BrainTrust Query: What It Takes to Innovate
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Hanifin Loyalty blog.
Innovation is an objective that often floats aspirationally to the top of planning processes at the outset, but becomes suppressed, diluted and minimized as the practicalities of business take hold.
Attending the Badgeville Summit last week and considering what it will really take to create "innovative" customer loyalty solutions in the future, I’ve been giving thought to how we can really drive innovation in our business and what obstacles are most often in our way.
Four elements of project work are always present, and each of them has the potential to derail innovation. They include:
Adherence to a planning methodology: If you’re not planning with a proven methodology built for your industry or area of business, you can easily miss out on key points. Essential elements may be missed in launching a new product or campaign. That said, the methodology should be a starting point on which to create new ideas, not a prison that confines thinking and restricts options.
Reliance on best practices: Best practices may provide confidence and protect project sponsors from the criticism of their colleagues, but won’t necessarily result in anything ground-breaking or innovative. Use them as reference, but remember that there may be a new way forward.
The need for case studies: Almost every client asks, "Do you have any case studies for projects like ours?" What they really want to know, and sometimes ask directly, is "has anyone walked this path before?" When case studies do exist in parallel, they are great to borrow, but often we end up copying existing models because "we know they worked before." Innovation won’t flourish in this atmosphere.
Desire for quick wins versus longer term results: Fear and greed may drive Wall Street, but neither of these attributes result in consistently good outcomes for human beings. Fear is typically rooted in the organization, as few people wish to leave themselves exposed to criticism and second guessing if a project goes south. Greed shifts our focus from long term to short term. While a particular solution has the possibility of driving long term value for a business, there are short term goals to make, "quick wins" on the project plan to accomplish, and annual bonuses that no one wants to miss.
With multiple trips to Silicon Valley over the past few months, I’m convinced that the game-changers we read about think a bit differently. It’s good to retain the solid foundation that we’ve come to rely upon to drive business results, but we must constantly test the boundaries of our methods if we are to claim the title of "innovator."
Discussion Questions: What do you think are the main obstacles to innovation in retailing? What can be done to overcome the obstacles and foster innovation?