How to Build a Culture of Innovation: Part 2 – Process
In this 3-part blog series, I have been sharing what it takes to build an effective culture of innovation. In my last blog, I talked about why companies need to invest in their people to drive innovation. The focus today is on why process is important.
One of the industry leaders in outlining how to implement an effective process is Lenati. It uses design thinking to help businesses make stronger connections with their customers and recommends a non-linear model of building blocks to structure the process in the form of discovery, ideation and testing. Lenati’s agile model allows organizations to easily shift focus from place to place, depending on the needs of the customer and internal teams.
So, let’s talk about each of these building blocks and how utilizing them can lead to customer-centric innovation.
Most organizations begin their process of innovation by defining a challenge or issue that needs to be solved, but this is not the only way to identify new opportunities. Sometimes innovation happens without even thinking about it (e.g. In part 1 of this series, I referred to innovations that were the result of accidents, such as penicillin and microwave technology). It also occurs when you simply take time to listen to customer feedback.
For example, one of EMC’s largest Asia-based customers expressed the need for better visibility into customer service activity across its multiple sites. Interestingly, the customer shared an example of a Comcast TV guide and asked the EMC team if it was possible to create something similar to show a real-time view of field service activity with the ability to drill-down on a specific area to learn more.
Customer feedback was critical for EMC to work through the discovery phase and then move on to ideation—according to Lenati, this is the time to ask questions and develop hypotheses to test.
Now we understood the desired customer outcome (a simple and real-time view of service activity). But, how would we actually achieve this using our internal operational data? EMC had already implemented a scheduling system to track the progress of field service engineers using their mobile devices. Internally, we use these metrics to help predict how long activities will take and measure productivity. However, we had not considered sharing this same data with our customers to help manage their service expectations. This is when the real creativity kicked into high gear.
The Comcast example shared by the customer was a great place to start. However, we also wanted to take inspiration from best practices across all industries—in our brainstorming, the Domino’s Tracker (pizza delivery) seemed to closely parallel what EMC customers were seeking. When ordering a pizza online, the Domino’s website displays a bar indicating the current status, tracking updates from when the order is placed, prepared, baked, quality checked, and out for delivery. It even notifies the user of who to expect and when: e.g. “John is delivering your pizza, estimated arrival time is 6 pm”. This essentially mirrors EMC service activities in terms of the field engineer travelling, arriving at the customer site, starting work and completing the job.
One good idea doesn’t equate to innovation. It needs to be cultivated, transformed into a scalable working prototype, and further enhanced by an iterative process of customer feedback and alterations (revisiting discovery and ideation). To address the needs of our Asia customer, we developed a prototype—the “Onsite Service Tracker” – to provide a customizable view of all service activity. Customers can drill down by individual site, specific service request or understand what is expected to take place on a given day. The tracker integrates the real-time mobile data from field engineers so customers can see the exact progress of their EMC representative.
The feedback from the Asia customer has been tremendous—the team is impressed with EMC’s ability to take what was a simple idea and translate it into something tangible to help them manage their business operations. By building this for the needs of the individual customer, but also designing it to work for the larger customer base, we have created a sustainable way to increase transparency and trust. EMC’s emphasis on testing continues as we prepare for an enhanced version of the prototype to be released to customers through our online support system in 2016.
To achieve the innovation your company and customers expect, you must create the right foundational processes to help you succeed. The most effective process approach will allow for fluid movement between discovery, ideation and testing. The combination of a disciplined approach with the openness to look beyond traditional examples is what will lead to the best outcomes for your customers. At EMC, what started as a simple idea based on a TV guide has transformed into a completely different and improved way to ensure we are exceeding customer expectations during their service experience (interact with the prototype and Customer Experience dashboards online).
What does your innovation process involve? Have ideas about how else we can improve? Leave a comment below.