Driving successful innovation at large organizations
Could it be that innovation is simple? I did say simple, not easy. The two words are often confused. A completed activity can be viewed as simple when the processes involved are known. No one that has been on innovation projects would say it was easy. The activities and processes that allow us to uncover a customer problem or invent a new technology, develop solutions, and ultimately launch products customers love are challenging, but they are not a mystery. We discuss them on this podcast frequently.
Several frameworks exist to help make what is certainly not easy approachable and ultimately simple. Our guest shares a 9-part framework she used as a Fortune100 Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer. With it, you might see how innovation can actually be simple.
Our guest is Amy Radin, a nationally recognized thought leader on how to deliver innovation for sustainable, business-changing impact. The framework we’ll discuss is also the topic of her new book, The Change Maker’s Playbook: How to Seek, Seed and Scale Innovation in Any Company.
Amy provided an infographic of her 9-part framework. Click the image below to get the full-size infographic.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:04] Can you give us an overview of your work in innovation?
The first chapter of my career was doing direct marketing for American Express, which led to a role leading the digital transformation team at Citi. I saw that what I did as a marketer in using data to deliver personalized products and services to customers seemed pretty relevant to corporate innovation. The environment at Citi was very conservative; I was recruited to figure out what the value of digital was to the business and how we could leverage it. The CEO asked me to make the company more innovative, which made me realize that there is a discipline called innovation and I set up a skunkworks on my team.
[4:48] Are there any of those skunkworks projects that might now be Citi products we know?
In 2004, we observed a trend in transit systems that wanted to bring contactless payments to avoid lines and move people through the system quickly. We struck a three-way partnership between Citi, MasterCard, and the New York Metro Transit Authority to do a pilot on one of the subway lines in Manhattan. All of our interests aligned to make the pilot happened. We implemented this before iPhones came out so we used RFID tags on keychains. The work we did on that project helped develop RFID technology that’s used today for mobile payments.
[6:25] How does Design Thinking fit into your approach?
I have never been a formal student of design thinking, but I’ve learned over the years that my philosophy is very much aligned with it because I focus on defining who the user is and what the problems is on their terms. I think pretty much anything is technologically possible, but you need to have the right people in the right room to champion an idea. You also need to overcome policy, process, and governance that was not built to accommodate innovation. Big companies are all about continuity and that’s not compatible with innovation. We are naturally risk-averse and that impacts all areas of our lives and how we think about change.
[13:30] The model you outline in the book has nine parts. The first one is Discover.
Great innovations come from a starting point of understanding your users and what problem they are experiencing. You need to solve the problem at a rational level and at an emotional level — listen with your ears and with your eyes. I saw this firsthand when I got to go into people’s homes and observe their banking habits. I learned things people would never have told me.
[17:36] The second step in the process is Position with Purpose.
As I started to talk to some of the interviewees for the book, I heard that purpose played a huge role in positioning. What is the impact you want to have? How are you going to change the world and improve the experiences of your users? Setting a purpose is a higher goal than just a financial return. It’s the emotional fuel that drives people to do the hard work of innovation.
[20:04] The next step is Be Resourceful.
I worked in companies where we faced some tough budget challenges, but there are always resources available. It’s amazing how much people can get done with so little when they have a clear sense of purpose and have focused on a profound market need they want to address. This happens all the time in the startup world. Having a good network helps you find resources you never knew you had. There’s always someone you can call for help.
[22:44] What is the Green Light Moment and how do you get to it?
First, you need to develop a prototype that’s a physical representation of what you want to do and getting reaction from potential users. The cruder, the better. If your prototype is too polished, people won’t give you critical feedback on it. This also helps you develop a business model and determine what resources you’ll need to deliver what people are responding to. This seeding phase ends with what I call the “green light moment.” This involves pausing to make sure you have all the elements in place to deliver a quality product at the scale you need to be successful. Is the team ready and are your users ready for the product?
[26:49] The last element in the model is Scaling.
The first part of scaling is launching, which involves pressure to deliver something that’s financially viable to the business. It’s important to have your metrics and test plans in place and make sure they are part of your product roadmap. Then, you move on to anticipating and adapting, which is something you need to always be doing. It’s difficult to be innovative while delivering on the ideas you’ve already produced. This is where I started my career at Citi and what I help others do. It’s critical for our economy and for the society that there are changemakers out there who are solving problems and creating economic opportunity.
- The Change Maker’s Playbook: How to Seek, Seed and Scale Innovation in Any Company
- Amy’s website, full of resources
“Startups don’t have a monopoly on innovation, and legacy companies don’t have a monopoly on bureaucracy.” -from Amy’s book
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.