Written November 2, 2015
Digitalisation is changing all sectors. Today we are on a journey into the unknown. There are more technological opportunities than ever before and technology is no more an obstacle to the business progress, but an accelerator. You realize this by simply comparing e-commerce in the USA with the Nordics, or by looking at Google’s creativity methods, or by visiting different start-ups at entrepreneurial events like Slush.
The digital revolution is forcing us to innovate, design and develop new services to ensure our own business is competitive. Innovation may be revolutionary, something that changes the everyday life for good, or a new idea generated by a sudden burst of inspiration; it can be a highly practical revelation from a totally different sector, or a simple solution based on customer feedback.
The most highly visible digital innovations are solutions that combine a customer experience with simplicity – making it quick and easy for customers to get things done. Take Über, Airbnb or Magic, for example.
I believe that the success stories of the immediate future will come from organisations that encourage creativity by networking without preconceptions and accepting failure without accusations, and that are not – despite the agony involved – afraid to drive changes through.
Creating something new requires openness
Creating something new rarely starts by analytically reeling off facts. The very first stage of innovation “the ideas stage” is not accelerated by being excessively analytical – especially if this is then followed by shooting ideas down. You have to be, of course, aware of the current business situation, and do your benchmarking, but creating something new always requires a broader perspective; an ability to see beyond existing limitations. Or refusing even to recognise these limitations in the first place! One good example is Volvo’s Roam Delivery concept, that HiQ helped to fulfil, in which the customer experience is improved by a solution that surpasses operational and organisational boundaries: https://www.hiq.se/Global/PDF_ENG/Volvo_Roamdelivery_140225_eng.pdf
The key is having the courage to throw petrol on the flames of an idea. In practice this means encouraging a culture of openness. What if, the next time my colleague comes up with a new idea, I were to encourage the idea by saying “Yes, and…”instead of starting with “But we tried something like that before…”
Research suggests that operational efficiency is at its peak in homogeneous organisations, while creativity is at its peak in those that are heterogeneous in terms of education, business expertise, gender, age, etc. In some way or other it is precisely this difference, and the many different viewpoints it involves, that encourages an atmosphere in which new ways of perceiving tasks and customer needs can emerge. Putting together too many people who are too similar can easily result in too many things being done in the same way they have always been done. In a constantly changing operating environment, this is extremely dangerous, as the pace of the most recent digital transition demands that organisations are capable of reinventing themselves, showing courage in going forward and being open-minded towards different target groups, both within and outside the organisation.
Change needs leading: from ideas to action!
If an innovation is not to remain a PowerPoint slide, a drawing on a flip chart or a momentary burst of wild enthusiasm – the brainstorming phase must be followed by linking the idea to descriptions that are concrete enough for its commercial value to be estimated. At this stage, analysis is essential! Today, there are a number of tools available for evaluating commercial ideas, from numerous business canvas models to start-up business evaluations, such as http://fundersandfounders.com/how-to-start-a-startup/
Innovation is therefore always linked to concrete aims and final outputs. Structures must be in place that ensure that ideas are turned into actual services and products – services and products that fits to the organisation’s operations and culture as effectively as possible. New services and products do, almost by definition, transform existing operating methods and processes, but the change they bring does not happen on its own; this is change that must be lead.
The technology provider plays an important role in implementing the change associated with new digital services, as the change is all-embracing. New digital services change both the scope of the action and the way the business is operated and orchestrated. Because of this, change will always involve both understanding a technical solution and adopting a new way of working. There is no return to the traditional model, in which the technology provider takes responsibility for nothing more than the technical implementation. Today, the provider needs to deliver more than simply code.
Testing accelerates innovation
Innovativeness can only be achieved if we accept uncertainty and the possibility of failure. There are lessons to be learned from failure: none of the major success stories have begun with a stroke of amazing good fortune, but with painstaking work and numerous let-downs. Once a sufficiently precise direction is clear, it is possible to test simple implementations like prototypes and thereby adjust the course, instead of having to start with creating a major implementation only to notice too late, that we are on the wrong track.
In a digital environment, creating something new does not have to be a black and white process that proceeds one step at a time. There is nothing that says that planning and design has to come first and implementation second. At its best, planning and design includes implementation and implementation includes planning and design.
When developing online services – and mobile services in particular – making prototypes is a fast and cost-effective way of testing ideas on end users. Reaching an end result that borders on perfection requires close mutual cooperation between supplier, customer and end user.
Cooperation opens up new angles
People learn from other people. When views and experiences are shared openly, everyone benefits. Doing things together and creating things together also makes the work more meaningful.
Cooperation should logically take place mainly within the organisation and together with different partners or vendors. But when it comes to innovation, extremely interesting results can be obtained when cooperation is seen in an even broader sense. There are already hints that the solutions of the future will be found through forums such as crowd innovation, where new ideas emerge by building networks between different customers and stakeholders. We are seeing more and more of this all the time.
Magic happens when the pragmatic people of the Nordic countries are brought together in the right way. We at HiQ look forward to being part of that magic. And remember, the digital transformation has only just begun. We have an exciting journey into the unknown ahead of us!
//Hanna Hagström, HiQ