Harnessing emotions is the key to leveraging technology to drive true innovation

By Richard Farnworth | 3 October 2016

From Pokémon Go to politicians’ use of social media to connect with the public, the speed with which innovations become part of day to day life is phenomenal.  But who is driving such innovation within ‘traditional’ businesses? Where are the free thinkers tasked only with creating the next idea that will transform customer experience or drive new revenue streams. 

Despite phenomenal technology change, too many companies are still reliant upon a slow, evolutionary, risk averse approach to transformation that fails to take into account the immediacy of today’s society. Yet from loyalty to commitment, a subscription economy attitude now dominates. Consumers actively embrace the new; and while the good becomes rapidly embedded, the bad is immediately discarded (often publicly via social media).  This transiency has changed the dynamics of interaction and businesses will need to think differently if they are to exploit technology to achieve differentiation.

Organisations no longer have the luxury of time to respond to customer problems or competitive innovation. To achieve the new levels of business agility requires both a simplification of technology and a culture of reuse. With simple technology and reusable components an organisation can quickly leverage ideas to introduce new products and services to customers. Of course, to derisk this model requires excellent governance, enabling diverse teams to collaborate effectively to drive business value. But by simplifying, reducing functionality and reusing components the speed of innovation can be transformational.

Ideas Factory

Of course, this is just the delivery side of an agile business model – where are the ideas coming from?  Who are the thinkers that can visualise the new ways of working that will transform customer engagement, for example? The problem for the traditional business model is that thinking has been based on a clearly defined need – from creating a more efficient gear box to the slow evolution of better customer service processes. But where is the ‘Candy Crush’ of traditional business – the completely different way of working that could drive unprecedented innovation?

If the dynamics of business need to be far more fluid than the regimented processes that have endured for decades, then the way in which innovation and differentiation are considered must also change. The focus should not be technology alone – in a digital world, mobile integration technologies, including Application Programming Interfaces (API) can enable organisations to achieve virtually anything desired, from new business models to services that transform the customer experience. The challenge is to create and capture the ideas; to harness the different thought processes of millennials able to challenge traditional ways of thinking and operating in order to leverage technology to securely and effectively connect people, devices and businesses in new, previously unconsidered ways.

Organisations need to embrace a new breed of ‘thinkers’ – an ideas factory tasked with continuous innovation within an environment that accepts the inevitable degree of failure. This is a model that rewards speed, agility and innovation – and offers great rewards.

Many organisations, of course, will believe such digital innovation will be constrained by the clear lack of technical experts coming into the workforce.  Is that however, really a problem? In fact, technical knowhow should not be a prerequisite of an ideas factory – quite the opposite. These individuals do not need to be weighed down by deep tech skills and understanding – they need the ability to dream up new, truly innovative ideas unsullied by the potential constraint of knowing what is technically possible.  Switched on employees also have an important role to play in evaluating the customer experience before any innovation is deployed. From internal hackathons to real-time experience testing, leveraging the expertise of those employees that match the customer demographic, where possible, can provide vital insight.

Of course, best practice governance and corporate agility need to underpin the transformation of ideas through technology development to delivery. But it is the way in which companies capture innovative thought processes from a new generation of thinkers, not the technology, that will increasingly define differentiation.

By Richard Farnworth, Country Manager UK & Nordics, Axway.

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