A conversation with Adriana Ruiz, Founder Agami Studio

We had an interesting conversation with Adriana Ruiz, the Founder and Director of Agami Studio. She shared on how companies can combine Design and Innovation in creating great services that impact businesses, people and planet.

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You’ve been running Agami Studios for almost half a decade now, what made you see the need to combine Design + Innovation?

To answer this question I’m going a bit back in time for context. My entire life has revolved around art thinking and design. I started with Innovation when I was in the UK in 2010. For the next 6 years, I researched and worked in consulting projects using Design + Innovation, most of them in the UK and very few in Costa Rica.

Returning to my home country and even in the early stages of Agami, I found a huge gap in the market regarding the practice of innovation. It was as if I spoke a totally different language when speaking about innovation as a process where people create value. In 2016, I decided to become an Entrepreneur in this area. So it’s been very interesting experiencing first hand the design of a value proposition for unmet needs that weren’t even recognized back then but I knew they existed based on my experience abroad. 

Design and Innovation are just starting to bloom. Now, there is a tangible need in this part of the world to bring a holistic approach to value creation, and that’s where Design + Innovation comes in to do its magic.

“…there is a tangible need in this part of the world to bring a holistic approach to value creation.”

What areas do companies seeking to create value need to look into?

I think it depends on the region. In Latin America, most companies still follow a traditional approach to the competition, so most of them are swimming in red oceans. The first place these companies should look at is the unmet needs of their users. The majority still works with unvalidated insights, which is so risky. I’m positive that as soon as they start to invest in user research and align those insights into their company’s strategy, value will be created faster and with better use of their internal resources.

“The first place these companies should look at is the unmet needs of their users.”

Would you say companies have really done well in creating value for their customers and internal stakeholders? How so?

I’m quite critical when it comes to creating value for their customers and internal stakeholders. I find that as a society, we are at a place where the emerging future has to be considered when it comes to creating value for people. This has to be embedded in the innovation process and strategy. There are some companies that are shifting their purpose to a planetary level, but unfortunately, it’s not the majority.

“…as a society, we are at a place where the emerging future has to be considered when it comes to creating value for people.”

When you work with D+I, you are definitely applying a forward-thinking approach and pushing your imagination into the future as much as you can, creating future scenarios, understanding future needs the users will have in those scenarios. The value you design and plan to create, responds to this process. 

I don’t see that practice happening as often enough to say companies have really done well in creating value. In fact, most companies still have to invest in upskilling and reskilling of your innovation team, for this forward-thinking approach to be visible in the value they create. When this becomes mainstream, then yes I can definitely say that they, as a whole, have done really well on creating value for all of their stakeholders.

You’ve served as a Service Design Professor and I know one of the projects you supervised was around sustainable service models. How would you say people in finance or healthcare can design their services to be sustainable?

Finance and Healthcare are two of the most important industries in our society. Keeping this in mind, designing sustainable services for them is a profound process. For any service to be sustainable you have to think on different levels. It has to be sustainable for the users, for the internal stakeholders, for the business model, and for the planet.

“For any service to be sustainable you have to think on different levels. It has to be sustainable for the users, for the internal stakeholders, for the business model, and for the planet.”

Start by understanding how each user learns, uses and remembers the services provided. Move on to explore how the internal stakeholders are creating value for their users in each of the stages. Map out the processes and the communication channels along the way. After that, be clear in how you will measure the value that will be created, recognising measurements that are qualitative and transformational. Last, and most importantly, visualise the impact the service model is having on our planet and aim for it to have a positive footprint. With all of these checked, they will have all the information they need to design their services to be truly sustainable.

Are there any frameworks you could share to help companies better design sustainable services?

Very happy to share some references. I use Keith Gothin’s Pentathlon Framework as a guiding compass for managing innovation. Tenny Pinheiro’s book “The Service Startup” has a whole toolbox for service design that’s super useful. Dean Spitzer’s book “Transforming Performance Measurement”  provides a comprehensive guide to incorporating qualitative measurements to the business model. For the areas of understanding emerging futures, I love the Theory U methodology. It’s taught in MIT and you can learn about it online. It really works as an eyeopener to the world and strengthens trust and insight. Last but not least, any toolbox from D+I methodologies (Design Thinking, Human-Centred Design, Double Diamond) will complement the ones mentioned above.

Looking at how companies and other organisations are adapting design + innovation for value creation in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America where you are. Are there learnings you think could be adapted from one region and can be replicated for great results in the others?

It’s interesting, I see the exact needs I worked with 10 years ago starting to show up in companies around here. So yes, definitely learning can be adapted. Timing is key. In Latin America, specifically Central America, Innovation is a very new concept for companies to grasp. The speed in which you work innovation in Europe and in here is totally different. So learnings can be transferred, but the velocity in which value is created is not the same.

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

I have had the privilege of witnessing many moments where Design and Innovation impact others. The most fulfilling ones are where social innovation is involved. When you put people first and share learning spaces for others to develop their competencies. Their “aha” moments, when Design and Innovation start making sense, when they discover their creativity and how powerful these tools are for their communities. Those moments are priceless and fully lived with the heart.

Season 2 | Episode 8: How to leverage (IOT) technology to design better customer experiences (with Julia Doll)

Julia talked about the Internet of Things (IoTs) and how companies can leverage to improve on the experience for customers.

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On this episode, we spoke with the Head of Innovation and Uplift at Vodafone, Julia Doll. Julia talked about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how companies can leverage to improve on the experience for customers. She also shared opportunities for partnership with startups that are offering services or products around the use of IoT devices. This episode promises to be a very informative one. Do enjoy!

Note: Julia Doll and her team at Vodafone are always looking out for entrepreneurs with promising ideas seeking to leverage the IoT technology to scale. Reach out to Julia here.

IC Highlight: How Prototyping Can Help you Improve Customer Experience(CX)

Have you ever wondered how you can leverage prototyping to improve your customer’s experience around your product/service offering?

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Have you ever wondered how you can leverage prototyping to improve your customer’s experience around your product/service offering? Then you’ll find this highlight quite interesting as it focuses on prototyping and how it can best be leverage to improve on the experiences of customers. Enjoy!

Why Prototype?

Prototypes are really important for teams and we have compiled in these slides major reasons why companies and teams need to prototype.

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For you to ensure that you build great products that customers will love it is important you have them in the loop as you build. One way to get them in the loop is by getting them to test prototypes. Prototypes are really important for teams and we have compiled in these slides major reasons why companies and teams need to prototype.

How Collaborating With Customers Can Fuel Innovation

If you are a regular traveler by air, especially in and through Europe (or even if you don’t travel), it’s certain you are familiar with KLM.

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If you are a regular traveler by air, especially in and through Europe (or even if you don’t travel), it’s certain you are familiar with KLM, one of the oldest airlines in the world. What many might not know is that KLM has been quite successful in driving innovation within its organization.

A few years back, KLM opened up a gate that allowed passengers to come up with new solutions around the airline’s offerings. This gate, known as ‘X-gate’, was a boarding gate for airline passengers in Schiphol Amsterdam. X-gate allowed passengers waiting for their flights to explore possible solutions aimed at improving the airline’s offerings. The goal of this initiative, which was to improve customers’ experiences, has so far garnered immense success, encouraging collaboration between the airline and its customers.

KLM’s initiative clearly shows that when companies collaborate with their customers, there is a huge opportunity for innovation to occur. Most times this provides incredibly viable solutions for the businesses, solutions that are also desired by the customers who happened to be co-creators themselves (read more about the impact here). Other examples include Unilever’s Open innovation platform, Co-create IKEA and Coca-Cola’s KOlab to name a few. With this great opportunity that exists in such a collaboration, how can your company leverage this? Here are a few ways:

1. By developing a user-friendly framework. This framework might be used internally by your company. An example of a framework could be your internal system or process for developing ideas, this could incorporate the use of popular processes like Design Thinking, Design Sprints or whichever is works best for your team. For the team at KLM they used a framework called the ‘KLM way’ having a flow from Data – Sherlock – Mickey Mouse and Lego, which are various phases which customers go through as they build on their idea.  

However, it is good to note that because customers might not be quite conversant with the framework (as used internally), it is important to simplify these processes enough to allow customers to use them easily without the need for expert assistance. To do this you could hire expert designers or get your internal team to walk on a way of breaking down the framework into bits customers can easily pick up or use as they build their ideas.

2. By setting the scope for what you’re asking customers to collaborate on. Because it is important that the customers complete the process of conceptualization, it is important that whatever they are building can easily be built on the spot, not needing to be taken through any complex process for development.

3. By setting up collaborative centres that afford you the opportunities to locate and engage the right audience to collaborate with. This encourages participation from customers and makes them more willing to help out, as they don’t have to go out of their way to share their ideas and opinions. As customers participate, ensure that all they need for co-creating alongside is available and if not, find a way to make those items (like cardboards, scissors, pens, papers, etc) available for their convenience.

4. By Incentivizing them. Considering the fact that you aren’t paying them for collaborating with your team, you can look out for little things you can do to motivate them. Could you share their stories and give them recognition on your blog or social media channels? Could you extend discounts to them? These are some suggestions to encourage customers to participate in your collaborative sessions.

5. By being open-minded, ready to learn and adapt to new things. It will be a shame if customers bring in great ideas with potential and they’re overlooked.

Having customers try to solve challenges they experience around your offerings will be a great way for your team to discover opportunities that appeal to your customers. This gives you an opportunity to improve your offering and in doing so improve customer experience and gain brand loyalty.

Season 2 | Episode 7: The Role Design Research Plays in Product Market Success (with Susan Onigbinde)

On this episode, Susan shares the role Design Research plays in ensuring products are successful in the market.

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Tools Brochure For Product And Innovation Teams

We developed a collection of tools to aid product, digital and innovation teams, as they work to bring competitive products to their customers

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A Conversation with Stephanie Batliner, User Experience Designer, BBC

We had an interesting conversation Stephanie Batliner a User Experience expert at BBC. She shared thoughts about the value of design, gave some insights why she enjoys working at the BBC and talked about her side hustle in design.

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Please tell us why you became a designer?

It’s hard to remember why exactly I became a designer but it’s easy to explain why I stayed on my career path. Over the years I understood that design was more than aesthetics. Design is no longer an afterthought, design is a conversation starter. I want to help to start difficult conversations and to create a positive impact.

“Design is no longer an after-thought, design is a conversation starter.”

How does a User Experience Designer find herself in BBC?

Working at the BBC is a unique opportunity to design for everyone. We are a strong team of about 200 designers, writers, research, information architects and accessibility specialists. We all work on different digital experiences but we are collaborative as a whole, exchanging knowledge, sharing learnings and striving for the same goals. At our heart we’re united by a human-centered approach.

The BBC exists to serve the public with the mission to inform, educate and entertain. It’s a place for me to learn and grow. From shaping screens to choosing the right words, it’s all about being useful, usable and user-friendly. My daily work challenges me with many topics from understanding accessibility needs, responding to the ever-changing needs of our audience to tackling unconscious bias. It’s a responsibility to create digital experiences which are used and enjoyed by millions. Lots of people in the UK interact with our content every week and it feels great to be part of something that reaches so many. I love working with the people at the BBC.

Are there ways you think News agencies can leverage on design to improve on the way information is delivered to people?

News agencies can use design methods to understand their user’s needs. Transparency is one of the topics which I’m very keen on. Matching essential information with the right people and timing to empower local communities. We all have a different truth. Fake news is strong and every one of us consumes from different sources. It makes it very hard to have empathy for each other. Especially on social media, every user is in their own bubble, their own world, their own reality. The same event can be portrayed completely opposite depending on the user’s view, location, and beliefs. Also, giving more people a voice so we don’t listen exclusively to the majority. We need to see people in jobs and in leadership positions that represent all of us. News has to be accessible for everyone. Good design solutions always empower people.

Information is something people have to get on a daily basis to produce great results in their various fields, are there new ways you think Information could be disseminated but is yet to be considered (outside the traditional means)?

Information and communication will always be an essential part of how human beings interact with each other. Today we see online and offline communication. Most of the time we use a combination of both. I’m sure that the tools and ways of information flow will change in the future. Because we are always trying to make things better to optimise our time. I’m hoping for the next generation that we will find a way to spread useful information to empower people, to save lives, and to take care of our planet. We need a system in place which protects us from information overflow and misleading information. How that is going to work will be up to us, we have all the creativity we need.

