Just as we were getting used to the exceptional abilities of GPT-3 as demonstrated by ChatGPT and Bing’s Sydney, OpenAI, the company that created and owns the technology that powers all of the above, released GPT-4. GPT-4, as demonstrated by Open AI, performs tasks even more accurately and impressively than what we’ve gotten used to with GPT-3. It begs the question, how do organizations begin to integrate technologies like GPT-3, GPT-4 and other emerging technologies into the technology stack. Essentially, how do you innovate?
It’s great to be excited about digital innovation and transformation. Using innovation to transform your customer experienced is going to be key to competitive differentiation. It is important to realize, however, that even when thinking specifically about digital technologies, innovation should be deliberate and intentional.
Too often, organizations start their innovation efforts with the goal of adding a new technology. Instead, the focus should be on why you’re adding the new technology and how it benefits customers and the organization. Directing your attention there helps ensure there’s a business case for your effort and measurable success metrics to track.
To that end, below are strategies to consider as you approach your innovation task. You’ll notice none are specific to digital. Rather, they are based on innovation best practices because strong, effective innovation practices apply regardless of your domain.
Prioritize the Customer
Don’t put the technology before the customer. Ensure your innovation objectives are rooted in what you know and understand about your customers. This helps keep your eye on the prize (benefiting the CX) and keeps you rooted in what’s good for the business. Your personas, customer journeys and empathy maps are great places to seek opportunities.
Create a Culture for Innovation
Innovation, even when mandated as a goal, does not simply happen. Take the time to create an environment where innovation is both welcomed and supported. That means acknowledging innovation involves iterative experimentation and failure is a common end result of experimentation. It can also mean incentivizing innovation (with specific parameters) so teams are encouraged to create processes that result in successful innovations
Think Like a Scientist
Scientists use the Scientific Method as a blueprint for their experiments. Do the same — starting with a hypothesis you establish based on business goals all the way through to measuring success based on metrics that matter to your business. Welcome failure and learn from it.
Don’t Shoot for the Stars
Set your sights close. Initially, you want to deliver wins. That allows you to strengthen your innovation muscle incrementally. Those small wins are key to improving your team’s innovation confidence.
Limit Your Team
Use constraints to make your team more creative (e.g., time, technologies, outcomes, etc.). It’s counter-intuitive, right? Research proves over and over again, however, that by bounding your team to well defined and articulated rules, you make them more likely to be successful. This article from the Harvard Business Review offers some ideas on how to approach this.
Turn to a well-defined goal and metrics to establish where your team should be aiming. It’s okay to want to try a new technology but why. What organization objective might this technology help you reach and how will you measure the success of your innovation against this goal?
Teams sometimes have a tendency to start innovation projects and then change focus based on changing priorities in the organization. You have to work fast to mitigate that risk. Place reasonable time bounds on your projects so that ideation, prototyping, pilot and measuring are designed to occur in a fix amount of time.
Use a Framework
Use an established framework for innovation to increase your likelihood of success. There is a mistaken assumption that innovation occurs when you brainstorm and run with your ideas. Innovation can happen that way but by doing that, you ignore decades of proven innovation best practices. Design Thinking is a popular framework but there are others like Lean Startup, Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ — it’s Russian), and Blue Ocean Strategy. There are many others and one size doesn’t fit all.
Rely on Diverse Teams
Teams comprised of people with multidisciplinary backgrounds and career experiences can often be more effective innovators. It can be useful to recruit members of other departments — especially if they have backgrounds in multiple industries. It is often the case that experience in one domain can be applied differently another and result in an innovation.
Balance the Present and the Future
Many incumbent category leaders are disrupted because they’re reluctant to leave their comfort zones. That allows new entrants and competitors not burdened with historical dominance to create new opportunities. They move too slowly. On the other hand, moving too fast can result in being too early on the Diffusion of Innovation curve. You can end up creating a great product that arrives to the market too early (e.g., Google Glasses) to be widely adopted.
Digital innovation is a powerful tool for transforming the customer experience and gaining a competitive edge. It is critical to approach it deliberately and with clear strategies for increasing your likelihood of success. Otherwise, you risk creating infertile soil for harvesting ideas. By following these strategies, organizations can unlock the full potential of digital innovation and drive success for their teams and their business.