ows_innovation_methodology3In my discussions with business leaders across multiple industries the need for “Innovation” seems be in vogue these days. I don’t know if it is a sign of the recovering economy and the results of cutbacks in R&D during the downturn, or if innovation is just the newest buzzword or fad following the likes of “synergy,” “band-width,” “transformational,” and my personal favorite “out of the box.” As I began to hear the word “innovation” used more and more in conversations, it sparked a desire (dare I say obsession) with a need to know more. Now, I am no stranger to innovation. In fact, I have enjoyed participating in a number of truly innovative initiatives over the years including the reinvention of the Hampton brand called “Make it Hampton” and the conceptualization of the Home2 brand during my time at Hilton Worldwide. So, my study on the topic was based on some real world experience with the concept. After reviewing the most recent literature on the subject, studying some of the current best demonstrated practices, and mixing in my own past experience, I am convinced more than ever that “innovation” is not magic – at least to the magicians. I say that innovation is not magic because there is a process by which any organization can systematically become more innovative. The magic, of course, is in the execution of the process. 

First, let’s look at a definition. Innovation is “the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas.” Innovation is NOT the same as invention. Innovation takes what is there and makes it better. Invention is the creation of the idea or method which did not previously exist. Invention is more truly magic, while innovation is more like illusion. Innovation, since it uses existing products, processes, technologies, or ideas as its foundation, is quite well suited for a process or methodology. 

The key to successful innovation is to be “Outcome Focused.” Focus on improving customer outcomes at key touch-points the customer has with your product or service by focusing on understanding exactly what your customers wanting to accomplish (the benefits) at a given touch point with your product or service and discovering ways to improve how the customer obtains these benefits and what their feelings, emotions, etc. are at the outcome. 

As such, I submit to you the following 7 step methodology of innovation:

  1. Create a Customer Experience Map – Identify customer touch points with your product/service
  2. Identify Customer Outcomes – using your customer experience map, outline what the customer wants to accomplish at each touch point by customer segment
  3. Determine the Current State – Conduce customer research to validate your findings and uncover unmet customer needs
  4. Prioritize – find the areas to focus upon.
  5. Test – try your new innovations in a controlled setting.
  6. Implement – put your new innovations into practice more widely.
  7. Measure and Adjust – always be flexible to make adjustments.

Come back next week as we take a closer look at each step in the process. Send me your thoughts on innovation and take a peek at some of our latest innovations.

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