How would you say companies can create a positive impact for their local society and their employees using design?

Design methods give companies useful tools to ask questions, create empathy and get an understanding of the problems. Sometimes there are underlying problems which are not visible from the surface. Design can help dig deeper and get a more authentic picture. Companies can use design as a way to build bridges, a way to connect people and to work together. In order to create a positive impact it’s essential to include the people you want to help. If you want to improve things for your local society then start a dialogue. Find out where the real problems are and work together to find creative solutions. Involving people in the process helps not only to create acceptance around change but it also is a way to ensure that you don’t miss the target and come up with a design solution which isn’t solving the right problem. A local society can have many different problems but it’s up for them to decide which is the most urgent one.

“Companies can use design as a way to build bridges, a way to connect people and to work together.”

In your free time you’re working on a side hustle around health and social design, what new ways do you think design could be applied to improve on how healthcare services are being delivered?

In an ideal world the future is about preventive care. We are all patients sometimes. We all deserve to be healthy. Nonetheless, the reality is that healthcare access is limited. Design will play a crucial role in creating non-judgemental healthcare services for everyone. Healthcare services should be safe, accessible and affordable, no matter the circumstances.

“Design will play a crucial role in creating non-judgemental healthcare services for everyone.”

We need to work towards a solution where the patient is aware of who has access to what kind of information from the patient’s folder. Transparency can create trust and give the user more control of what happens with sensitive data.

In healthcare trust is the hardest thing to earn and the easiest thing to lose. We live in a multicultural world and different bodies have different needs. Healthcare should be designed in a way that we understand that women have different needs than men. There is a lot more research about the male body compared to the female body. And that shouldn’t be the norm anymore. Our gender identities include a lot more than the one or the other. Trans people have different needs. Non-binary people have different needs. When we design for a wider target audience we need to understand that those needs are not only medical. It’s as important to focus on mental health and use inclusive and non stigmatising language. We can do a lot better with that.

When we design for a wider target audience we need to understand that those needs are not only medical.

We use design often to make an experience more personalised. In healthcare, I feel that aspects which make it more personal, like being accepted as who we are or giving us a choice, are being overlooked sometimes. Healthcare isn’t as inclusive as it could be an unconscious bias against ethnic minorities is still quite common. I’m hoping that we can use design to strengthen healthcare in a way that it gives people more understanding and more choice. That will lead to more trust and transparency. We need to educate, share information and empower people so that they can be preventative.

What companies are innovating around their user experience you feel other companies can learn from?

I am passionate about healthcare and social design. There are two companies that follow work ethics and approaches which are very close to my heart.

IDEO.org is a nonprofit design studio. They design products and services alongside organisations committed to creating a more just and inclusive world. Their innovations all have one thing in common which is the creative approach of human-centred design. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.

“Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for…”Asktia.com is on a mission to enable every female to achieve their own definition of optimal health through science-backed information, access to high-quality care, and community. I noticed Tia because they asked their future patients on Instagram to help them design their patient form. Discrimination in healthcare can start as early as filling in a patient form, where for example your gender identity isn’t listed as an option to choose from. Including your clients in the process, getting feedback and being able to make those twists is exactly the level of detail which creates the big change.

What books, articles or materials can you share to business leaders, to help them better improve the experience of their users?

The way teams are set up and the way people think and collaborate has a massive impact on how the experience for their user’s will look like. Work culture is as important as the design process. Some of my favourite books around creativity, collaboration and innovation are: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, Give and Take by Adam Grant, Creative Confidence by David Kelley and Tom Kelley, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek and Mindset by Carol Dweck.

“The way teams are set up and the way people think and collaborate has a massive impact on how the experience for their user’s will look like”

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

Besides my day job, I am especially interested in using my design skills in sexual health. Conversation topics around sexual health bring another layer of complexity with it. I conducted interviews with a diverse group of people living with herpes for my Master’s dissertation: “A humancentred concept to tackle the stigma of the Herpes Simplex Virus“. The aim of this initiative is to transform the negative image of STDs/STIs into an accepted conversation topic in our society.

My knowledge is based on interviews, online research, and my personal experience as a white, privileged, and straight woman. I am aware that my views are limited and to include everyone, it’s essential to interact, listen and emphasis.

“Interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration is the secret ingredient necessary for innovation.”

This initiative has been incredibly life-changing for myself, my health has improved massively since I decided to speak up about it. It is a way of lending my voice to people living with herpes until they are ready to find their own. Ever since I am on a mission to create a world where taboo topics are no longer awkward and silent. Design can help to make complex topics more relatable and playful instead of keeping them in the dark.

#innovationmoment
I conducted interviews with a diverse group of people living with herpes for my Master’s dissertation: “A human-centred concept to tackle the stigma of the Herpes Simplex Virus”. The aim of this initiative is to transform the negative image of STDs/STIs into an accepted conversation topic in our society.

This initiative has been incredibly life-changing for myself, my health has improved massively since I decided to speak up about it. It is a way of lending my voice to people living with herpes until they are ready to find their own. Ever since I am on a mission to create a world where taboo topics are no longer awkward and silent. Design can help to make complex topics more relatable and playful instead of keeping them in the dark.

Season 2 | Episode 6: How Trends Play a Role in Making Corporations More Innovative (with Lola Pedro)

The African Regional Director of Trendwatching, shares the importance for companies, however large or small to monitor trends.

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On this episode, Lola Pedro, the African Regional Director of Trendwatching, shares why it is important for companies, however large or small can monitor trends to help them better meet their customers needs. She also was gracious enough to share present trends that companies can leverage to drive growth.

To learn more on this trends, do listen.

Conversations with Women Driving Innovation Around the World

We’re excited to share interesting conversations around innovation and growth from female leaders from around the world! Learn from their personal experiences of how they’re working to drive change in their different sectors.

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Dive into conversations around innovation and growth from female leaders from around the world. Learn their personal stories of how they’re working to drive change in their different sectors. Get the free e-book.

Innovation Success Story: Toyota Thriving by Innovation

Toyota, is know as one of the most valuable brands in the world today. They have been at the forefront of innovation. They have quite a number of ways that they’ve been able to stay ahead that you can learn from.

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“Innovation is the calling card of the future”

– Ann Eshoo

In the late 1930s, Kiirisho Toyoda was tasked with handling the automobile arm of his father’s company, Toyota Industries, a Japanese machine maker known originally for manufacturing automatic looms. 

Today, what started as a small company in Japan, has been able to win the hearts of customers all over the world, toppling brands like GM and Ford in popularity and reach. 

In a recent publication by Forbes showcasing the world’s most valuable brands, Toyota is placed at number 11, standing as the only automotive company in Top 20. Also, Toyota’s share price dwarfed the three major car brands in the USA, GM, Ford and Chrysler, with share price standing at $133, $30, $6.90 and $11.29 respectively at the NYSE.

How was Toyota able to do that?…

Toyota’s drive for innovation is a huge contributing factor that has led to the brand’s dominance and relevance over the years. The company has played an exemplary role in showing how brands can infuse design with purpose to derive real results. Already trailblazers with the Prius, the world’s best selling hybrid car, their desire to improve as a brand has pushed them to envision and explore the ‘future of mobility’.

Toyota has been able to maintain its drive and reach for innovation over the years, building a structure that allows them to improve on past achievements progressively. Some of the key qualities that have kept them ahead are;

  1. They Engage with Customers in Research: Toyota is known to frequently send out researchers who engage with car owners to listen and understand their needs and how best it could be solved. Also watching closely to understand new trends that could be leveraged for the best results when speaking in terms of customer satisfaction. As an advantage from their research, they not only meet their customers’ needs but expand their market reach into areas of opportunity that align well with their vision as a company.
  1. Their Structure Allows for Innovation: Because Toyota’s goals around mobility borders around breaking new grounds in the future of mobility, they’ve built systems to ensure they keep their eyes on trends, cultural influences and economic drivers. While at the same time, taking a strategic position that is flexible enough to consider new opportunities that are not necessarily around their current offerings. An example is how they leveraged the sharing economy, looking beyond car sales, they recently announced “KINTO” their car-sharing service for individuals.
  1. They Leverage partnerships: Toyota has been able to establish partnerships that lead to the creation of widely innovative products that deliver value to their customers. This is evident in their collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee, to create “mobility for all”. Also with Softbank to leverage their advancement in Artificial Intelligence (A.I), which they aim to adopt for the development of autonomous vehicles.

Toyota has through research, partnerships, their drive to be at the forefront of innovative solutions, offering value to customers, standing out from the competition, and meeting shareholders’ expectations, been able to stay true to its “Kaizen”- the brand’s principle of continuous improvement with minimal waste. 

As Ann Eshoo quotes “Innovation is the calling card of the future”, we see Toyota setting the standard for the future of mobility. 

What learnings can you take as you lead your company towards a profitable and market-relevant future?

4 Ways to Inspire and Drive Innovation Within Your Organization

To successfully drive innovation within a large company, there needs to be a process starting from an innovation strategy that spreads into tactics that different stakeholders can carry out.

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Do you find the word ‘innovation’ being discussed within your organization more than ever before? Increasingly, innovation is taking centre stage as the world evolves quickly, influenced by trends brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, bursting open of racial injustice, digitization and more. How ever fast our world seems to be moving, many might argue that the activities within companies geared towards innovation are struggling to keep up the pace. Some might feel overwhelmed by the buzzword ‘innovation’ and may be intimidated not knowing where to start or how to power through. To successfully drive innovation within a large company, there needs to be a process starting from an innovation strategy that spreads into tactics that different stakeholders can carry out. For this to happen, organisations need the help of Business Designers. However, to aid the process along, teams need to adopt a mindset and low-hanging practices, such as prioritising innovation efforts within the organisation, removing silos to allow for cross pollination of ideas, inculcating the practice of iteration and experimentation, top-down buy-in and a company or team-wide adoption of a designer’s mindset. 

Prioritise innovation and innovation efforts

To drive this point home, and for teams aiming for more creativity within their organisations, it is important to note that while creativity is good and needed, it shouldn’t be mistaken for innovation. To prioritise innovation efforts within your team, it is important to incorporate practices that lead to more valuable solutions for customers and more cutting-edge solutions in the market. Activities like quantitative and qualitative research methods to understand users, the need for iteration and experimentation in both internal and external-facing operations and opening up avenues to spot opportunities for innovation, be it customer needs, global trends or organisational goals. 

Remove silos and allowing collaboration (along with relaxing rigid hierarchical structures).
Collaboration in any form serves as a breeding ground for ideas to cross-pollinate and form. For large companies, it is common for teams to be separated by floors, walls, departments and more recently, remote work. For large businesses, conscious steps need to be taken to reduce or totally remove the separation between different departments as the case may be. Innovation and design firms will affirm that bringing in people from a variety of disciplines enrich any initiative targeted at bringing novel solutions to bear. 
McKinsey’s widely popular value of design’s report shows ‘convening of cross-functional talent’ as one of the 4 traits leveraged by companies that increased revenue and Total Return to Shareholders at ’nearly twice’ the rate of their industry peers. 
So how does one go about removing silos in well structured legacy companies? You can start with less risky and simpler methods of building teams from different departments to focus on an idea. Here, these individuals from different disciplines and departments are still able to return to their departments. Another way is bringing in relevant (and in some cases seemingly non-relevant) individuals to the topic at hand, from different departments to work together on a given project. These are initial or ‘baby-steps’ to allowing cross-pollination of ideas as novel solutions are sought and built for customers. 

Inculcating iteration and experimentation practices
A culture of continuous experimentation is needed to drive valuable and competitive solutions for the end consumers. Iteration, as the practice of learning customer wants and needs, building, testing, learning and iteration on learnings and doing it fast is a golden practice needed to drive innovation in any organisation. For a leader, seeking to drive change and bring about growth, that means hiring UX researchers, Design researchers, Data Analysts and Data Scientists, to study and understand customer patterns and behaviours, utilise modest, cost-effective ways of testing and inform on new and insightful ways of creating value for them as well as for internal stakeholders, all the while embracing an attitude of learning. 

