Author: Olly Chubb, Strategy Director, Design by Structure
Technology enables innovation to happen – but it is not why innovation happens.
Thousands of businesses have the capability to ‘innovate’ – to create something new, or something better. What separates successful businesses is not whether they can do something, it’s whether they know why they are doing it. There is a huge distinction here, let’s look at that further.
The most successful businesses deliver more than linear, incremental improvements that make something better, faster or smoother. Instead, they harness a deep understanding of their customers, not just observing how they currently behave but revealing and understanding their pain points, interrogating what really matters to them and identifying new opportunities to create meaningful change for them.
These businesses can rethink the sector/customer problem, approaching it from a fresh and original perspective, reframing the context and transforming expectations of what ‘better’ means.
As the classic Henry Ford quote goes, “If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. He could have bought the fastest horses, bred them to be even faster and become rich. He didn’t. Why? Because he understood that, although his customers might not have articulated it directly, the problem wasn’t just about speed – so the solution wasn’t just about being faster. Instead, he built a new mode of transport that exceeded expectations and transformed the landscape forever – and he became extremely rich!
In short, technology enables innovation, but the smartest innovations are driven by insight – and so too are the smartest businesses.
It can be easy to forget or overlook this, not least when businesses are running full speed to improve and when there seem to be more options for improvement than ever. The most ground-breaking innovations are not remembered because of the technology, they’re remembered because they transformed businesses, cultures and industries.
We need to think of technology and innovation as having a symbiotic relationship in business. Insight is the catalyst for this change. And by putting it at the heart of every decision and using it to constantly challenge and rationalise why they should do something, businesses can streamline activity, optimise resource and align every action through a clear purpose.
The interconnectivity of tech and innovation
Technology and innovation are interconnected they need each other to thrive, let’s look at some examples.
What’s the biggest frustration people experience with customer services? Feeling that they are not being understood or listened to. Having to go through the same conversation, the same complaint, over and over again because they’re speaking to a different agent. We all know this pain.
Dixa, is a SaaS business currently transforming the customer service experience by making it more personal, intelligent, and data-driven., it puts people at the core of its business and addresses this particular pain point – frustration.
Dixa could have used technology to reduce waiting times or increase accessibility. Instead, they looked at the problem differently and unlocked a fresh way to innovate in this industry. The service combines every customer interaction into one seamless conversation by unifying all contact points – phone, email, chat and messaging. Therefore, changing the landscape by removing the frustration of having to explain yourself again and again to different customer service agents.
It has used technology to create a seamless, ongoing dialogue that has transformed expectations of customer service forever.
Mews is another business blending insight and technological innovation to revolutionise the hospitality guest experience.
Rather than think about how to improve the traditional property management system that dominated the industry landscape, Mews decided to drive its innovation from a different angle – the human experience of both hoteliers and customers and asked what are their pain points?
By adopting a customer-first perspective, Mews developed customer-first tech that identifies how and where to simplify or automate hotel operations – from booking engine to check-out, front desk ritual to revenue management.
Small scale improvements would not have been enough to compel hoteliers to switch from the established incumbent – but a new way of thinking brought to life through technology, has created wholesale change and encouraged hoteliers and guests to imagine more.
What both these business example show, is where technology was used to deep dive into a real problem, to fulfil a gap in the sector where meaningful change could innovate to the benefit of the end-user – the customer. Both of these solutions tackle specific pain points, and instead of an easy fix, have come up with an idea that can shake a sector and really challenge sedentary thinking. That’s the beauty of tech, it can realise a business idea and elevate a sector with innovation.
A final word of caution, too often businesses create or adopt technology for technology’s sake. They realise they can, so they do, but they don’t stop to ask ‘why?’. They should. When you unlock ‘the why’, you unlock the insights.
It is the insight that unlocks innovation – and technology that makes good on the promise.
This article was first published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.