What is it that makes companies like Apple, Uber and Airbnb so successful? The reason is surprisingly simple. They put customer needs first to build a service that the end user will need to have and enjoy to use.
But don’t just take my word for it. Back in 1997, Steve Jobs said:
‘You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology’
In 1997 this was a huge development, Jobs was one of the first in his field to identify the importance of the customer and this led to Apple excelling where their competitors could not.
How can you do what Apple did in your industry? What is the ‘ingredient’ that will set yourself apart from your competitors?
Previously, at Pancentric, we have explored the ways in which you can innovate practically, and how the design thinking process can be the toolkit to kick-starting innovation. An area we have not looked at so closely is what makes innovation so hard.
What is preventing organisations taking the necessary steps to ‘innovate’?
In other words…
What Blocks Innovation?
When any business is faced with a problem there is a tendency to use solutions that have already been tried and tested. Clearly this is natural, as these solutions have been used before and have worked. But remember — no two problems are the same.
Using the same or similar solution may not get you the high quality of results you got the first time. This new challenge requires a different approach and process to create a valuable solution.
As Einstein famously said,‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing everyday and yet expecting different results.’
This is important but can be taken one step further. By changing the way you approach the problem, you will create solutions that are more valuable not only to your business, but your customer. In this fast-paced digital era, this is the way you are going to be able to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Tendencies to fixate on solutions that have been previously used is known as ‘functional fixedness’. People can become ‘fixed’ or ‘locked’ in their way of thinking about the functions of objects. It is a cognitive bias that essentially can prevent thinking ‘outside the box’.
Everyone is limited by fixedness: in a business our ideas and solutions are fixated towards our services and business growth. While this is obviously important, it can mean that we stop challenging ourselves and don’t incorporate the external factors that may influence the services we are providing.
This inward-looking behaviour, also known as ‘navel gazing’ is stopping businesses excelling and finding the gap in your industry where your business could really make a difference. No business is going to be able to grow and set themselves apart from the competition if the same solutions are applied over and over again.
So….How Can We Overcome This Fixated Behaviour?
Realising that there may be multiple solutions to your problem is priority number one! It sounds straightforward, but businesses can often become fixated by dealing with a problem one way.
So where do you start?
Firstly, creating a solution for a perceived problem is not enough. You, as the service provider, need to dedicate time to understanding the full scope of the challenge. Leave no stone unturned.
This in depth understanding will ensure that you are simultaneously answering the right questions and creating a solution that is valued and has actual, measurable business outcomes.
Of course it’s easy to jump to the first solution. While this idea may have some merit, and even seem to answer the perceived problem — you can never know the full scope of the problem without challenging the ideas and most importantly, getting insight from the end user.
This is where ‘Design Thinking’ comes into play. This approach puts the customer at the centre, so you can take steps to learn from them and create a solution that they really need, exactly what Steve Jobs was talking about.
Learning from the end user will enable you create solutions that are based on real insight and open you up to solving your solutions in a truly innovative way.
Why We Need To Look ‘Holistically’
By stepping back and taking a holistic view of the problem, we can break down the cognitive biases and preconceived solutions about the problem and actually learn what we are trying to solve.
Remove the narrow minded thinking from the beginning of your process. This will enable you to be able to create a solution that you can implement confidently.
At Pancentric, this is a process that we use with all of our clients to make sure we are investing time in solutions that are needed. This gives us and our clients transparency right from the beginning of the journey, and means we can really grow to understand their business needs.
Plus, it’s a lot of fun.