The opportunity to innovate takes different paths. And while any direction must be grounded in organisational identity, the fork in the road is usually signposted revolution this way, incremental status quo that way.
But as summarised in a recent Knowledge@Wharton article about David Robertson’s book The Power of Little Ideas, there is a third path he describes as looking “around the box”.
From the article:
“To see innovation in that binary way is dangerous. Most people in most companies doing most of the innovation are focused on that current product that needs to become more competitive. Maybe it’s competitively challenged; maybe it has become a commodity, whatever. What I liked about the approach of Lego and Sherwin-Williams was that it was focused on that type of innovation: How do we take our existing product and make it more compelling, make it more valuable for our customers?”
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In recent weeks I’ve been tackling the different aspects of my brand formula:
Identity X _______________________________________ = brand
And today I’m looking at another way to improve experience.
Products and services (called products from here on) are the centre of experience for both employees and customers, so it never hurts to have another way to think about how to keep them relevant. What I love about Robertson’s thesis is the evolution, not revolution approach.
To learn more about why you should practice evolution not revolution click here.
When organisations are in a rut, the easy targets are the brand and products: “Our brand is dated.” “Our products are stale.” The first mistake is thinking those things are somehow separate. The brand is the result, the answer at the end of the equation, so let’s take it out of the firing line and focus on products.
No progress in organisational experience (employee or customer) can happen without consideration of the products being developed, supported, purchased and used. They are deeply entwined — product begets experience, which in turn shapes the product.
Now your products and services might be in dire need of some updating, but for today let’s assume there is a solid core.
Back to the article:
“It starts with that question, ‘What are our crown jewels?’ Lego asked the question, ‘What would the world miss if we were gone?’ And what they found was that people would miss the brick, the plastic brick…”
So that’s a great question. What’s your lego brick? Understanding that is the first step in any evolution. First, know what not to change. And that’s hard to do. Because we’re wired to think of innovation as change, not keeping things the same. But in Robertson’s approach, the change is what circles the brick.
How do you find the opportunity? The article suggests:
“…going out and talking to those customers and watching them use the product. Watching kids play, or watching a contractor paint a house: That’s what you have to do to understand where other innovations might make that crown jewel more valuable to a customer”.
The fantastic struggle is that doesn’t feel big enough. Even though every organisation will recite the mantra of learning from the customer, few approach it with the kind of genuine curiosity needed to see what they care about. Weaned on transformation, disruption and game-changing, it’s hard to think little.
But I think this other way is worth taking a look at. Great brands through time have stepped over familiar terrain to find ways to be more valuable (yes even Apple – read the article).
If you’re going to get to that brand result you want, and are serious about the experience, you need all the tools you can get. And there are times when revolution is the only path open to traverse, or a new version of the current thing is the best option.
There are also times you need to find your Lego brick. And get to work on the experience to make it more than a brick.
See you next week.