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Innovation is a mindset, not an output. We do not measure innovation — we measure the results of innovation.
But what does innovation really mean?
Innovation is understanding your customer’s needs and designing products that meet them now and for the future. That statement is easy to make but far more difficult to put into action.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings famously stated that “most successful organizations don’t look for new products or services their customers want because they’re afraid to hurt their core business.” Netflix, like Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet, realized that if they focused only on thinking about incremental improvements to their core business, they would dramatically hinder growth. So they began thinking about their future customers’ requirements — and entire multi-billion dollar industries were born as a result: Netflix gave their customers streaming; Amazon gave them Kindle, Alexa, and AWS; and Alphabet’s X innovation group gave the world Waymo.
These world-changing businesses were born out of successful technology companies that managed to exceed their customers’ current requirements, without sacrificing long-term opportunities to leverage their core strengths.
Here are 5 tips for large organizations looking to innovate:
1. Create a culture where innovation (as defined above) is recognized and valued.
- It is very difficult to imagine a company that asks its employees to adopt the ideology of innovation without incentivization. FIS is as focused on the results of innovation as we are on the culture and the people driving it. We have made it an imperative to recognize, value and reward employees who choose to think big and act.
- Remember, everybody has a unique lens on the customer voice. Don’t overlook the weary customer support call center employee who knows your customers’ needs better than almost anyone. Motivate and incentivize your employees to innovate. There are a few large companies, like Amazon, that do this well. At Amazon, leaders evaluate an employee’s performance by asking their peers for examples of when they thought about how they could better serve their customers’ needs.
2. Create an independent, centralized innovation group focused on your customers’ needs.
Focus on serving your mid-term (2-3 years) and long-term (3-5 year) customer needs. FIS’ core business continues to show strong growth, and we remain focused on finding ways to exceed our customers’ near-term needs. However, we see a multitude of mid- and long-term opportunities within fintech to leverage the organic channels we have built to create immense value, quickly. So in mid-2020, we created FIS Impact Labs, a group focused on delivering value and results through innovation that is designed to rapidly understand future customer needs and respond with products that deliver significant value. FIS Impact Labs sits under the Chief Growth Office, affording it the independence to drive long-term organic growth without sacrificing focus on the core business.
3. Know your core strengths and be prepared to leverage them.
In order to accelerate the outputs of your culture and centralized innovation team, you must know and leverage your strengths. Examples of strengths include brand equity, partner channels, customer relationships, certain team members, and existing product lines.
4. Don’t be afraid to invest in the long-term. Big results can take time.
- Don’t expect instant results. It can take years for opportunities to mature. Amazon Web Services, Alexa, Waymo, and Netflix’s streaming service took several years to move from ideation to the mature products you see now.
- Provide an opportunity to pivot. The strategy and product may not always align, but the opportunity may still exist.
- With that said, don’t get emotionally attached. If a concept doesn’t work, move on to the next opportunity.
5. Not every opportunity you invest in will be successful, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable.
Remember the Amazon Fire Phone? While it may have failed, the components that came out of it seeded many popular products, including the echo devices that are now in millions of homes today.