"Curiouser and Curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for a moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
As a child, reading a turn of phrase like this one left me tickled. In my mind’s eye, I could imagine a young girl so filled with wonder that she might utter such gibberish.
Today, as part of the strategy team for a global provider of technology and services to the financial services industry, I find a similar feeling of wonder whenever I encounter a company that uses curiosity to drive innovation. For example, when an airline recognizes that travelers want real-time information on their flights and baggage, or to upgrade their seats from their phones; or when Disney simplifies everything at their parks so that staying, spending and sharing your experiences becomes too easy to leave or consider staying at a competitor property.
The ability to tap into a pervasive customer need – especially one that may not be obvious on the surface – is what turns great ideas into winning innovations.
In this two-part series, I’ll examine how curiosity and the drive to ask, “What if?” can make companies stronger, and encourage growth across business cultures, careers and leadership development. And I’ll show you how to separate transformative innovations from hype.
The 3 Cs
The FIS strategy team continually scours the global marketplace to identify emerging needs and opportunities to support the financial services ecosystem. That often means considering technology or solutions developed for other industries, but that already influence consumers’ expectations and behaviors.
- Connect – Assess current products, services, channels, and assets to determine if there is an opportunity to use them differently or connect them in a way that would add value. This is an innovative way to re-introduce or enhance existing solutions for the market, and it can have the most immediate benefit in terms of revenue and customer satisfaction. Consider how you might leverage APIs to support integrations if legacy infrastructure is a concern.
- Change – Evaluate how existing customers or members are using your products and services, and how they are delivered. It is quite common to find that a product or service has been adapted for a different use than the one for which it was conceived. Formalizing and delivering a product in a new way that aligns with a new value proposition or purpose can be very impactful. Additionally, changing the channel or delivery mechanism for a product can have profound benefits on how it is adopted and utilized. Be open to a fresh approach to delivery as well.
- Create – Creating something new is often the default goal for innovation strategies. In reality, this can be extremely challenging and can set your bar too high. Sometimes, reconsidering existing customer feedback can be a rich source of information that pushes you to find new, creative ways to solve a problem that already exists, or to create a benefit that drives loyalty, revenue and security. What are the most common pain points your customers vocalize and what do you observe about the way they are leveraging funds held by your institution today.
With that in mind, here are the “3 Cs” that can help you determine where to focus capital and resources:
As you can see, it all begins with questions. In the latest PWC Innovation Benchmark Report, those executives who were surveyed indicated that innovation was a primary focus or priority for their business. In fact, 65 percent of companies reported investing more than 15 percent of revenue into innovation initiatives. However, more than half (54 percent) of those same companies indicated that bridging the gap between their innovation strategy and business strategy is among their greatest challenge.
The report also highlights the risk of having so much invested within the critical alignment to the business strategy for success. You’re probably not surprised to learn that the primary barriers cited for the gap include a lack of qualified internal resources and an insufficient structure and process for vetting innovation concepts. If we look to some of the most innovative companies as a model, we can see some differentiators emerge.
In a recent article on the role of culture in innovation, Bain refers to the cultural shift that makes innovation possible as the “internal game.” When the internal game is fine-tuned, innovation thrives and drives both profit and differentiation.
As an example, the article cites an initiative by Domino’s Pizza to address a competitive gap in mobile sales. By engaging their store operators, equipment partners, and IT resources, they revamped store designs, equipment configurations, and digital interfaces, moving more than 60 percent of sales to their mobile channel. Further, there is a prioritized line-up of innovative concepts they continue to test.
An earlier edition of the Bain Innovation Assessment survey also highlighted the correlation between revenue and a culture of innovation. The companies in the top quartile of the innovation score model did have a formal strategy to test and re-test concepts quickly, thus vetting ideas before funding.
However, the study revealed there was another more critical differentiator: culture. The culture within an organization must be one of support for change, with an appropriate tolerance for calculated risks. The rewards are striking: Bain reported a five-year compounded growth rate that was three times higher for companies with well-executed innovation initiatives.
In part two of this conversation, we will focus on curiosity as a driver of culture, career growth, and leadership development. In the meantime, consider sharing your own insights on the role curiosity has played in your business. Is innovation a focus? If so, how are you fostering and rewarding curiosity?