Having Top-down Support
In Havard Business Review’s 2018 article: ‘The Biggest Obstacles to Innovation in Large Companies’, almost 30% cited ‘lack of executive support’ and ‘lack of CEO support’ as obstacles to innovation. To drive innovation, top-level executives must buy into it, they must also make moves to bring professionals into the organization in senior levels and create high-level strategies that flow down into measurable and actionable activities. Not so new anymore, is another practice of bringing in Chief Design Officers to champion the cause across their organisations, from a top-level.

Adopting a designer’s mindset 
An innovation practitioner will tell you, of all the ingredients that are needed for innovation, adopting a designer’s mindset is critical. The actions we have stated above all stem from a designer’s perspective and profession. What is the value of having this mindset? It is a mindset steeped in providing value to the customer, (an important part of the innovation equation), it also is set to think and build iteratively, using insights and learnings to constantly improve. With the growing popularity of business design, the much-needed requirement of including business methods within the practice of innovation to answer to stakeholder business goals are answered to. Hiring designers, or training your innovation or strategy team in core design principles and processes, allow a much more seamless entry of design into your organization. Doing so will ensure there’s always champions driving innovation and growth in your company.

Season 2 | Episode 5: How Financial Institutions Can Leverage Human-Centered Design For Improved Customer Experience (With Rama. A. Diallo)

On this episode, We have an interesting conversation with Ramatoulaye A Diallo, CEO Orange Senegal. She shares interesting insights that business leaders can learn from.

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On this episode, We have an interesting conversation with the CEO of Orange Senegal. Ramatoulaye A Diallo. She shares on innovation within Teleco’s, how the industry is evolving into a frontier for innovative services that meet the needs of users across Africa. She also shared her experiences working at various telecommunication companies in three different countries across 2 continents.


This episode promises to provide insights that could be utilised by various business leaders across different industries. Do Enjoy!

Innovation Tip: Ways Companies Can Identify Opportunities for Innovation

By looking at the people intended for the solution, companies can pinpoint areas of opportunity and discover potential areas for innovation.

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Innovation is not easy. 

One of the reasons innovation is difficult is that in many cases the people who are to be the recipients of innovative offerings don’t know that they need them, and can’t even explain to them if they tried. For instance, the iPhone, Airbnb, or Uber, these amazing offerings in the market today couldn’t have been described or imagined by the users who now profoundly enjoy them. 
This difficulty makes it hard for companies to successfully and consistently innovate, that of course, the arduous process involved. Nevertheless, there are ways companies can identify opportunities for innovation. Innovation is defined in many ways, however, the one entity that the general consensus can agree on, is that innovation involves creating something of value for people. People. Herein lies the not-so-secret sauce that inspires innovation for companies everywhere. 
By looking at the people intended for the solution, companies can pinpoint areas of opportunity and discover potential areas for innovation. However, looking at customers’ unfulfilled, undeclared needs or the entire customer chain, as a jumping-off point for innovation is really the basic level. Customers, though very important, offer only a fraction of areas companies can innovate. MIT’s Innovation Radar framework, though published in 2006, still holds true today and highlights many opportunities for innovation. It goes beyond customers to list environments as Distributed presence innovation, think of Starbucks selling CDs and music at their physical stores, or innovation in processes where companies can redesign their core processes, or innovation value capture, where companies get revenue from new streams of revenue, for example, UberEats. These ways of innovation are plotted on the Innovation Radar to highlight areas of innovation and even compare companies with competitors on areas they are innovating versus opportunity areas. 

The Innovation Radar allows companies to benchmark their innovation efforts against competitors

References: MIT’s Sloan Management Review – The 12 Different Ways for Companies to Innovate.

Conversations on Innovation from Nigerian Leaders in Business and Innovation

A rich resource for teams and leaders across industries, from banking, retail, telecommunications, healthcare and insurance.

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Read the insightful conversations we had with leaders in business and innovation. These thought leaders share from their depth of experiences and wealth of knowledge on innovation and its place in various industries in Nigeria.

In these conversations, these thought leaders share practical ways they are influencing their teams to become more innovative. A rich resource for teams and leaders across industries.

Intrapreneurship: How Big Companies Build Successful Startups from Within.

Intrapreneurship has been a great way global companies have been able to nurture their innovations from within. In this article we explore how big companies are guiding internal startups to become successful entities on their own.

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Intrapreneurship has been on the scene longer than many can actively recall, however, it’s been made mainstream with the rise of technology, popularised by Steve Jobs’ famous quote about the Macintosh team who worked at Apple Computer at the time, “a group of people going, in essence, back to the garage, but in a large company.” This indeed, is the ideal definition of Intrapreneurship.

Intrapreneurship leverages the nimbleness of startups, the resources and support of larger companies, combining them to birth innovations within an atmosphere that might not have happened if the two weren’t leveraged together. With the success of everyone, startups within larger companies have seen a surge in recent decades.

There are some well-known examples, for instance, Google, well known for embracing the intrapreneurial spirit within its culture. The company, now called, Alphabet, is known for allowing employees use 20% of their time to do personal projects (a practice that many say has since been stopped). This practice, said to be created to ‘encourage innovation’ led to the creation of Gmail, along with Google News, Google Adsense and Google Glasses amongst others.
Paul Buchheit, who created Gmail, began the project in 2001 and worked on it up until April 1, 2004, about 3 years. Societe Generale is another great example of a large corporation that has inculcated the practice of intrapreneurship within the company to birth innovation. In doing this, they developed a program, called Internal Startup Call that creates future products and services. Society Generale has invested quite a bit in their internal intreprenuership program, having 15,000 participants in 9 countries, with an investment of about 150 million euros. The result? 70 start-ups, a number of successful products and one of the most successful incubation programs in the world.

Intrapreneurship in a company is usually championed by a unique individual, a changemaker, an intrapreneur. This person is someone with a clear vision, a wilful personality to negate naysayers and move ahead no matter what. Steve Jobs was no doubt such a one. This person seeks to drive change within the constraints of the larger organization where she exists. In today’s business scene, every company needs to have an intrapreneur. Someone that is focused on their goals for better move novel solutions that answers to the needs of the market, that along with a dogged determination to succeed, but with the flexibility to learn from failures. 

From Apple’s “Macintosh,” to 3M’s “Post-It Notes,” intrapreneurship has been leveraged by large businesses to stay competitive and drive innovation in the long term. It is still a very potent and proven tool for success. The results are potentially new revenue streams, a company that’s more adept to change, and a culture that constantly drives innovation and growth just to say a few.

Innovation Tip: How Companies are Driving Sustainable Innovation Within Their Walls.

Sustainability and the general acceptance of it globally is very varied. In business, it is even more so imbalanced.

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Sustainability and the general acceptance of it globally is very varied. Between the increasing knowledge that we are vastly depleting the world’s resources, and the lacking basic human needs in developing economies leading those populations to focus on ‘more critical’ needs while ignoring the planet, has left the world to give unbalanced attention and care to the pertinent issue of sustainability. 


In business, it is even more so imbalanced. Due to how relatively ‘new’ the topic of sustainability is in the developing world and how controversial it is globally, many businesses aren’t fully convinced what the benefits of pursuing sustainability are. Even though some companies think sustainability poses a threat to them in business. Yet, sustainability, which is the consideration of natural resources to benefit human, social and environmental entities, is a lucrative strategy any company can adopt within its walls.
Sustainable innovation considers the environment while looking for opportunities to protect and preserve it while pursuing common business goals. It’s about defining economic development as the creation of private and social wealth to ultimately eliminate harmful impacts on ecological systems, human health, and communities.


Contrary to popular belief that sustainability isn’t lucrative rather costly, sustainability paves the path for innovation (and competitive advantage) within companies. Businesses with successful sustainability strategies are profitable because they integrate consideration of clean design and resource conservation throughout product life cycles and supply chains in ways that make economic sense*. And with the growing trend of environmental sustainability, companies can gain immensely in the are of customer engagement, an example is Everlane, the clothing brand that has used social platforms to showcase its fight to reduce waste, turning it into beautiful and highly functional, high-end wears. Method, the eco-friendly cleaning product company, has created a fun and colourful brand founded on reducing and repurposing waste while creating some of the most well-made cleaning products in the world. 


Companies can start embracing sustainability, beyond the usual Corporate Service Responsibility (CSR) Initiative, as an avenue to devise innovative new business models while considering environmentally-friendly and cost-effective (Everlane used plastic bottles to create jackets) materials and leveraging science, governmental support, and citizen demand as they go. Reference: https://saylordotorg.github.io

Season 2 | Episode 4: How Companies Can Use Empathy to Drive Growth and Competitive Advantage in Their Industry (With Nik Parekh)

On this episode, Nik shares the importance of empathy and how global brands have been able to leverage it to their advantage.

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Have you wondered how best to leverage empathy to drive growth and improve on your competitive advantage? Then you should listen to this episode. On this episode, Nik shares the importance of empathy and how global brands have been able to leverage it to their advantage.

To get in on the whole conversation and discover key insights you can apply to drive growth in your company, do listen.

A Simple Difference Between Traditional R&D and Design-driven Innovation Methods

This Innovation Highlight speaks to the relationship between traditional R&D methods and the new design approach geared towards innovation.

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This Innovation Highlight speaks to the relationship between traditional R&D methods and the new design approach geared towards innovation. Inspired by our podcast guest, Business Designer David Schmidt, we share a little on the ‘exploit and explore’ framework, where companies have to exploit their current business models while exploring new avenues and opportunities that lead to innovation.

Feel free to send us a message if you will like to know more about the Design-driven Innovation Method.

Season 2 | Episodes 3: How Global Companies Can Leverage Business Design(with David Schmidt)

David Schmidt, who is the founder and partner at United Peers shares from his vast experience in Business Design

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On this episode we had an interesting conversation with David Schmidt, who is the founder and partner at United Peers. David shares from his vast experience in Business Design. He explains the opportunities global companies can leverage on for growth.

He touched on how global companies looking to act on their ideas can leverage business design to ensure their ideas are properly executed.
To find out more, do listen to this amazing conversation.

Whitepaper: How Product Teams Can Leverage Trends To Build Innovative (and competitive) Products In The Finance Industry

In this paper, we look to identify key trends that companies within the financial industry can take advantage of to drive their business growth and customer satisfaction.

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The process of building an innovative product can be full of uncertainty. For businesses trying to develop and bring innovative products into their market, there needs to be an in-built practice of continuously seeking out unique opportunities in the market to create outstanding solutions that meet customers’ needs.

 In this paper, we look to identify key trends that companies within the financial industry can take advantage of to drive their business growth and customer satisfaction.

Innovation Tip: Best Ways Your Team Can Identify Opportunities for Innovation

It is commonly said that everyone is creative.

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It is commonly said that everyone is creative. Regardless of the popular opinion on this point, there’s no denying that when placed in certain situations, human beings can devise some pretty ingenious outcomes to challenges.  

For businesses, creating avenues where innovation happens is not just a mere desire, but it is incredibly critical to growing and succeeding in the long run. 

Here are 2 great ways your team can identify opportunities for innovation:

  • Incorporating innovation into the culture of the company from the top down, may seem like a difficult initiative, however, it can be as simple as taking little (and calculated) steps that pose very minimal risk to the organisation, but are able to show the value of creating an atmosphere where new and lucrative ideas can blossom. Companies such as 3M and Google are regarded as two of the most innovative companies in the world. They are both well known for taking steps within their companies to foster an  environment where innovation thrives, one is by encouraging employees to spend a percentage of their time on projects they choose, companies that go this route see the immense rewards, For 3M, it was the Post-it note*.
  • Another way opportunities for innovation can be identified is in an environment of collaboration. Allowing team collaboration, by breaking down departmental silos, reducing bureaucracy and facilitating the cross pollination of individuals from different walks of life and backgrounds allows people (and most importantly) ideas to intercross, birthing novel solutions that people wouldn’t have conjured up otherwise. 

*https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/five-ways-to-make-your-company-more-innovative

Technology as an Enabler of Innovation

Innovation Circle Highlights – Susan Onigbinde On this Innovation circle highlight, Susan explains the differences between innovation and technology, debunking the popular belief that technology and innovation are the same thing. Taking from an interesting story from pre-historic times told by Pepsi’s Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini, during one of our Design and Innovation Podcasts […]

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Innovation Circle Highlights – Susan Onigbinde

On this Innovation circle highlight, Susan explains the differences between innovation and technology, debunking the popular belief that technology and innovation are the same thing.

