAQ, and the Veterans Health Administration.
What does innovation look like? Someone recently told me that innovation is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Does it result in an invention? Does improving something count? Definitions differ greatly but I would offer the following need be true for something to be an innovation… (1) it must be a new concept within its applicable field; (2) it must produce results that are deemed valuable; and (3) participants must be willing to accept the risk of failure. Continue reading
Frank Barrett, author of “Yes to the Mess,” describes why being uncomfortable spurs creative thinking. I love it because he uses examples from Jazz innovators to describe how disrupting routines creates innovation.
There is a great story about Miles Davis and an innovation he brought to jazz. What was the result of this innovation? The highest selling jazz album in history to this date. And this was in 1959.
Worth a quick 3 minutes of you time.
I am a big fan of the work that Constellation Research does. We have lots of lists that writers develop of things “to do”. Richie Etwaru a Constellation Orbit author and Group Vice President, Clouding and Digital Innovation at Cegedim Relationship Management has developed a list of things CIO’s shouldn’t do. The list is from over two decades of his observations in first, second and third person. Before publishing he asked over 50 Fortune 1000 CIOs and CTOs to review and comment; their feedback is included.
At the core of everything below is going against the grain and the herd, and embracing counter intuition. Whether you embrace counter intuition systematically, or selectively, most of the items below are suggesting in their cognitive DNA counter-intuitive thinking. via 10 Things Most Exceptional CIOs Never Do | Constellation Research Inc..
The list below is from over two decades of observations from Rithie. At the core of everything below is going against the grain and the herd, and embracing counter intuition. Some of these make sense. Some I admit I need to think about more. Challenging the status quo is a good thing.
- They do not try to define innovation.
- They never have secret projects.
- They are never surprised by failure.
- They never start projects themselves.
- They resist the need for PMO.
- They do not break projects into phases.
- They never worry about a target state.
- They do not try to build hero products.
- They never wait on innovation.
- They do not read leadership books.
Sometimes you just have to say that the Emperor has no cloths on. What does innovation really mean? Why has every CEO committed resources to “be more innovative” but hasn’t produced results from their efforts? Is being innovative more about “feeling good” than anything else? But the real question is will innovative efforts produce the business results that are needed to be profitable.
Sometimes things go astray thinking that the more ideas you have, the better off you will be. You see it when Starbucks proudly proclaims that they have received over 100,000 ideas from their on-line suggestion web site. You see it when IBM brags of Idea Jams that generate many tens of thousands of ideas. You see it whenever a company boasts of an innovation initiative solely based on the number of ideas collected.
Use of the word innovation may need to be banned by CEO’s and they should force anyone using it to define what they mean and the results it will produce. At the end of the day, we need to produce more results for our business. Who cares if it is innovative or not if it improves the customer experience and produces more loyal customers?
The innovation cult is dangerous, so avoid becoming enslaved by a word that, in reality, has lost meaning. At the end of the day, results will be measured by your ability to accomplish business results; not your technical achievements. Unfortunately that’ll only get harder as the cult intensifies. Peter Waterhouse, Senior Technical Marketing Strategist at CA Technologies. Peter is co-author of the bookService Management Process Maps: Your Route to Service Excellence.