We all know what happened to Kodak, Blockbuster, Compaq, Atari, and many other leaders in the past: disruption. Suddenly, a competitor came along with a sound value proposition, and customers shifted to a new product and a new service. But it wasn’t suddenly. It was a result of innovation.

To Be Disrupted or Be the Disruptor, That Is the Question

You can’t stop innovation. Either you do it, or it gets done to you. A disruptive value proposition is unbeatable. Once it raises its head out of the long grass, incumbents are forced into a race for survival. And it’s rarely the innovators who end up as the main course.

The reality is, you can’t outrun innovation. No amount of marketing muscle will save you. Isn’t that right Kodak?

So, if innovation is this unstoppable beast, why aren’t more organizations building it into their DNA? Why do many adopt a strategy that equates to “hiding in the long grass hoping disruption has already dined today”. Doesn’t it make sense to embrace innovation since it’s key to identifying, and executing upon, the next big opportunity?

Embracing Innovation: Where to Start?

Clearly, there are blockers hampering innovation.

“Our organization is not creative.”

“We’re no good at coming up with disruptive ideas.”

“Our sector can’t be disrupted.”

“We already know what customers want. We’ve been around for years and will be here for the next one hundred.”

“Innovation requires huge capital investment and a dedicated team to research and validate opportunities.”

“We are innovating. In fact, we come up with one new idea every year.”

“Our firm wouldn't know where to start, it’s complex, there are no processes.”

The good news, these blockers are not blockers. The thing is, a fair share of organizations doesn’t know where to start. But there’s nothing mysterious, haphazard, costly or complex about innovation: incremental or radical disruption is well within everyone’s grasp. 

So, where do we start? With a handful of simple processes, anyone can master in record time. In fact, we’re talking one month. Innovation is relatively simple once you get your hands dirty: master those processes, and simple-to-use tools and you’re off on a hack. You’ll move from taking one big, carefully calculated, resource intensive bet per year (at best) to dozens tested quickly in the hands of real users. Say goodbye to committing huge resources to validate your next big opportunity.

Testing new business ideas is something strategic, but organizations struggle to find time and space to test what could become the next generation of products and services. The go-to is to stay in the comfort zone of what we know: investing time and effort in short-term goals. Operating models are not designed to explore unmet customers’ needs, in particular, if the idea is radical or disruptive.

This can all change super easily. The processes and technologies to be able to explore, and design your future are here. All it takes is a different mindset and taking a few tips on board.

8 Tips to Embrace Innovation

1. Make a habit of listening to your customers’ problems.

Make a commitment right now to sit with five key customers each week and listen to their problems for 15-20 minutes each. Transcribe the details of what they say. Who can’t afford 100 minutes per week? Then plot a matrix of the trends you’re hearing. Master a few Customer Discovery techniques and you’ll never look back. Nothing stopping you so far, right?

2. Park your bias at the door.

How many times have you heard “we know what our customers want”? Of course (you think) you do! But it’s too easy to fall foul of confirmation bias. Hearing what you want to hear (let’s face it, you’re in sales mode) is the enemy of innovation. Hearing what you didn’t already know is a key ingredient of innovation. Think unknown-unknowns!

3. Run at least one Design Sprint every month.

These are techniques anyone can master. Worst case scenario, get a little coaching. There is no excuse for not running internal sprints. Reality is, you can’t afford not to.

4. Identify opportunities in batches of 10.

Don’t spend months trying to refine the “next big idea” before taking the plunge. Nine out of 10 new ideas should never get out of the starting block. The trick is to be ruthless. Steve Jobs had a motto about saying no to things a lot. Is your one big bet one of the 9? Validate in hours, not months. That’s the trick.

5. Build a quick working prototype.

Prototypes are not difficult to put together. A paper scribble should be your first prototype. The trick is getting in front of users quickly. Show your prototype to those who described their problems during Customer Discovery. Ask them what they would change. Change it overnight and get it back to them the very next morning. Sound impossible? Then you haven’t heard of low-code platforms. They don’t require an entire tech team to build or deep tech know-how. And they can be updated fast – in hours, not days or weeks. Check out this blog post to learn more how low-code can help you create working, scalable, prototypes, and speed up your application development.

6. Test and learn fast-working, scalable, prototypes.

Track what’s happening on your prototype. Don’t stay wedded to your original version. I’m telling you now it will change. Multiple times. If it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong. Don’t be the blocker. You’ll kill potential by trying to sell a prototype that could so easily have adapted to suit your customers' needs better and solve their problems.

7. Pivot or persevere.

Don’t hang on to your idea if the market – those early adopters who described their pain way back at Customer Discovery – is begging for change. Be open to pivoting your proposition. And when your users are jumping for joy, be prepared to execute fast.

8. Get a Digital Innovation Starter Kit.

Learn more about the “Digital Innovation Starter Kit” from BearingPoint Innovation Services. It includes the low-code platform from OutSystems. Sign up for your very own kit at: https://www.bearingpoint.com/en-ie/digitalinnovationkit/ 

Now, can you hear that? Is that the sound of your competitors-quivering in the long grass!