Focus on Customer Value to Innovate

When we talk about innovation, we’re often talking about coming up with new ideas. Ideas that bring new technology to market, or change our approach to customer service, or introduce a new product category. I’d like to propose that innovation is much more than just coming up with great ideas.

Are you inventing or innovating?

While idea generation is a key part of the innovation process, it’s only one piece of the tool kit. It’s part of the ‘How’ of the process and it needs the context of ‘What’ and ‘Why’ to be effective. Without that context, we often confuse the means with the ends and our results suffer because of it.

How often have you seen projects hit the launch phase only to realize nobody is really interested in buying what’s been created? Pretty painful to say the least. And more than a little expensive when you consider the investment and opportunity costs attached to the project.

From Wikipedia: Innovation is the development of new customer value through solutions that meet new needs, unarticulated needs, or old customer and market needs in new ways.

To build a successful innovation strategy, the core of the process must be centered on delivering new customer value. It establishes the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ for the project. The team can then clearly say “we are creating value for our customers in this way and by building this specific thing”. It becomes the framework that all subsequent design decisions hang on.

Creating ideas outside of this customer-centric focus is better referred to as “invention”. Many great products and services have come out of the raw process of invention but the results are inconsistent at best. Building a new product strategy around invention is a risky approach.

Adding focus to innovate

When you look across the projects and initiatives currently underway in your organization, is there clear customer value being created for each?

One of the quickest and most effective ways to boost the quality of your innovation process’s output is to get clear on the customer value being created. Get that value identified and stated in clear and concrete terms. Make sure the team has this as their overriding objective through every step of the process. It becomes the guiding compass for the entire project and helps ensure you’ve created something of value for your customers.

Today’s Bias for Action: Take a look at your top project and see if you can clearly state the customer value being created. Now ask somebody on the team to do the same. If its not crystal clear, schedule the conversation(s) to get that clarified ASAP.