Innovation as process
"Empathy comes from observing consumer behaviour and is a key foundation stone of the design thinking process," Anand Vengurlekar.
GITEX Times: What do you mean by user-driven innovation process? Anand Vengurlekar: As the name suggests, it is a process by which empathising with users is the basis for driving new product and service innovation. The key foundation is empathising. This is not something that comes from asking the user what they want (as Henry Ford infamously said: ‘If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse’). Instead, the empathy comes from observing consumers’ behaviour and identifying insights. These provide direction into ways to remove unexpressed pain points and
provide delight with fresh concepts
GT: From your experience in the region, how do most companies approach ‘innovation’? Vengurlekar: Too many companies think of innovation as [intellectual property] IP that comes from formal (and expensive) R&D. This is then thrown over the garden fence at the marketing department whose job is to push the IP into the market place. There is a time for this combination of course, especially if a company’s business is largely B2B. However, as the previously mentioned examples demonstrate, it is technology applied in the service of new kinds of ‘consumer journey’ that really make the difference.
GT: When businesses are try to unlock the potential of thei staff to drive innovation, wha are some of the most common hurdles they face? Vengurlekar: A fundamental for teamwork in user driven innovation is to form extended teams: putting together groups of individuals from different departments to work together holistically to apply the process and empathise with end-users. However, such teams only work if the individuals are trusted to work with each other by leadership and, indeed, are keen to do so. The most innovative companies recruit with this in mind. [They look for T-shaped people] that is, people with a professional depth to their expertise, but also a broad interest and experience in a cross section of other aspects of the business. Secondly, there is such a top down pressure to be innovative (often to catch up with the competition) that the process is often not applied in its entirety.
GT: You have worked with some major multinationals – from your experience what are the key leadership traits needed for innovative teams? Vengurlekar: This is the biggest challenge! In every company I have worked with, teams are very keen to learn new processes. However, many senior managers find it difficult to let go of their traditional role. That is, of deciding what is the ‘right answer’ to anybusiness challenge, and especially comparing new insights to old experiences from their careers.