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Jeffrey Phillips

Quality Insider

Where to Focus Your Innovation Effort

Where, in the customer’s experience, is the greatest amount of needless complexity?

Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - 12:18

OVO Innovation has done a fair amount of innovation work in the banking and financial sector. I wouldn’t call us “experts” in that space, but we've spent time there, and we’re always interested in the new ideas that percolate in the industry.

It was with great interest that I read a synopsis of a presentation given by Jeffrey Pilcher, CEO, president, and founder of The Financial Brand, at Forum 2015. His talk concerned a key innovation target. It wasn’t about customers, needs, or products but about saving people time by reducing complexity.

Many times clients have debated about the best innovation opportunities—from opening a new market segment to creating a disruptive product. But many of these factors miss a key point: The vast majority of customers, as Geoffrey Moore and others have demonstrated, are early or late majority, unlikely to change, and unwilling to change unless there’s a really powerful value proposition. In that case, while we as innovators need to think about compelling new products and services, we ought to first decide which of three or four key factors we want to improve that really matter in people’s lives. Pilcher does an excellent job explaining why saving time is so valuable. When people are already overwhelmed and want more time for themselves, he says, banking is complex and takes far too much time.

Key factors to improve

So, if saving time is one key factor to improve, what are the others? I’ll argue that it’s a relatively short list:
• Reducing complexity, simplifying usage
• Improving customer experience
• Improving usability or design to create intuitive solutions
• Integrating disparate but dependent activities

Pilcher has dealt nicely with saving time, and notes that the way to do so is to remove complexity. I’d have gone further in the banking space to argue that improving customer experience, in all channels and in all interactions, is vital to improving experience and saving time.

Apple has proven that design and intuitive solutions are valuable innovations because they simplify consumers’ lives and make adopting new products or services much easier to accomplish. Apple (with iTunes), and others, has demonstrated the power of integration—combining disparate activities that were important but difficult to accomplish into one, hopefully simpler, integrated solution.

In the end, most people are trying to solve fundamentally simple problems that typically are based around these issues. To use a medical analogy many innovators often have a hard time differentiating between symptoms and the real underlying illness.

Innovation outcomes

Beyond the confusion of symptoms and illnesses, there are other unfortunate perspectives that corporations introduce. Many innovators put the cart before the horse. They suggest that they need a new widget or product that will generate X amount of revenue or profit, and argue that they can get this return because the idea will add more value or features for consumers. Instead, they should build their assertions beginning with the most basic outcome for consumers. The new widget will save time, reduce complexity, and improve customer experience. This will attract new customers and win over customers from other vendors, leading to new revenue and new profits.

Where you start your thinking, what you base your outcomes on, matters in the end. Innovation to drive new revenue and profits is an internally focused activity that will be shaped by internal needs. Innovation to change lives or experiences is an externally focused activity that will be viewed and understood as such by consumers, and will be shaped as such through the innovation process.

What does this do for the consumer?

The first question we should ask is, “What does the consumer want to overcome or resolve?” Yes, the consumer has a “job to be done” and can do it in many different ways. Ultimately, though, innovation should reduce the workload, reduce the complexity, and reduce the uncertainty. We at OVO always talk about innovating from the customer’s perspective. Customers don’t necessarily want new stuff; they want better lives, more time, and interesting experiences. Use these as your starting point for defining your innovations, and let that lead you to new products or services.

Where, in the customer’s experience, is the greatest amount of needless complexity? What factors or features consume time but don’t provide equivalent value? What disparate capabilities or needs do people have that must be accomplished and that could be easily combined? If you want to know where to focus your time as an innovator, there are worse places to start than by answering these questions.

First published May 13, 2015, on the Innovate on Purpose blog.


About The Author

Jeffrey Phillips’s picture

Jeffrey Phillips

Jeffrey Phillips is the lead innovation consultant for OVO, which offers assessments, consulting, training and team definition, change management, innovation workshops, and idea generation space and services. Phillips has led innovation projects in the United States, Western Europe, South Africa, Latin American, Malaysia, Dubai, and Turkey. He has expertise in the entire “front end of innovation” with specific focus on trend spotting and scenario planning, obtaining customer insights, defining an innovation process, and open innovation. He’s the author of Relentless Innovation (McGraw-Hill, 2011), and 20 Mistakes Innovators Make (Amazon Digital Services, 2013), and co-author of OutManeuver: OutThink—Don’t OutSpend (Xlibris, 2016).