Taking from an interesting story from pre-historic times told by Pepsi’s Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini, during one of our Design and Innovation Podcasts (DIP), Susan shows how technology is more an enabler of innovation as opposed to innovation of itself.
This 5mins listen is worth the time. Enjoy!

Kindly note: at 1:37mins, the speaker meant to say ‘those objects, were the technology’, not ‘those objects were the innovation’.

Applicable Lessons In Design Thinking For Technology Products

There are interesting ways in which we can apply Design Thinking in building amazing technological products. On this article we share lessons from the Global Senior Director, Enterprise Analytics at SAP, Kaan Turnali.

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“If we think of design as a mindset, instead of an abstract concept, people and processes become the primary focus of innovation, while technology plays a secondary role”

Many times, companies embark on new product development with a focus on technology and the vast potentials of it, but with very little consideration for the user. This, no doubt, is one of the reasons many products fail yearly- user research on what consumers are needing and the usefulness of the product, wasn’t done right. 

In this excerpt from our discussion with Kaan Turnali of SAP, he lays out certain reasons why technology-focused products perform subpar to those built with user centered approaches. Design today is no more an abstract concept, people and processes have to become the primary focus. The trap, for instance, in technology products is focusing on great features rather than discovering if these features are at the core of what the users find valuable: does it matter to them? 

“The focus of technology design and innovation should never be on what the technology can do for the user, but rather what the user can do with that technology.”

When we design products and services, we are creating experiences, even if the boundaries are narrow and controlled,” Kaan further stated. Products bear a brand name and promising features, experiences are the memorable moments users get from engaging in the product. These experiences are what influences how they describe the product or rate it, not just the features. Finding out what matters to the user and building for it increases engagement beyond features and aesthetics. This saves time, resources and impacts performance as well.

“In return, we must understand what matters to the user so we can build for and with that purpose to go beyond transactional elements.”

Central Lesson: For any company and leader seeking to drive positive impact within their organization, creating solutions with a look, first at their customers and not just on the available technology, is important to truly serving the customers’ needs and capturing value for their stakeholders.

Season 2 | Episodes 2: How to Make Large Organizations Innovate Through Collaboration (with Jesper Müller-Krogstrup)

Jesper Muller the CEO of NOSCO shares an amazing strategy used by his team to help companies drive innovation within their processes for business growth.

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On this episode, Jesper CEO and Founder of Nosco, share with us on how companies can innovate from within by collaborating with team members from various departments. He shares reasons why internal collaborations among team members are important for companies looking to innovate around their offerings.

If you are considering how you could improve on the innovative culture within your business, then this episode is meant for you.

Innovation Success Story: Learnings from Our Article on Coca-Cola

We share key learnings from Coca Cola which we wrote an in-depth article on. We share learnings from The Coca-Cola Company.

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In a recent article highlighting Coca Cola as a trailblazer in innovation, we shared key learnings from the brand as it has honed several practices internally to a nurture a culture of innovation. You can find the full article here.

However for those who want to quickly digest the highlights, we have pulled out, in the video, key points around successful innovative practices from Coca-Cola. Watch if you are considering how to incorporate practices geared toward innovation within your company.

Innovation Tip: Leading Your Industry the Coca-Cola Way

By being consumer-centric and responding to consumer demands, Coca Cola has been able to bring cutting-edge solutions to customers. Cola Company, after 134 years, is still leading its industry in innovation. With multiple beverage brands under its belt and a large market share in the segments they serve, Coca Cola continues to lead the way.  […]

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By being consumer-centric and responding to consumer demands, Coca Cola has been able to bring cutting-edge solutions to customers.

Cola Company, after 134 years, is still leading its industry in innovation. With multiple beverage brands under its belt and a large market share in the segments they serve, Coca Cola continues to lead the way. 

In achieving this, Coca Cola has leveraged an indispensable tool to build winning products and staying ahead – a way to gain insights into their customers’ needs and an understanding of their demands. Coca Cola’s President and Chief Operating Officer James Quincey rightly said, “to thrive today, companies have to keep aligning products to meet consumer preferences while being innovative in doing so.”

Thoughts: How is your product or service performing in the market? Are you aligning to consumers needs and changing preferences? 


Tip: Make understanding your customers a part of your overall strategy to help your teams better serve your audience and stay ahead in delighting them.

The Swiffer Success Story

The story of Swiffer is a huge testament to the relevance of design to business growth and product innovation. For companies seeking to innovate, design processes are critical to helping the team properly understand and define great opportunities that can be leveraged for business growth.

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In the ’90s, if your floor was dirty and you wanted it cleaned, there was one common way to do it-mop the floor. To have this done, you needed a bucket, some water, cleaning detergent, a mop stick and your back bent towards the floor as you cleaned. To say this task was messy and tiring would be an understatement, as you would have to bend and squeeze the mop multiple times with your hands to release the dirty water.

Proctor and Gamble (P&G), seeking new avenues to reach the consumer reached out to the team at Continuum to find a way to grow their revenue through potential new offerings in the area of cleaning. Armed with the charge, the team at Continuum kicked off in-depth ethnographic research to better grasp the market. They went into people’s homes to better understand how and why they cleaned, as they studied the customer, they discovered that not only was cleaning was an important task in the home, it made them feel like responsible parents, good hosts and so on. 

Also, as the team at Continuum watched people mop their floors, they noticed people spent more time cleaning the mop than they did the floor. Further, they discovered dust was the main thing cleaned and when the dust is mixed with water it becomes muddy. This caused the change in the colour of the water used to mop the floor. So the team at Continuum thought of a way to clean the dust on the floor of homes effectively, while reducing the use of water and more importantly, removing the need to squeeze with hands and all other messy things one might have to do to get a cleaned floor. As they ran various ideation sessions, prototypes and testing sessions, they were able to arrive at a solution that leverages electric charges for cleaning. The mop device developed by the Continuum team, electrostatically captures dirt on a paper surface that could simply be detached from the stick and disposed of once cleaning is done. This significantly cut down the dependence on water for mopping the floors, it also saved people’s time and their need to squeeze out the dirt from mops with their hands to get it clean so they could continue with the cleaning easily. This solution is what is popularly known today as Swiffer.

Swiffer Products

Today Swiffer is said to be a half a billion-dollar brand with reach across fifteen different countries.

The story of Swiffer is a huge testament to the relevance of design to business growth and product innovation. For companies seeking to innovate, design processes are critical to helping the team properly understand and define great opportunities that can be leveraged for business growth.

By understanding people and their needs, the team at Continuum were able to help P&G provide a valuable and impactful solution to meet the needs of their target audience.

In the same vein, every company that is looking to explore new growth opportunities will benefit from:

  1. Seeking to better understand their audience, this allows them to discover their needs and develop solutions that meet those needs in the most effective way(s) possible.
  2. Assembling a great team and enabling a culture that can spot opportunities, question assumptions, embrace failures with a culture of learning and experimentation.
  3. Testing solutions as often as possible to see if they address the challenges faced by their target audience.

By doing so companies will be able to drive towards their revenue projections for the year, while also winning the hearts of new and already existing customers, just as P&G was able to do with Swiffer.

If you are seeking to drive positive change with your company, one proven way is to uncover, discover or rediscover your customers through empathy, observation and collaboration. Seeking out your customers like that can help you develop the next breakthrough product(s) leading to revenue growth and customer satisfaction. 

Another direction, if you haven’t already begun, is to find the best way to improve the innovation culture within your company, opening up opportunities for collaboration, experimentation and iteration are some key starters. You want a team well equipped to be able to push through challenges to discover the next big opportunity and solution. Building a team equipped for successful innovation practices doesn’t happen overnight, and requires step-by-step building over time. To aim towards a long term innovation-prone culture within your team, while bringing competitive products to market in the short term, seek out external Design and Innovation firms. These agencies can help work with your R&D or product team to accomplish the short term goals of bringing great products to market and long term goals like building the capacity for innovation within your team and business. Do this and like Proctor and Gamble, you might just build the next ‘Swiffer’. 

Innovation Tip: Innovating Without Technology

It’s no denying that technology is important to innovation, however many business leaders make the mistake to think of technology as innovation. Others think innovation can’t happen without technology. This is a commonly held belief that Innovation leader Gianfranco Zaccai debunks in his sit down with us.

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It’s no denying that technology is important to innovation, however many business leaders make the mistake to think of technology as innovation. Others think innovation can’t happen without technology. This is a commonly held belief that Innovation leader Gianfranco Zaccai debunks in his sit down with us. Sometimes, innovation happens without technology or innovation happens and then is enhanced by technology. Cases such as when providing solutions to the poor, illiterate and population facing the technological divide?

Not every opportunity for innovation requires technology, sometimes it requires removing technology- Gianfranco Zaccai

From healthcare to finance to agriculture, innovation happens with all people groups. An approach to take when seeking to serve the most remote users is to think first and foremost of meeting their needs, before seeking out if and only if technology can enhance the value being provided. While companies are seeking ways to solve challenges of meeting the needs of customers, innovation can sometimes happen without technology.

Your turn: How do you intend to design a new service or product to be valuable and usable among poor, illiterate, least digital savvy populace in your context?

Innovation Success Story: A Case Study of Coca Cola

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to some that Coke has also been a leader in innovation. From branding and marketing to product and customer experience, Coke has led the way for brands in bringing new, competitive solutions to market, even beyond Consumer Goods.

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Coca Cola has always been one of the leaders in its category, immensely successful in brand and customer experience across the globe. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that is has led its peers in innovation also. From branding and marketing to product and customer experience, Coke has led the way in bringing new, competitive and customer-centric solutions to market.

When Coca Cola was invented in 1886 by Doctor John Pemberton, it was, even then, considered an innovation. Similarly, when the now-famous ‘Ultra Glass contour bottle’ was designed, it was considered a novelty as well, ‘designed to improve impact resistance, and reduce weight and cost’. The innovative Ultra Glass bottles are said to be “40% stronger, 20% lighter and 10% less expensive than traditional contour bottles”. 

Coca Cola has gained massive success, as it has brought innovation to the market in more ways than one, no doubt aiding its position as the world’s leading manufacturer of the most popular and biggest-selling soft drink in history, amongst other solutions.

So what are the secrets of this success? How does Coca Cola, after 134 years still remain a market leader known for innovation? 

Coca Cola has always sought to understand what their customers are needing. The current President and Chief Operating Officer, James Quincey, said regarding their customers, “We need to start by asking, ‘Where are they going?’ “We’re listening carefully and working to ensure that consumers are firmly at the centre of our business so we can continue to grow responsibly. If we embrace where the consumer is going, our brands will thrive, and our system will continue to grow.” By being consumer-centric and responding to consumer demands, Coca Cola has been able to bring cutting-edge solutions to customers.

“We’re listening carefully and working to ensure that consumers are firmly at the centre of our business so we can continue to grow responsibly. If we embrace where the consumer is going, our brands will thrive, and our system will continue to grow.” – James Quincey, President and Chief Operating Officer, Coca Cola

Coca-cola Innovation

Coca Cola’s former Chief Technical and Innovation Officer, innovation leader Guy Wollaert, said that an innovation doesn’t have to be disruptive or headline-grabbing. It must simply create new value. Coca Cola has stayed true to this belief, relying on diverse resources, extensive customer research, as well as “experimentation and the power of design-thinking techniques to drive growth for the business”.

‘Deep lateral thinking’ is another tactic used by Coca-Cola, as they brought in a wide variety of individuals as collaborators, they were careful to bring in subject matter experts and lateral thinkers, Guy Wollaert, states “It’s important to have the right subject matter expertise, but it’s absolutely critical to complement this with people who have an innate skill of connecting dots laterally. Essentially, bringing together a variety of people, those who are skilled in seeing the bigger picture and those who are able to view the detail, this allows systems thinking, an incredibly important skill in design and innovation.

By leveraging the art of collaboration, Coca Cola has also brought innovative solutions to the fore front. “Innovation is a team sport”, is a phrase boldly used on Coca Cola’s sites and the brand has leveraged this simple truth, using the power of its wide network of employees, distributors, consumers and vendors, to bring new solutions to bear. 

