One of the most interesting things about my occupation as an industrial designer is that we tend to do our homework before transferring our findings to actual shape. What I mean is that we really do find an enormous amount of pleasure in revealing all about the problem before creating a solution for it. In the following I want to share with you what I have done with this achieved experience. Hence “Innovation success with the art of awareness”.
I work for Avalon Innovation, a top Scandinavian innovation company. During my time here. I have had the chance to implement a strategy of gaining inspirational Insight before solving a problem or issue for our customers. We are on a mission towards complete awareness. With a joint task force we are in the process of convincing the remaining customers to our approach. This includes changing perspective of why they should change their traditional way of thinking to solve current and future goals for their upcoming projects. Our aim is to direct them towards the questions -Why and for What reason, rather than the more conveniently used; – How can we solve this, how can we have the same or better features as our competitors… How can we succeed…? Is it at all possible for me along with my innovation consultancy colleagues, to change how our customers think? Yes, it is!
Despite being contentious, we force ourselves to invite our clients to think beyond the obvious, to challenge the accepted norm. You must be truly inexhaustible and know more about the truth in your efforts of questioning your customers core intent with weak goals and fuzzy business objectives. Goals that makes it close to impossible to measure against preferred outcomes. And above all, if you don’t define the goals in the right way, you will have a very hard time to elevate your innovation potential.
For most companies out there, who wants to increase their revenue and sales, the somewhat narrow sighted thinking seems to have been to supply their customers with a never-ending flow of more and more features. Others release their products despite knowing that in a relatively short time there is a shortfall in user expectations of wanted or unmet needs which are obsolete before the date of launch. I think many of us have experienced this.
Another very unfortunate scenario, is that many of those innovated needs, derive from in-house “professor’s” rather than from solid insightful knowledge. For example, via a proactive Voice of the Customer (VOC), with relevant stakeholders. Many companies try to prosper from cutting down development costs to a minimum and the creation of a properly made insight phase is never in mind.
Many of your new features will most probably also be copied by your competitors in the same manner or even slightly better than you did yourself just before. One thing is for sure, imitating and copying repeatedly, acting with the same behavior as your main competitors, never makes for real progress. With all due respect; this is not a flawed approach. If you have tried it for a couple of years and your business figures are break even or worse at a loss, it may be a good idea to make a significant change and leave the optimization stream once and forever. Please, feel free to reflect on the above for a while!
As the subject of countless articles and books go to illustrate, everybody can look up the facts on how many projects fail because a whole host of reasons. However, I strongly believe the most important of them is the missing part, that of genuine insight. It is our obligation as professional innovators to help guide and lead companies to get hold of the truth of where insight comes from and what total awareness feels like.’
Our objectives as an innovation and design consultancy has never been more pressing. We need to take on a more forthright leadership role with our clients. We need to work more honestly and collectively on re-establishing goals, because the things we’re aiming for here are so much more profound. This is about setting targets in a wider context based on better insight and a broader understanding.
When we start a new project, we initiate our work with the focus of specifying three kinds of main goals. The first and most important is to define the Effect goal, followed by the Product goal and Project Goals. To describe the Effect goal; ask yourself what effect you expect to gain from running the project in the first place. What is the value for somebody in your solving the problem with this specific product or that brilliant system?
You must be very precise with the effect goal since it must be defined as a measurable element or specified as a percentage. It should be written briefly and concisely in a short sentence. Something like, -The effect we want to achieve is a minimum of 50% return on investment. The answers to the follow-up questions (which can be numerous), of WHY you have chosen this figure or that percentage to initiate the project in the first place should also be noted. It helps building up our effect statement. All these questions should also be ranked and prioritized based on their importance, so you know what to focus on.
Being specific down to the last detail of exactly how much you should increase your revenue by, or what future market share your business should target, makes it a lot easier for all participants in the project team. Having a goal like – ‘We need to increase our profit with 20% to go ahead with further investments 2020…’ is a good start but needs to be supported and specified further. We must have all the answers ready before we really kick-start the project on whether it will be profitable in the first place. As I said before, the most important thing is to decide a precise number because this means that the effect goal later is both measurable and quantifiable. This means we will have a measure of success!
The other two main goals; the Project goal and the Product goal are almost as equally important in their own context and outcome. The Project goal is as plain as it gets, it’s the pure definition of what the project commits itself to deliver according to the project-plan, toll gates etc. and of course, for the product owner.
The Product goal should in turn preferably also be stated in one or two sentences. Clarity in a condensed form at this level is important when specifying the main function, followed by the specification of important and necessary sub-functions for what you are about to create. You are with this sentence more likely to generate significant and high-level ideas, which then potentially could be your next innovation. Have faith in the iterative development flow and a solution will fall into place. Ask all sorts of clarifying questions to get an even more precise and descriptive goal.
Recurring accolades clearly show that our method is a revelation for our customers. Now it is up to you to create your art of awareness and to get hold of that Innovation, fueled by insight. Enjoy!
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About the author:
Gert Hanner, Innovation Management Specialist & Senior Industrial Designer at Avalon Innovation