Researchers who search can be found. But Researchers who find are to be searched” (Charles de Gaulle, around 1967)
Beyond this joke, we shall all get disinhibited about Innovation. Innovation is not dedicated to GAFAM’s armies of researchers. Innovation is at hand for all and has always made the world go round.
However, the Digital Revolution brings new opportunities to innovate, in terms of products, services as well as conception and work methods. Of course, each company is unique. It is exposed to risks and opportunities of Digital Innovation depending of its past, its market, its means. The purpose of this article is not to design some kind of universal method to support innovation but to expand our decision-makers’ field of vision and lift existing barriers to Digital Innovation. More than on any innovating product or service, we will focus on the movement, on the fact that a Company can step out its comfort zone and dare experiment, search and find. Digital Innovation can and must become a continuing and managed process whatever the size of your company and its market.
First of all, why any Digital Innovation?
Digital Innovation can tremendously leverage your process to easily and quickly design new products or services. It will enable you to generate new incomes, to increase margins, to promote your brand, to gain new customers or to improve their loyalty. Not so bad.
But above all, innovating is an entrepreneurial initiative, based on movement and serendipity.
Having set up a Digital Innovation process, you generate ideas which deliver new ideas and so on, the same way success breeds success. Of course, all those ideas can’t be put into practice but among those ideas you are likely to find a golden nugget.
Comparing your ideas and concepts to users’, you will expose yourself to our specie’s evolution’ s raw material: serendipity, the way to find B while searching for A. Our history is full of examples of such discoveries based on serendipity: America, nylon, penicillin, micro-wave oven, post ‘it, Coca Cola … (see Wikipedia). This principle of serendipity fits well to Digital Innovation because you will quickly get feedback from users which are a wealth of inspiration and discovery.
Eventually, Digital Innovation is at your employees’ hands, no certification is required. A Digital Innovation process is a simple and efficient way to stimulate entrepreneurship and see unexpected leaders appearing. We often underestimate employees’ ability to innovate. Digital Innovation enables you to unlock and channel their energy. And it’s almost free as you have already paid wages.
How to manage Digital Innovation?
As any project, Innovation must be managed. It requires a guideline (or vision), means and a governance. Our experiences have highlighted the following key points, that are to be adapted to your situation
#1 A Vision
Your Digital Innovation shall apply to a very iconic topic and achieve the broadest consensus among your executive committee. As many departments as possible should be embedded and their contribution is to be stimulated. So, whenever its possible, let’s avoid ‘sensitive’ subjects.
Advice: choose a topic connected to already existing product or service, to take advantage of their existing customer base. You will get users feedback more quickly and more easily. You will also ascertain that the project is user centric.
We cannot overlook the fashion topics: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Blockchain or 3D Printing. However, those might be topics for a dedicated Proof Of Concept (POC) rather than support a Digital Innovation process. A Digital Innovation project shall go beyond the limited circle of experts and make sense to the highest number of employees. It shall also create value, which is not always possible in a short time when working out very technical topics. By contrast, providing an innovating service to a group of users is a less glamourous but probably more efficient topic.
Gather an operational team of 5 to 6 employees, coming from different departments and fully dedicated to the project for a 6 to 9 months period. Concentrating your means on a small team for a short period will prove much more efficient than dispersing innovation time and budget on a large number of employees dedicating 10 to 20% of their work to innovation projects.
Undertake an experimenting process, with its risks. Explain it to your managers and your employees. Turn your innovation projects into both internal and external communication media.
Dedicate a room to your project and turn it into a “Digital Room” or “Digital Factory”. It will provide visibility to your project. It’s also a great opportunity to test new office furniture and equipment.
It does not matter if you don’t attract the best employees with this first project as your process is a continuous one. Other teams will take over for the next step or the next project. You must expose the project and its team members to the light in order to encourage “intrapreneurship”.
The first step is to design your innovating product or service. It is imperative to build on a customer’s need. Hence, to gather a group of users which will feed you back on a regular basis. There are many ways to stimulate creativity and innovation out of this customer’s need. Design Thinking is one of them, to have new emerging concepts. Ask dedicated expert to support your process and your team.
1 week is enough to imagine and design new concepts, ready to be shown to the steering committee and be prioritized. Whatever the design method you choose, it shall provide results in a short period of time.
Right after this designing step, the Team will start building a prototype, taking advantage of internal and outsourced resources. The timescale of a digitally innovating project is from 6 to 12 months. It’s a high valued “commando mission”. Make sure to get users’ feedback regularly during this building step and to demonstrate the project achievements, in accordance with Agile Principles.
Once the prototype is effective, the company’s regular departments will gradually take it over and the project team will be phased out. A new sequence, with new team members and new projects will then get started.
Your Digitally Innovating Project might require some expertise you don’t have or take you to an oversized or long-term project. It may be time to partner with your eco-system, more precisely with Start-ups or Universities’ labs. They are often seeking for synergies. Technical topics already mentioned are quite relevant for such partnership: Big Data, AI, IoT, Blockchain.
Partnership with a Start-up or a University lab is an excellent and rather cheap communication medium both internally and externally.
Last but not least, your project team might develop a real entrepreneur spirit and ask to go further. What about considering the creation of a dedicated subsidiary?
Of all projects XPR Transition already managed, Innovating projects are probably the most exciting. We can support your teams, providing energy and ideas all along the projects.
To get started we offer a 2h free, non-bidding phone call. Register here to get called back as soon as possible.