Understanding that collaboration, by bringing divergent minds together is another great ingredient for innovation, Coca Cola developed a process of going to external entities to seek and glean valuable insights, from customers and distributors to internal stakeholders. For example, it used social media as a way to get feedback from their customers. In 2019, it also opened up Coke KOLab, “a new high-tech facility where retail and restaurant customers can build collaborative business plans and get a peek inside the company’s innovation pipeline”.

A culture of experimentation is another way Coca Cola births novel products, “We combine the best of what entrepreneurs do and the best of what Coca-Cola does,” explains Susan Zaripheh, Transformational Innovation Team lead

What does this mean to you, a business leader trying to effect company-wide innovation and transformation, how do you create valuable and impactful solutions?

Seek to ‘collaborate’ more with stakeholders along your value chain, however that looks like, both inside and externally. Employees, customers and other stakeholders in your company’s ecosystem will prove valuable. Start by exploring areas with individuals you may not have looked at before but are part of your value chain like Coca Cola reached out to their distributors. 

Listen, learn and experiment. “Power is not having one team dedicated to transformational innovation, but seamlessly implementing learnings and frameworks across the organization and fuelling new capability to drive growth,” said Simon Yeung, SVP, Innovation and Stewardship, Coca-Cola North America

Leveraging the power to learn and experiment as you envision and build areas of growth is important to successfully innovating.

In many ways, Coca Cola has paved the way for many across the world and various industries, what the company has succeeded in, is taking the practices that bring about innovation and incorporating them within their company’s operations. 

In doing so, they have mapped out a path for aspiring brands to try be inspired by. 

A Conversation with Gianfranco Zaccai, Founder Continuum/ Foundation for Augmented Intelligence

Susan Onigbinde the Founder/ CEO of DODO Design Agency and Gianfranco Zaccai Founder Continuum/ Foundation for Augmented Intelligence had a conversation on how businesses can leverage tough times to birth innovative solution

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Gianfranco Zaccai, a global leader in design and innovation, shares from his experience on how companies can birth innovative solutions, he points to major principles that are needed for product success while also highlighting lessons from one of his company’s many innovation successes- Swiffer. Swiffer was and still is a huge commercial success for Procter and Gamble (P &G) of which Gianfranco and his team at Continuum were responsible for developing the product. Watch and get vital information you can implement into your next solution build.

Please note: 
There was a break in transmission during the call, this was as a result of the poor network at the time. We want to apologies in case of any inconvenience. Also at about 24:48 technology is what was meant and not innovation.

You can learn more about Gianfranco Zaccai’s Foundation for Augmented Intelligence here.

Welcome to Season 2: Breaking Down How the Process of Product Management Leads To Product Innovation (with Babajide Soyebo)

On this episode, we have Babajide Shoyebo, the Product Manager at Workforce group. He shares with us his experience helping a global company build and mange their digital products which brought in great returns to his organisation. He also talks on how a greatly managed product can birth great results with exciting returns to show.

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On this episode, we have Babajide Shoyebo, the Product Manager at Workforce group. He shares with us his experience helping a global company build and manage their digital products which brought in great returns to his organisation. If you are developing a new product or are thinking of a great way to innovative manage your products, then this episode is definitely one you should listen to.

Design and Innovation Podcast Season 1 Finale

It has been a really interesting season and we sure had a lot of things to learn from it. Listen, as Susan takes us through the season, pointing out noteworthy areas from the entire season. Plug in your earphones to find out what they are.

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Susan Onigbinde sums up the entire season into insightful bites that you can quickly learn from. She shares her thoughts and learnings from the various conversations we have throughout the season, highlighting key areas that stood out for her and how you as well can implement those learnings into your company.

We have really enjoyed all the conversations we’ve had with experts from all around the world, sharing the relevance of design to business growth and innovation. We are eager to begin the new season and we are sure you are as well.

We have come to the end of the first season of Design and Innovation Podcast but there’s more to come. Stay tuned to Design and Innovation Podcast.

A Conversation with Lola Cardoso, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank PLC

“I believe innovation is about creating, capturing and delivering value to stakeholders – these could be around solutions to your customers’ articulated or unarticulated needs. Innovation needs to be authentic to succeed.”

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Tell us a little about your journey to this current position Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank. What led you into this path of innovation?

I joined Union Bank in August 2013 as Group Head, Corporate Strategy to drive the Bank’s strategy, anchor its overall transformation and support execution bank-wide.

My aim was to make a difference and transform an almost 100-year-old bank then into a modern organization with the right people, processes and platform. I have contributed to the successful transformation of the bank and proud as the bank continues its positive growth momentum.

In 2015/2016, I began driving the bank’s innovation and sustainability efforts, which are integral to our Bank’s future growth and positioning. Our transformation efforts focused on people, process and technology, have built a solid foundation for us to compete effectively and win.

 Today, I am driving digital and innovation in a 100+ organization and I now lead our retail distribution efforts with the aim of continuously delivering superior value to stakeholders as we position Union Bank as a leader in retail and transaction banking. We are in a new phase of our transformation as we deepen our focus on digital and innovation, which are essential to win in the future.

What are your thoughts on innovation as it is currently in Nigeria?

The speed at which innovative technology is travelling across the world especially Africa is incredible; it is reshaping how we consume financial products and media content. The continent’s strive for innovation and development, especially in Financial Technology – lending and payment systems is impressive – thanks to the increasing rate of mobile penetration across Africa.

“The continent’s strive for innovation and development, especially in Financial Technology – lending and payment systems is impressive – thanks to the increasing rate of mobile penetration across Africa.”

Nigeria is home to so many creative and innovative individuals and businesses – I am very proud to see how Nigeria is consistently being put on the map by so many innovations that have been birthed in the country. In fact, Nigeria’s tech industry has become the leading investment destination in Africa for investors globally; with the country’s startups raising ~$180m in disclosed funding rounds in 2018 according to Techpoint Africa. In the first half of 2019 alone, tech start-ups in Nigeria have raised ~$110m in investments from local and foreign investors. The potential is indeed huge!

Given Nigeria’s current dependence on revenue from oil, it is very clear that there’s a need to boost innovation and adopt new frontier technologies to support growth across all sectors.  Innovation is important for Nigeria’s social and economic growth. It is one thing to say you need innovation and another to create an ecosystem that will push beyond boundaries and challenge the status quo. Innovative technologies like AI, open banking, blockchain, robotics etc. need to be adopted to deliver the economic breakthrough Nigeria needs. With the Government’s recent creation of a refreshed ministry – Communications and Digital Economy, we hope that there will be deliberate and concerted efforts to create enabling structures and policies for innovation and digital initiatives to thrive in the country.

Leading the charge on Union Bank’s digital strategy and investments, I am increasingly driven to pay it forward for Nigerians and the larger society including women and youth to grow the digital economy. The challenges in Nigeria around financial access as well as financial literacy are clear opportunities that we are trying to tackle at Union Bank. I believe that by partnering with a larger ecosystem, we can push boundaries and succeed.

What are your key responsibilities as the current position of Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank?

As the Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank, my focus is to drive and execute the digital roadmap for the Bank while retaining oversight of the Bank’s strategy and innovation objectives.

 A key objective is to clearly define and execute a holistic digital strategy that enables and aligns with our ambitions. Critical tasks involve mapping out relevant digital requirements, as defined by our target segments and our priorities, identifying the right partners to onboard, and implementing an agile development and prototyping process for accelerated execution and insight gathering.

Ensuring the Bank is proactively abreast of developments in the digital and innovation space and making recommendations to the Bank on ideas and/or initiatives to invest in, is another important responsibility that I have.

I’m focused on integrating digital into all aspects of our business, from solutions, channels, processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture we embed in the organization.

How would you define innovation based on your experience at Union Bank?

I believe innovation is about creating, capturing and delivering value to stakeholders – these could be around solutions to your customers’ articulated or unarticulated needs. Innovation needs to be authentic to succeed. It needs to be part of your organization’s ethos to be successful. At Union Bank, innovation was adopted as a core value in 2017 reinforcing that creativity and forward-thinking is critical for our individual and collective success. Our commitment to innovation comes from the top. Employees are empowered to think creatively and strategically and we are committed to considering all ideas shared and investing in those relevant to our growth and strategic priorities.

Innovation can thrive only when we embrace and nurture an environment of ideas, creativity, and openness. This is the culture companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have embedded – encouraging their employees to test, fail fast / forward, and learn.

“I believe innovation is about creating, capturing and delivering value to stakeholders – these could be around solutions to your customers’ articulated or unarticulated needs. Innovation needs to be authentic to succeed. It needs to be part of your organization’s ethos to be successful”

In Union Bank, there are several internal initiatives in place to promote innovative thinking and actions – Annual Case Challenge, Ideas Bank and Union X. These are platforms that provide an opportunity for employees to flex their creativity and be recognized by leadership and colleagues. A number of the recommended solutions are currently in the incubation stage, with some already set to launch. Beyond these focused initiatives, we want to ensure that the innovative culture cuts across all functions across the bank and influences the way we hire, train, recognize and empower our employees. To this end, we have embedded some courses in the Organization Enhancement Academy curriculum that focus on creative thinking and strategic execution competencies to supplement the experiential and on-the-job exposure. This year, we included a design thinking course – Product, Service and Experience Design – to support our mission to continuously create the simplest, smartest solutions and guarantee the best experience every time!

While we continue to build our innovative culture, we recognize the power of collaborating with external parties. We remain open to partnering with start-ups and tech companies and this is evident from the number of live discussions and proof-of-concept testing with several local and global fintechs as we drive to become Nigeria’s most reliable and trusted banking partner.

“While we continue to build our innovative culture, we recognize the power of collaborating with external parties.”

Which companies (around the world) do you admire most for their approach to innovation? Can you share what caught your attention about their practices?

In general, I admire companies that leverage AI, data-driven technologies, platforms and ecosystems to consistently augment their ways of working and create new offerings that push boundaries and reinvent the future. We know the likes of Google and Amazon blaze the trail here with their numerous offerings in the marketplace. However, I would like to emphasize “what” I admire. I admire companies that have made millions of consumers rely on their offerings to access every single product / service they need within one platform in the palm of their hands, thereby becoming an integral aspect of people’s lives – business, personal needs, lifestyle, etc.  As a result of this approach to innovation, it becomes very possible to expand to new business lines quickly by leveraging digital technologies and their existing customer base who have become loyal due to the convenience of their offerings.

“… companies that have made millions of consumers rely on their offerings to access every single product / service they need within one platform in the palm of their hands, thereby becoming an integral aspect of people’s lives – business, personal needs, lifestyle, etc.  As a result of this approach to innovation, it becomes very possible to expand to new business lines quickly by leveraging digital technologies and their existing customer base who have become loyal due to the convenience of their offerings.”

I particularly like to draw inspiration from businesses such as this – their ability to meet consumers ever-changing demands for speed, flexibility, personalization and the role these play in creating great experiences and loyalty are critical as I think about my role in driving Union Bank’s vision to be Nigeria’s most reliable and trusted banking partner.

What advice would you give to professionals looking to improve their career in innovation management, strategy or innovation leadership?

My biggest piece of advice to innovators is to make creativity a habit. It is very easy to teach someone how to do a job, but very hard to teach someone how to think differently. Take a different view of life and challenge assumptions. Question everything.

“My biggest piece of advice to innovators is to make creativity a habit… Question everything.”

What #innovationmoment are you most proud of in your role as Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank?

I don’t have one proud moment… we have accomplished a lot at Union Bank. I have many proud moments and am excited about the future. 

 I am very proud of the commitment and the passion with which my organization is driving innovation and is relentlessly pursuing our Digital Union agenda. The creation of the digital and innovation team working across the bank to create value and drive return for the bank and Nigeria has been rewarding. Providing them the tools and soon the workspace to create/co- create with our ecosystem makes me more excited about the future.

 In addition, the implementation of innovation hackathon/challenges for UBN and for Nigeria (Centenary Innovation Challenge, Campus Innovation Challenge, edTech Challenge to name a few) has ignited our employees as well as Nigerian youth and entrepreneurs. These have been proud moments given the opportunities to nurture and enable home grown ideas and provide unique learning opportunities to all involved given partnerships with other innovation partners.

Also, our thorough innovation development process has been awesome to drive and the reward of birthing sustainable digital solutions with real impact on Nigeria consumers. We look forward to building our pipeline of solutions in partnership with the Nigerian technology and business ecosystem. 

