Archive for: January, 2014

For innovation: listen to your customers but don’t believe them

Big data and analytics are going to alter customer experiences through personalization. But, companies should be wise get out of the building and not assume that big data is an innovation silver bullet.

As companies adopt social and big data technologies, automation and anticipation will become hotly adopted strategies to create or enhance existing offerings. For some industries, such as retail, providing the option for customers to order through their mobile phone is the first step towards automation and anticipation, and pretty soon we’ll start seeing people’s orders waiting for them before they even order them.

With all the data about customer habits it has accumulated over the years, Starbucks is a company that is uniquely positioned to do this. I don’t know the exact number of times the average person stops by Starbucks on their way to work, but I’m sure it is in the 3 day average.

That’s an ingrained habit.

But, even with some sense of certainty of what people might do, we still have to ask ourselves some questions: How will customers benefit from us anticipating what they will order today? At what point does novelty wear off? How will it make them feel? What would make them feel less uncomfortable?

What tools do I need to be an innovator?

What tools do I need to be an innovator?

This is going to surprise you, but you already have all the tools you need to be an innovator: your senses.

Simply put, opportunities are all around us. When we take the time to notice them, they can stimulate more creative thoughts within each of us. Contrary to popular belief, creative genius can be developed. But just like everything that is important, it takes work.

Studies have identified 5 core skills of successful innovators, these complementary skills form the Innovator’s DNA:

  • Associating. The ability to connect and combine ideas to form new ideas.
  • Questioning. The ability to probe and ask provocative questions that challenge the status-quo.
  • Observing. The ability to observe the world around you—including customers, products, services, technologies, and companies—and the observations help you gain insights into and ideas for new ways of doing things.
  • Networking. The ability to diversify your network to learn from others, not just hang out with people who are just like you.
  • Experimenting. The ability to try new experience and put ideas into action.

I would add visualization to that list too because you have to be able to communicate your ideas in the form of a sketch, drawing or anything that looks like a prototype. You don’t have to be an artist to be able to sketch ideas, you just have to be able to take what you see in your head and draw it with stick figures on a piece of paper.

This last point is very important because modern innovation methodologies require that anyone be able to understand context via observation and questions, identify insights, synthesize those insights into ideas in the form of a prototype.

For more specific tools that will help enhance the above abilities, here are a few that I use:

  • Mindmaps. I’m a self-c0nfessed mindmapper, and I’m still astounded at how little mindmaps are used. If you really want to develop your ability to be creative, to look at both the big picture and small, to think strategically; mindmaps will do you good. There are many mindmapping providers, I use Mindjet. But honestly all you need is a blank piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and you’re all set. If anything doing it in a piece of paper is more effective because it makes you put more effort into it. You can then use your smartphone’s camera to scan it, convert it into a photo, and share it with colleagues.
  • Journal / Recording tool. Beyond having something where you can write down thoughts and ideas, you want to have a “question bank” and an “idea bank“. Both will do wonders for your creativity and strategic thinking. Specifically, I use Evernote as my second brain because I can clip images, send photos that I take with my phone to my Evernote, record conversations and take notes.
  • Information consumption tool like Pulse / Zite / Flipboard / Feedly. You need a tool to consume information of news, blogs, articles, tweets, instagram shots, etc. A tablet with said applications makes it a powerhouse.
  • Twitter Lists. One feature that is still very much hidden from the Twitter experience is Lists. Which is sad because people are missing out on how to use Twitter’s  full capabilities. The ability to create lists to segment specific themes and people from Twitter’s main feed is very powerful because you it can help you separate the noise from what is valuable. On top of that, by segmenting you’ll be able to have a clearer picture of what is really going on in the world!
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Customer satisfaction is no longer enough, we have to create new expectations

exceed customer expectationsHere’s a pop quiz for you, do you think it is easier to be innovative if:

  1. you consistently aim for excellence
  2. you pursue excellence only after there is a crisis

If your answer is #2, pay attention because this post is for you…

I’m proud to say that the people and companies that I’ve worked with have always complimented me on, sadly something that isn’t common, my follow through.

Why? I have a sense of mission to get things done. As a result, I have issues with people with poor follow through.

For innovation: culture trumps office design

blu maya at ios offices tijuana

Blu Maya office at IOS Offices Tijuana

Innovation Labs, either accelerators or corporate bunkers, are now becoming commonplace. As a result, workspace design is booming.

Browse around the web, and you’ll quickly see articles about startups that have designed their workspace to resemble their culture. For established companies trying to create a culture of innovation, this means copying the same design mantra of most startups, but more interesting is how they are using gimmicks to get people to collaborate.

Up there with “innovation”, “lean startup”and “design thinking”, the latest word to make it to buzzword-bingo is “Lab”. Whatever you think the definition of a Lab is, it is not what you think. I see them more as a workspace that let’s people collaborate right there on the spot, not at an offsite space where only a special few congregate. If a company calls their workspace a lab, it means anyone can take their gear, desk, and move it to be close to their collaborators.

This means that what in the corporate world used to mean that the R&D guys were the ones responsible for creating the future (aka innovation), they no longer hold the distinction of being the official innovators. No longer is everyone else, just everyone else.

No, today innovation is everyone’s job.

Innovation Book Review: Disruption Revolution

disruption revolutionDiversity breeds innovation, and as I stated a few weeks ago when I shared with you a list of 10 books about innovation that I recommend you read, it is best for you to look far and wide about the type of content that you read.

Right now, the hunger for anything innovation is huge. There are enough sources that it is hard to decide what to follow and what not to read! In the last few months I’ve read material from other authors that just isn’t innovative. It’s just repackaging.

How many more books about innovation does the world need?

Complaining is not a strategy

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos starts his High Orde... Many companies may start their lives playing to win, but inevitably end up playing not to lose. It is this cycle of being proactive and then reactive that may become a fact for your organization.

Many books and blog posts have been written about the many reasons companies fail, a key reason is because they stop paying  attention to customers, and instead focus on competitors. It is a very interesting dynamic to observe how companies may start innovating but then decide to align themselves with their competitors…

The question is: why?

The answer comes down to human nature. Success hides problems, and our tendency to become complacent after having some success puts us in a state of reaction. As a result, competitor activity becomes a huge source of anxiety and frustration for company leaders. For me, a clear signal that a company may be loosing its footing is when it talks a lot about what competitors are doing and how they have to match them; not what they are doing differently.

Sure, other competitors may take advantage of trends in technology and ride a wave that ends up disrupting existing businesses; but very rarely are companies created with a deliberate need to crush existing companies. That happens after the fact!

It is very simple, the future happens to you, not other competitors.

Live Hangouts: Experimenting with digital ethnography

Tomorrow, at 12:20 PM PT I’ll be collaborating with Cirklo on the first part of an innovation workshop via a live Hangout session.

Just click play in the video frame below to watch and listen to our commentary. It will be conducted in spanish.

If you want to join the conversation, tweet @jorgebarba or @CirkloMx using hashtag #DoggyLab

Next week I’ll share with you our findings in a more detailed post.