Seven steps for legacy companies to drive disruptive innovation
To successfully bring ground-breaking products to market, companies should explore looking beyond their core offerings and establish the innovation function as a separate entity independent of the core business. To successfully design and launch disruptive products, organisations should consider taking the following steps.
Enterprises often stand in their own way by stalling disruptive innovations or ideas out of sheer loyalty to their core businesses. Inflexible organisational structures and legacy operating models often create blind spots, blocking out the sight of potential market threats. They are tentative about whether products or services built with new technology can produce the growth rates needed to satisfy shareholders.
Today, business and technology leaders in every industry recognise that best management practices and a healthy R&D budget are no longer the only ingredients to compete against volatile market forces. To successfully bring ground-breaking products to market, companies should explore looking beyond their core offerings and establish the innovation function as a separate entity independent of the core business.
To successfully design and launch disruptive products, organisations should consider taking the following steps.
1, Reframe the problem question in terms of customer experience.
Finding an opportunity in a problem often starts with reframing the situation from a customer’s perspective. Slowing revenue is often a critical indicator of a changing market. A natural company tendency is to ask: ‘How do we improve sales?’ Analysing the situation from a customers’ perspective could potentially lead companies to ask: ‘What is causing customers to leave their current provider?’
Companies need a repeatable approach to identifying innovations with high revenue potential. Combining big data with field research on behaviours and emotions to gain a deep understanding of customers’ motivations and desires is an efficient way to achieve this.
2, Adopt ethnography to mobilise ‘thick data’ for understanding customers.
Thick data is data generated by ethnographers, anthropologists and other behavioural scientists who study human behaviour and its underlying motivations. In placing customers at the centre of business decision-making, companies must combine data science with human science to gain a more nuanced understanding of their potential behaviours. Thick data eliminates the guesswork on customer attitudes. Combining big data and business acumen with field research on customers’ emotions helps the company assess the growth potential of the new product/service and how customers and their ecosystems use the products. This approach leads to insights about new business models, the messages that catch customers’ attention, and the new market segments waiting to be tapped.
3, Design a consistent user experience for customers across all channels.
Today, customers expect consistent experience across all digital touchpoints ? web, mobile and other new channels enabled by voice-activated assistants. Businesses need to apply the findings from the ethnographic study to design a customer experience model bearing in mind the challenges they want to solve and the events that trigger the customers’ use of the product. The experience delivered should be predicated upon the behavioural patterns and aspirations identified.
4, Excite your CXOs, business sponsors and investors with a strong business case.
It is imperative that companies conduct market research to precisely define their markets and businesses. Evaluating the following parameters and making adequate provisions to address them would help them build a strong case to win venture investors’ mindshare.
- Potential market size of the innovation
- Other players in the ecosystem, their market-share and activities
- Data-backed case studies to prove that the product addresses a revenue generating market.
- Estimated time on resource planning and training to operate the new service.
- An incisive plan to bring the product/service to the market.
5, Keep the implementation simple, flexible and adaptable.
Businesses should be prepared for constant change and innovation should be a continuous process. Today, a fully agile organisation has the wherewithal to roll out multiple product releases in a day and commit changes to production in less than an hour. Traditional product development release cycles take 18-24 months, which is far too slow compared to the agile development tools and methodologies that start-ups use. As changes are required on short notice and at higher frequency, building an agile organisation can help respond faster to the changing market dynamics with shorter product development lifecycles. This helps rapid decision-making and brings innovation to market quickly.
6, Consider a dedicated marketing and sales organisation as you launch the product.
Usually companies, when launching new products or services in the market, tend to insert them into their current sales and marketing organisations. Rather than integrating them with the current operating model, companies should consider creating a dedicated marketing team for the purpose. These products or services should be brought to the market independently and steered with dedicated go-to-market strategies tailored primarily for the new market requirements.
7, Turn operations and maintenance into an asset for continuous innovation.
With a micro-services architecture that focusses on building single-function modules and agile processes in place, operations teams can monitor service uptake in real time, detecting shifting market conditions in days instead of months. The innovation team should be empowered and channelised to focus exclusively on new product development.
Looking ahead: Foster a culture that supports innovation and accelerates change
Innovation should not be treated as a one-time phenomenon; it should be at the core of any business. Taking their cue from Silicon Valley, many companies have tried forming their own incubators. The idea is to bring together diverse teams to brainstorm and prototype several new products to sell them through existing sales and marketing channels. An increasingly popular option is to collaborate on digital product innovation with an experienced partner that has a start-up culture and scalable organisational structure. IDC Worldwide reports that business leaders and directors will increase spending on digital strategy and agency services, from $24 billion in 2019 to $38.8 billion in 2022. By working with a partner, businesses can circumvent a host of organisational barriers to innovation, such as politics, bureaucracy, and entrenched processes.
The new digital era calls for a different mind-set and for many companies, the practical approach to innovation is to engage an experienced partner with the ability to quickly ramp up a bespoke, seasoned team that can combine data science, human science and business acumen to conceive, build and bring new digital products to market at scale.