If you could build a company from the ground up, what innovation tactics or design methodologies would you use to build?

Companies coming up with new products would like to get the desired product to customers’ hands faster before their competitors even have time to think about modifying it.

 The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup, how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere and grow a business with maximum acceleration. This is a principled approach to new product development.

 Today, too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want or need. They then spend months perfecting that product without ever showing to customers. Taking a leaf from design thinking, it is very important to validate the idea/product with the market, observe your customers to determine their unarticulated needs, and further refine the product/idea with feedback from testing and prototyping.

 These methods help to ensure that there is a need and an existing market for the product/idea to be launched, therefore greatly improving the chances of success in the marketplace as well as improving the sustainability of the business.

“Today, too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want or need. They then spend months perfecting that product without ever showing to customers. Taking a leaf from design thinking, it is very important to validate the idea/product with the market, observe your customers to determine their unarticulated needs, and further refine the product/idea with feedback from testing and prototyping.”

#innovationmoment

“The creation of the digital and innovation team working across the bank to create value and drive return for the bank and Nigeria has been rewarding. Providing them with the tools and soon the workspace to create/co-create with our ecosystem makes me more excited about the future.”

Season 1 | Episode 12: How Design Boosts Productivity in Companies (with Douglas Ferguson)

We had an interesting conversation with Douglas Ferguson, President Voltage Control, an Innovation agency based in Austin Texas. He shares from his experience, unique ways companies can be come more productive in their meetings and other strategic sessions.

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We had a chat with Douglas Ferguson, the President of Voltage Control and innovation workshop agency based in Austin Texas. He shares how companies can practically become innovative in every aspects rather than just say they are or desire to be innovative. He also pointed out other teams and companies that are being proactively innovative. Thinking of new ways and concepts they can improve on their products.

He also shares ways on how businesses can avoid innovative slumps that usually happens after an innovative solution is conceptualised. 

He took the conversation further by sharing with us how design can help teams boost their productivity, touching on the aspects of team meetings and internal processes.

A Conversation with Valentina Salvi, Senior Service Designer, Accenture Interactive

A well-designed service system should enable a combination among actors, resources, and processes able to deliver strong value to the end-users, which is easier said than done.

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Can you share with us your background in design?

It all started when I first got my Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Design from the Politecnico School of Milano. During my third year at the university, I was lucky to join an exchange program called MEDes (Master of European Design) where I took the chance to spend two years studying abroad in both Glasgow and Paris. While being abroad I first discovered the essence of the term “Service Design” and quickly realized that my interest and professional ambitions were pointing exactly in the Service Design direction. 

After such realization came to fruition, I decided while I was freelancing, to complete a Master solely dedicated to Service Design, and I took the chance to fully embrace this new professional path. After an enriching experience at Paco Design Collaborative where I spent 4 months in Namibia to work on the field for the EU funded PARTY Project, I was keen to keep being challenged and looked onward to doing so in Amsterdam as the city and its vibrant environment had always a loving spot in my heart. It was then that I decided to take a working opportunity and joined Accenture Interactive Amsterdam (Mobgen at the time) where I became the first member of what is now an outstanding 12+ Service Design team.

You’ve worked with various companies, big and small, can you share with us how can stimulate innovation inside those companies? (I’m asking based on your experience as a Service Designer)

Based on my practice as a Service Designer and Design Consultant, I learned that innovation is a mindset that should be embraced by companies from within. Infusing and fostering Customer-Centricity is the access to great, meaningful innovation that matters, and most importantly, that gives companies the readiness to turn new products and services into a success.

“…innovation is a mindset that should be embraced by companies from within.”

Design Thinking, with its inner human-centered approach, is usually the very first reliable methodology to ease companies in creating internal awareness among their values and use the power of design to strive while keeping their end-users in mind. To solve the right problem, you always need to ask the right questions first, therefore research and investigation of your end-customers, the ones that are using your product or service, are the engine of it all. Evidence-based iteration is the overarching principle behind Design Thinking, and something companies of any size tremendously benefit from to stay relevant and being meaningful in an era of liquid expectations, where new needs and challenges are constantly unfolding.

“To solve the right problem, you always need to ask the right questions first.”

Another aspect that truly stimulates innovation is co-creation, one of the key fundamentals of Service Design itself. Co-creating means applying techniques enabling a diverse, multifaceted team, where in most cases participants come from different departments and fields, to shape a vision, ideas, progress, together. This facilitates joint understanding and problem solving, uncovering the reasons why things are done the way they are done, the underlying pain points and the opportunities to ride. Co-creation enables creativity to shine through and generate innovative solutions beyond the known and the obvious. I urge companies of any size to embed these methodologies and ways of working as part of their internal processes and growth

“Co-creation enables creativity to shine through and generate innovative solutions beyond the known and the obvious.”

Can you tell us what Service Design’s values to businesses are?

The core principles of Service Design are: 

1. Human-centered / It unlocks desirable experiences based on real needs, research and data; 

2. Co-creative / It enables shared ownership and stakeholders involvement making success everyone’s responsibility; 

3. Holistic / It considers desirability, as well as viability and feasibility for true success; 

4. Iterative / It promotes focused effort where that’s rewarding; 

5. Sequential / It unleashes one vision of the truth by visual, cross-touchpoints artefacts.

These principles are what enable Service Design to maximize business value and accelerate innovation for companies, in the following manner:

· Saving costs: By validating assumptions with end-users, Service Design reduces the risk of big, costly mistakes.

· Engagement & loyalty: Loveable experiences increase NPS scores, user adoption, and retention rates. 

· Making user impact: Service Design focuses on solving real user problems and seizes amazing experiences out of it.

· Increasing speed to market: By using rapid iteration to quickly validate new opportunities and reduce development time.

· Focused problem-solving: Through practical design thinking tools, Service design uncovers and tackles the root cause of the perceived problem to project new solutions that matter. 

How can companies who are more product-centric infuse Service Design to improve the values they offered to clients?

To be relevant and meaningful to consumers nowadays, it’s of fundamental importance for a business to focus on the whole customer journey. Brand values should be tangibly reflected and perceived from customers at every touchpoint of the experience. Digital products often represent just one kind of touchpoint within a journey of interactions, and opportunities are not often maximized.

“To be relevant and meaningful to consumers nowadays, it’s of fundamental importance for a business to focus on the whole customer journey.”

By conducting research, visualizing your findings, extruding them into As-Is Journeys, Personas, Blueprints, and co-creating solutions, customers’ negative emotions along these journeys can turn into fulfilling moments of delight and reward. Service Design enhances the uncovering for companies of low hanging fruits and long-term benefits that increase the business impact, customer satisfaction, and show differentiating factor among competitors.

In what ways would you say financial institutions can apply Service Design to improve and transform the way they offer their services to customers?

I’ve been working on a range of projects within the financial sector, from banking to pension, and in my experience, the Design Sprint methodology was a great pragmatic way to reimagine such services for customers. In a condensed time window of 4 to 5 days, we were able to scope on the problem, generate multiple ideas, pick one or two to prototype, and ultimately test them with 5 users. I found the process incredibly effective and its fast-moving quality makes it a perfect starting point for institutions that are struggling to find their commitment and space to embrace changes and innovation.

Also, too often institutions rely on NPS score and quantitative data only to assess the level of customer satisfaction towards their own business. Data and statistics are surely important but they are – in my view, unable alone to understand deep consumers’ needs, pain points, and spot opportunities. Qualitative research should be the starting point to initiate any project with a human-centred approach, to gather insights based on real conversations and observational in-context techniques. Such insights should be strengthened and complemented by quantitative analysis. Research is fundamental to understand the now and be able to shape future ways to handle any service, including the financial ones.

“Qualitative research should be the starting point to initiate any project with a human-centered approach, to gather insights based on real conversations and observational in-context techniques.”

Are there practices round Service Design you think companies could apply on their own to improve on their internal processes?

Service Design is a mindset, a skillset, and a wide range of specialties under one name, that can be trained and learned. It is a matter of fact that businesses – from Banks to Insurances and Telco’s – have incorporated Service Design more and more by creating internal teams that are dedicated to the replication and enablement of such processes.

There’s a lot that can be done for companies if they become empowered by the right – in-house or outsourced – Service Design skills and expertise. To give an example, Personas, Customer Journeys, Blueprints are visual artifacts that can enormously help companies in moving forward, face challenges, and respond to them with meaningful solutions. They provide a shared, complete, and unified common ground in decision making towards innovation.

“There’s a lot that can be done for companies if they become empowered by the right – in-house or outsourced – Service Design skills and expertise.”

Moreover, Design Sprints, workshops, internal training on customer-centricity, and specific methods are key assets Service Design capabilities should be leveraged for. Service Designers should amplify their role of users’ advocates for the whole company to become more customer-centric and innovation-driven.

What would you define as a well-designed service system?

Over the past few decades, Services have represented a Post-Industrial alternative shifting consumers’ attention and value from the concept of “ownership” to the one of “accessible functionality”. People no longer want as many things as they did during industrial times. They just want to be able to use them conveniently, when they need them.

In addition to the “ownership vs access” element, a well-designed service system should enable a combination among actors, resources, and processes able to deliver strong value to the end-users, which is easier said than done. Furthermore, successful services like Airbnb, Amazon Kindle, Uber to mention some, have maximized assets that were already there, already available: what made them a success was re-imagining a new configuration for them.

In addition to that, given the ongoing relationship between brand and customer in service instead of a one-off purchase of the product itself, a well-designed service must ensure good customer service and support along the journey, to consolidate the relationship over time and prove value at any stage.

Having said that, we have to remember that we live in a world facing critical climate change issues and deep inequalities. I believe that any product or service should be identified as truly successful if making a step ahead towards circularity, sustainability, and social impact, so they’d be my criteria I’d put on top of the mentioned list.

“People no longer want as many things as they did during industrial times. They just want to be able to use them conveniently, when they need them.”

 Could you give us an example of a company that has designed a great service system? (If you can, please list two or three things that stand out for you?

There are many case studies out there and companies that managed to do a great job within the service-system field, and Fairphone is one that strongly stands out to me. Fairphone is more than just a phone. It’s a revolutionary approach to the way smartphones are made, recycled, and used. Fairphone is made from recycled, old phone spare parts: thanks to their “recycling program” service people can ship their old phones for free and get a discount on their Fairphone purchase. The first thing that stands out to me is the circularity element, which means the smart, ingenious, long-lasting design made for parts to be easily replaced, the care for fair materials, and good working conditions for all the levels involved. 

The product lifecycle consideration throughout turns the current phone status and disposable idea attached to a durable product-service designed to last for longer. Besides, Fairphone opened to the possibility of expanding its offering to businesses, scaling up the impact this fair technology venture can make into a stronger product-service system strategy. Business customers can move from buying phones (ownership) to renting devices allowing them to call, text, use apps, and enjoy entertainment (service). Fairphone, in my opinion, is a case showcasing the power of reimagining the things closer to us with strong ethics and values towards a healthier planet, greater equality, and more responsible purchase.

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share it?

Last summer I had the chance to work in a pro-bono project for Plan International in Uganda around Green Skills and Green Jobs development, targeting young women aged 14-24 in rural areas of the country. I spent 2 weeks researching on the field. The purpose of this Human-Centred Design research was to get an understanding of unemployment causes, and the current lifestyle, emotions, dreams, barriers, and fears of our end-users. 

The generative research approach I adopted has been a combination of training, co-creation, and qualitative research methods such as interviews, card sorting, and in-context observations, by taking on the perspective of both end-users and local stakeholders. This project has been one of the most incredible and mind-opening experiences for me as a professional and human being, where I learned a lot myself and had the chance to share my knowledge with others for a great cause. I believe any designer should experience what it feels like to design for social impact and operate in a culturally different context, at least once in a lifetime.

I wrote more about my experience in Uganda on this Medium article, feel free to check it out for a more detailed summary of reflections and methods used.

“Last summer I had the chance to work in a pro-bono project for Plan International in Uganda around Green Skills and Green Jobs development, targeting young women aged 14-24 in rural areas of the country. I spent 2 weeks researching on the field… This project has been one of the most incredible and mind-opening experiences for me as a professional and human being, where I learned a lot myself and had the chance to share my knowledge with others for a great cause.”

