This is a guest blog post about innovation from Denis Hauptly, vice president of Technology Strategy in Thomson Reuters Global Resources. Denis contributes to WestBlog monthly, and he is the author of “Something Really New” which focuses on building a culture of innovation:
There are two things that everyone knows are absolutely true about business today:
- You must innovate, and
- Innovation begins with understanding your customers
OK, now let’s go execute on that plan!
Except, of course, you can not execute on that plan. You have to go a bit further than that to have a practical, implementable approach to innovation. I will try to set out some of the basic outlines of such a plan. This is not a silver bullet but I believe it will improve your innovation efforts quickly and measurably and encourage your organization to go further than you thought possible.
Let us begin with innovation itself. It is not a novelty. Hula Hoops, pet rocks and the like take off once a generation and they are gone in two years. You can make a buck on fads – and if you keep playing the lottery you may eventually win also. But if you want strong sustainable growth and real competitive advantage, you need something that brings value to customers.
There are really two types of things that people value by paying for them: beauty and utility. Unless you are in the home decor or entertainment business, what you are really selling at the end of the day is utility. You can dress it up as much as you want, but in the final analysis your customer is saying, “Will this make my life easier, or free up time, or reduce my costs?”
So novelty’s twin brother cool is out as well. For the merely cool does not make life simpler. It only provides a moment of awe.
That’s not a long-term value proposition.
Our focus, then, is on the useful, and to discover the useful we must go through one tricky moment. We have to distinguish between our product’s function and our customer’s task. Mere philosophy, you say?
Not so. It is the heart of the matter.
Vice President, Technology Strategy
Thomson Reuters Global Resources