Becoming Curious: How Innovation Begins

Curiosity is an important characteristic of innovators because it motivates one to question facts and assumptions. When questions are asked, we are made to think differently about a service or product. Contrary to some opinions, innovation isn’t something new, it could be new, but the unique value innovation brings is that it simplifies or improves on an already existing challenge that could either be articulated or unarticulated.

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Have you ever wondered what makes for great innovators? Innovators are characterised by their curiosity. You’ll find them prying into challenges, searching within themselves opportunities that can be leveraged as a solution for specific challenges. This way of thinking is what leads them to great innovations. This mindset isn’t new to innovators, it is something that we are all born with, the only difference is that some gradually lose these tendencies as they grow up. Not to worry it can be gotten back.

Curiosity is an important characteristic of innovators because it motivates one to question facts and assumptions. When questions are asked, we are made to think differently about a service or product. Contrary to some opinions, innovation isn’t something new, it could be new, but the unique value innovation brings is that it simplifies or improves on an already existing challenge that could either be articulated or unarticulated. While reading a book by Adam Grant, The Originals I came across this quote “Being original doesn’t require being first. It just means being different and better.”

“Being original doesn’t require being first. It just means being different and better.”

Adam Grant

This quote just brings to light how as innovators the aim shouldn’t be how fast we can get to market but how the product/service we are innovating on can cause a difference and improve the condition around a specific challenge.

Microsoft, Google, Apple, Tesla, Interswitch, Flutterwave are popular today not because of their unique names but because of the innovations they were able to birth from their organizations. These innovations came as a result of a certain level of curiosity that their leaders had from inception. The leaders of these organizations were moved with a question on how to improve on a need and they were able to question various assumptions and facts until they landed on solutions that addressed the needs.

Now I know other innovators haven’t been as successful as the ones earlier pointed out, however, there are reasons for that as well. One of the key factors that makes some innovators successful is pointed out from the Innovation Dilemma which was written by the late Clayton Christensen. In the book the author clearly explains two major strategies of innovations that major businesses adopt:

  1. Sustainable Innovation
  2. Disruptive Innovation

For sustainable innovation, we see that major organizations focus on improving on already existing innovations or we could say focusing on major areas that have challenges that should be addressed.

Disruptive Innovation, on the other hand, forms a part of a strategy used by start-ups to develop solutions for a niche market which sometimes are overlooked by bigger organizations.

A note to point out, however, is that innovation is a risky activity in itself but it’s a risk that can be managed to an extent and offers a reward that really has an impact. These risks are what big businesses are cautious of and hence tend to draw away from such innovations because for them the stakes seem to be higher than when compared to the Start-ups who have little to lose and hence are able to bear the risk better.

Amazingly, that’s the twist to becoming innovative. As an innovator who is curious, wanting to find answers to questions, you must be willing to take risks and I mean well-calculated risks. Most businesses today were established as a result of a risk that was taking in trying to solve a need.

As a business leader, you should always open up to curiosity. Rather than assuming on a process that is presented or a product that is built, look for a new way to address the challenge. Looking for a new way that meets needs is what will set you apart as an innovative leader. Innovation isn’t just about building a new digital product, its building products/services that address challenges faced by people.

Looking at your team today, what product, service or process do you think can be improved on? What areas or niche are there opportunities that you and your team are overlooking? Starting now, question those challenges and work with your team to innovate around it.

Innovation starts from a curious mind. Start questioning.

Design Research and Its Impact on Product Performance

In Simon Sinek’s popular TEDx talk, he said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He further goes on to explain the immense value businesses and customers can gain if their ‘why’ can clearly be identified and communicated. “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” […]

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In Simon Sinek’s popular TEDx talk, he said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He further goes on to explain the immense value businesses and customers can gain if their ‘why’ can clearly be identified and communicated.

“people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

– Simon Sinek

Finding the ‘why’ basically means finding the purpose, cause or belief that drives an organization or people.

Going along this line it will be important to find out why people buy products or use services daily? Could it be because that the products are attractive to them, because they can afford it or because they need it?

 How then can a company know why customers purchase products? By carrying out Design Research. I know that’s what crossed your mind and some would have been more specific to say Market Research. Well, that’s not so true. You see, Market Research centers more around how people buy your products. Market Research shows how many people bought your products, how many people showed interest, how your competitors are performing and so on. All these are beneficial to any business looking to build a product. However, Design Research combines the principles of design (empathy, experimentation and expansive thinking) with Market  Research (gathering data of companies and people) to find the reason why people buy a product or use an offering. It looks to answer “why” as it relates to product demand and development.

Design Research looks for emotional drivers that instigates customers’ need for a product or business. It seeks to find the root cause of particular pain-point of customers, it shows why people buy your product, why they have interest in an offering, why your competitors are positioning in a certain way to offer services to your target audience. This arms your team with insights that can help you offer solutions that meet customers’ needs or emotional bias. I included emotional bias because people not only buy products because they need it but sometimes because of how it aligns to their values and bolster their emotions. For instance, why do people buy an iPhone? They don’t buy an iPhone because they need a phone, another reason why they buy is that they feel information stored on their iPhone is secured and has a low chance of being hacked, some also feel they’ve joined a group of people that are unique, having style and elite status.

“Design Research looks for emotional drivers that instigates customers’ need for a product or business. It seeks to find the root cause of particular pain-point of  customers, it shows why people will buy your product, why they have interest in an offering, why your competitors are positioning in a certain way to offer services to your target audience.”

Design Research has proven to be a great advantage for many companies who have used it as part of their product development strategy. Companies like Apple, Google, Airbnb, Duolingo, PepsiCo and several others have been able to distinguish themselves simply by getting to know what their customers need and how best to deliver it. It has also helped these businesses find new opportunities that might not have been clearly revealed by customers but were discovered using techniques embedded in Design Research.

There are ways in which businesses can use Design Research to improve a product offering or impact the way products perform in the market.

1. Meeting a need: For any product in the market to succeed, it must meet a need. It must have identified a challenge that it wants to address. With Design Research, businesses are able to discover that need. As earlier mentioned, Design seeks to find the ‘why’ which they find by listening and jotting down important insights shared by the customers they interact with during the process. This helps these researchers unearth findings that lead them to opportunities and help uncover pain-points that customers might have. It is at this point that the synergy between the product development team and Design Researchers can reach solutions that address needs. Once a need is met, it translates to sales.

2. Product relevance: Once a product is launched, there is a need for it to continually remain relevant in the market. As we see today, many companies come into the market with great products but lose market share over time due to their inability to meet the constantly changing needs of their customers. Design Research shouldn’t be an activity that ends on the day of a product launch, rather it should continue at regular intervals to bring new insights that could help improve on the product. Customers’ needs are always changing making Design Research a constant necessity. This is something UberEats has been able to add to their process. What UberEats does is that they go out and talk with potential customers to better understand their needs, this has greatly impacted their brand.

3. Brand communication and marketing: Another great way Design Research can ensure that a product performs well in the market is by helping the marketing and sales team with keywords they can advertise and attract buyers with. Sales teams are usually not present during the product conception stages and therefore may lack accurate keywords that customers connect with. They may miss the fundamental reasons why customers want to buy in the first place and Design Research provides valuable intel into what customers are thinking, so marketing better communicates to them. Design researchers, after gathering enough data about customers’ needs, pain-points and goals, can collaborate with the marketing team to translate those insights into slogans, adverts and packaging design in order to get the attention of their target audience.

Design Research also adds great value to the overall Design Strategy you will adopt throughout the product life cycle. Design Strategy is an important aspect of product development and you can read up on my post about it here.

Image Credit: Nottingham Spirk

In conclusion, businesses who design to bring amazing new offerings to market, need to adopt Design Research. Design Research is a great way for teams to deeply understand their customers and their needs to enable them to develop products that can address those needs. Whether it be a service, product or process, it is best to find out the emotional drivers of the people you are building for by interacting with them and observing what they do. By doing this, you get to understand their needs so you can better serve them. This saves time, remedies product failure, and helps build products that delight your customers.

Summary of what design research is

Design Research combines the principles of design (empathy, experimentation and expansive thinking) with Market Research (gathering data of companies and people) to find the reason why people buy a product or use an offering. It looks to answer “why” as it relates to product demand and development.

How To Measure Innovation In Your Company

Being creative goes beyond simply stating that your company is creative; it means building a culture and work environment that allows creativity to thrive.

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There’s a popular proverb that says there’s nothing new under the sun. In business today, this thought rings very true.

These days, it seems like for every product or service, there are at least 2 others offering the exact same solution. It seems like for every Uber, there’s a Taxify/Bolt and Lyft.

This challenging terrain in business these days has made it so, staying competitive today is synonymous with innovation. To get customers’ attention and gain their loyalty, you have to deliver something they’ve never seen before in a way that satisfies and delights them, even surpasses their expectations.

So what do Airbnb, Netflix, Uber, and Tesla have in common? They have upturned century-old industries with new ways of delivering service and product solutions to people. These companies are proof that to succeed in today’s cutthroat world, you must innovate. To innovate your company, your team has to be creative.

Being creative goes beyond simply stating that your company is creative; it means building a culture and work environment that allows creativity to thrive.

So how do you run an innovative team, and how do you drive innovation within your team?

Here are 5 questions to consider when you’re running an innovative ship:

Are you driving a purpose-driven vision that the whole team is behind?

First and very important to running an innovative team, is to have and build a shared vision of the future. Sharing a collective vision of the future, backed by a strong purpose helps guide your team to deliver above expectations.

How aware is your team of your company’s future vision? And if they are aware, do they actively work towards this future vision? This is important to having a motivated and driven team as you drive towards growth.

This may also interest you: How Design Turned Airbnb From A Dying Startup To A Billion Dollar Business

Are you empowering your team?

Are members of your team empowered to make decisions, or do they have to constantly follow a given set of rules? Empowering your staff to make decisions allows them to think of new and unconventional solutions. Even better is when your customer-facing staff are allowed to make decisions and approach problems with solutions. Because they’re ‘with’ customers, their solutions will place into consideration their observations and direct feedback customers have given them, this is priceless.

How customized is your work environment to your team’s needs?

Is your workspace set up to answer to your employees’ needs and working patterns? How flexible is your work environment? Is your team able to ‘design’ their work areas and create systems that support their working? Do you have a flexible workspace that can be moved around to suit your team or is the workspace rigid and unmovable with team members working around set-in-stone work stations?

Flexible workspaces have been proven to boost teams’ creativity and productivity. Allowing your team to design their work areas also opens doors to new and effective ways of working, as effective processes can be adapted across the entire team.

Do you welcome iteration and experimentation?

How open is your team to trying new and unconventional ideas? How open are they to feedback from customers and critique from other members within the organization? Is the concept of experimentation shunned? Are failures considered big no-nos that can’t happen again or are they seen as learning opportunities?

A team that allows for feedback from within (team members) and without, (customers) and constantly iterates based on feedback gotten has been proven to progress faster than others. Building systems around ‘failures’, so learnings can be derived from them and a way forward can be decided upon, is a great way to build a culture that thrives in innovation.

Also read: 3 Innovative Ways Nigerian Fast Foods Can Increase Customer Loyalty

Is your company’s leadership innovation-prone or not?

Are team members encouraged to try new and out-of-the-box ideas? How open and invested is leadership in design processes such as user-experience, user-testing, and iteration.

In McKinsey’s Value of Design 2018 Report, leaders that treated design just importantly as revenue and costs performed far ahead of their peers, delivering substantially more in Total Return to Shareholders and Revenue

Use these yardsticks to measure innovation within your company or with your team. If you find that you’re lacking, begin to move in this direction.

Free Ebook – What Design can do for Nigerian Corporations

Design’s entry into the business world is no longer news, however its positive impact to business is constant news.

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Design’s entry into the business world is no longer news, however its positive impact to business is constant news. 
The process of design has been proven to help companies improve their internal capabilities, increase their market reach and help them to bring better products to market. In this age of ‘innovate or die’, read to see what the Nigerian Banking, FMCG, Telco and Health Industries stand to gain.

Download Ebook here

Empathy Map

The empathy map is a tool that helps you visualise and share what you understand about your customers.

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Effort-Impact Matrix

The Effort-Impact matrix is a decision-making tool that helps companies and teams save time and make the most out of resources.

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How Tech Companies Can Design Better Products for Market

Design Research is a user-focused method to gaining information of your customers, through human-centred design processes, to inform your product build. It seeks to discover your customers’ behaviour patterns, drivers and needs.

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So, the story goes, a company releases a product, it makes a huge splash everywhere, social media, radio, Out-of-Home, communities offline as well as blogs and media sites online. People talk about how they’re interested and can’t wait to try it, there’s so much excitement in the air.

We’re all almost sure this is going to be the product that disrupts all products, I mean, after all the company that released it, is one of the top ones. Then one month goes into 6 months, and 6 months into 1 year, and you hardly almost hear about the product anymore. Rumours start spreading that the company isn’t going to renew their App Store fee when the current one expires. Then the product slowly is unheard of again, until of course someone in one meeting somewhere wants to use it as an example of what failure in the market looks like.

 I remember a similar situation happening not too long ago. I remember distinctly driving down a popular street in Victoria Island, Lagos one December period, the entire street was laden with banners promoting the new product that just launched, everyone I met talked about either how much they loved the product and their advertising and their branding and on and on.

But then less than a year later, public interest had died. The product was now being used as a ‘case study’ of what not to do, with product and digital teams everywhere nit-picking on certain features in the product, pointing out reasons why they failed.

So, what was the problem there? How do you confidently release a product into the market, knowing that customers actually need the solution? How do you launch a product knowing that worst-case scenario is you pivoting, because you’ve taken the necessary precautions to mitigate risk and truly, I mean truly understand what the market is needing?

Market Research will clearly tell you how big the size of the market is, and the locations that will adopt and spend money on your product. Market research is very helpful for any product team seeking to take the time and resources to develop and launch a product into the market. With focus groups, product test sessions and more, market research delivers enough information for teams to know what direction to take.

However, what market research doesn’t do is allow you truly understand and empathise with the people who are going to use your product. An in-depth understanding of your users is a key step in releasing a successful product to market. We’ve seen it with Airbnb, how they went door to door in New York talking to their customers in aims of understanding what was stifling their growth. Or with Duolingo, the world’s number 1 language learning app, who tests their product rigorously to be able to understand what users want and immediately adapt. The list goes on, if you see a company that excels in product design and customer engagement and experience, then you’ve seen a company that relentlessly seeks to understand customers using the methodology of Design Research.

How fit is your product for your customers? Does it hit a nerve with them? Is there something, however small, that’s stopping people from adopting your solution in the masses, and you don’t know about it? For Airbnb, at the start, it was just that the pictures of the rentals that were being posted on the site were bad, and so people were turned off or didn’t trust the platform. Just changing this seemingly ‘little’ thing made them double their profits in a one week.

A screenshot of Airbnb’s website

These are very important questions for product, design and ventures teams, knowing that if they could see what their customers see and experience what they experienced, creating solutions for them would take a whole new dimension. Someone said, ‘empathy is the bedrock of innovation’, that couldn’t be truer, I’ll add that empathy is also one of the drivers of competitiveness and product dominance in the market.

I vividly recall a design workshop we ran recently; the products team’s biggest problem was customers’ use (onboarding) of their app. With Design Research, no doubt they would get to the bottom of the issue quickly.

So, what is Design Research?

Design Research is a user-focused method of gaining information about your customers, through human-centred design processes, to inform your product build. It seeks to discover your customers’ behaviour patterns, drivers and needs. It studies users in their contexts, observing them and walking in their shoes, to get an understanding of them that informs the end solution. The one undisputed value of Design Research is to enable you uncover and discover information from customers to serve them better through delightful user experiences and products that satisfy their needs.

Design Research seeks to answer, “why would customers use this product?”, “How would they experience it?”, “What are potential obstacles they could face using it?” Answering these questions empowers product teams to build better solutions with great user experiences to boot.

How Design Research help’s tech teams deliver stellar experiences for their users

It’s no secret that one of the reasons why products fail is because they were never built for users. The entire tech world, today, is radically embracing the idea of User Research and User-centred Design, not just to provide solutions that meet users’ needs but that truly engage them and answer to a pain they experience. Design research emerges as a true means by which companies can deliver on customer expectations, innovate and positively impact the bottom line.

 Knowing this value, companies from NGOs to Banks have sought to unearth users’ latent needs, seek opportunities for growth, or solve a problem that exists to bring about a better solution to market. 

Testing Lo-fi prototypes with a potential user

Every company looking to stand out through stellar customer experiences and disruptive solutions must have an understanding of the customers so in-depth that it informs the product build and ensures product success, brand growth and positive impact to your bottom line.

Other benefits of Design Research:

  • It’s a proven method to greatly reduce the cost of releasing product failures into market
  • It’s the way to discover user needs
  • It helps you not only discover users’ latent needs; it helps you understand and deliver great experiences for them
  • Informs you with real facts about your users and their contexts, using Design Research, you even discover information such as their personality types, how they look and their reactions etc.

In this age of empowered customers, leveraging this methodology is one ammunition tech teams everywhere wouldn’t want to miss out on.

Mountains and Valleys

Mountains and Valleys helps you have structured sessions that deliver clear next steps to accomplishing tasks and tackling problems.

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Innovation Sourcebook

The Innovation Sourcebook is a tool that is used to organise products, services and systems that have been successful in the market.

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Top 10 Innovation Conferences To Look Out For In 2020

Innovation conferences have proven to be one of the richest sources of inspiration for professionals looking to create more innovative solutions within their teams and organizations, for profitability and higher returns on investment.

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Events and conferences are one of the best ways to gain new and stimulating insights, get first-hand information on the latest industry trends and network with valuable prospects.

Innovation conferences have proven to be one of the richest sources of inspiration for professionals looking to create more innovative solutions within their teams and organizations, for profitability and higher returns on investment.

Knowing how relevant and essential this is to the goals of many teams’ and businesses, we’ve done the dirty work to ensure this new year will be your most innovative yet.

We’ve gathered some of the best innovation conferences around the world, along with dates, locations, links to help you.

Note: If it looks like we’re missing any important conference, reach out to us at hello@dodo.ng to get it included in this list!

1. UNLEASHING INNOVATION 2020

The ultimate purpose of this two-day summit is to bring together cross-industry leaders to speed up conversations around key trends and innovative approaches to developments and challenges confronting high-level decision-makers and their industries.

At the summit, speakers will be sharing vital insights that could provide you with the tools you need to promote innovation within your organization, identify initiatives that will lead to greater success, and find ways to apply consumer insights, UX research, and design thinking to disrupt in your industry.

Organizers: Global Executive Events (GEE)

Duration: 2 Days

Date: March 24 – 25, 2020

Location: Amsterdam

Fee: Paid (Visit website for more information)

Register

2. XXXI ISPIM INNOVATION CONFERENCE


The ISPIM Innovation Conference 2020, themed “Innovating Our Common Future” is a three-day event that welcomes over 700 world-renowned experts on innovation management from 50 countries to share insights on innovation management.

The goal of the conference is for participants to engage and share innovation insights with fellow professionals, explore and discover hot topics around the local innovation landscape, for participants to become exclusive members of a global innovation management community and opportunities to experience and enjoy well-coordinated social events in inspiring fun venues.

Organizers: International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM)

Duration: 3 Days

Date: June 7 – 10, 2020

Location: Berlin, Germany.

Fee: Paid (Visit website for more information)

Register

3. OPEN INNOVATION SUMMIT

The Open Innovation Summit is a great environment to learn about the latest innovation trends, propose innovation challenges and meet experts who can solve them, involve yourself in experiential workshops, find partners to develop new business ideas with and learn from international speakers who are well versed in disruptive technologies.

Organizers: Connect Bogota Region

Duration: 2 Days

Date: October 19 – 20, 2020

Location: Bogota, Colombia.

Fee: Undisclosed (Visit website for more information)

Visit Site for Registration Info

4. FUTURE FESTIVAL WORLD SUMMIT

Unlike other innovation conferences, the future festival boasts of having a choreographed immersion experience for participants. The uniqueness of this summit is that participants will have a chance to experience the future as opposed to passive listening.

 Participants will leave with over a hundred data-driven Insights, the summit promises to be energy-packed with workshops for teams, downloadable presentations and one on one adviser time. And to relax, there are cultural safaris to entertain participants instead of the regular vendors.

Download the full brochure

Organizers: Trend Hunter

Duration: 3 Days

Date: September 15 – 17, 2020

Location: Toronto, Canada.

Fee: Paid (Visit website for more information)

Register

5. THE ECONOMIST INNOVATION SUMMIT 2020

The Economist’s Innovation Summit aims to imagine and focus on the company of the future, taking into consideration all the social and political factors that will influence it. The summit is poised to address the following critical questions;

  • How can businesses channel innovation to solve humanity’s most pressing challenges?
  • What sort of chief executives will survive and thrive in the coming era of continuous change?
  • How can today’s companies achieve the transformation they will need if they are to succeed?
  • What kind of world do we want to create and how can artificial intelligence help us get there?

Organizers: The Economist

Duration: 1 Day

Date: March 5, 2020

Location: Chicago.

Fee: Paid (Visit website for more information)

Register


6. THE LEAD INNOVATION SUMMIT

The Lead Innovation Summit is a 2-day festival introducing more than 100 speakers across three stages. With a capacity of 1800 attendees, the lead Innovation summit focuses on the fashion & retail innovation community.

The conference aims to help participants learn from & connect with the major brands, retailers, digital natives, & tech start-ups that are defining the future of the fashion industry.

Organizers: The Lead

Duration: 1 Day

Date: May 19-20, 2020

Location: New York, USA.

Fee: Undisclosed (Visit website for more information)

Register

7. GARTER TECH GROWTH AND INNOVATION CONFERENCE

Gartner Tech Growth & Innovation Conference 2020 offers an exclusively informed update on the most pressing challenges facing technology providers today and the tech trends that can impact your business. At this summit, you get to learn new approaches to optimize your sales and marketing efforts while driving product innovation for business growth and market expansion.

Organizers: Gartner

Duration: 3 Days

Date: May 11-13, 2020

Location: San Diego, California

Fee: Paid (Visit website for more information)

Register

8. THRIVE INNOVATION SUMMIT

The THRIVE Innovation Summit which holds once every year in Silicon Valley attracts a good number of 250+ agribusiness leaders, investors, and food-tech start-ups.

This summit offers you a unique opportunity to meet and learn from successful companies influencing the future of the agriculture supply chain and leaders of Fortune 500 food & agriculture organizations causing these disruptive technologies.


At the summit, there will be fireside chats encompassing topics such as climate-positive agriculture, next-gen proteins, blockchain, indoor/vertical farming, integrated supply chain, biotechnology, and automated agriculture.

Organizers: Thrive

Duration: 3 Days

Date: March 25, 2020

Location: Santa Clara University, USA

Fee: Paid (Visit website for more information)

Register


9. LAGOS 2020 DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION SUMMIT

It is the largest gathering of digital transformation experts, business leaders and global disruptor focused on African businesses, it is dedicated to providing African businesses the opportunity to leverage digital transformation initiatives and solutions position their businesses for global competitive advantage.

The summit includes case study presentations, breakout sessions, panel discussion and technical workshops focused on key strategies, technology, and solutions for developing and reaching targeted digital transformation goals.

Organizers: Institute for Enterprise Management and Analytics

Duration: 1 Day

Date: June 11, 2020

Location: Lagos, Nigeria

Fee: Paid (Visit website for more information)

Register


10. SILICON VALLEY INNOVATION SUMMIT

A 2-day immersion summit for innovation-oriented executives. You get to gain ideas on how businesses can prosper in an age of digital disruption. The summit focuses on Digital Transformation, the impact of emerging technologies and lessons from unicorns. You will learn how to turn disruption into opportunities, transform customer experience with lessons from survivors of disruption, best practices for using outside resources to advance your corporate innovation agenda and much more.

Organizers: Silicon Valley Innovation Summit

Duration: 2 Days

Date: October 2020

Location: Mountain View, California

Fee: Paid (Visit website for more information)

Register

Trend Matrix

The Trend Matrix is a tool used to track how trends and external forces can affect Technology, Business, People, Culture and Policy.

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Season 1 | Episode 11: Improving on your Customer’s Experience to Drive Growth (with Vi Nguyen)

Vi shares with us how she has been able to use design to improve customers experience speaking from her time in a financial institution to having to work for the Swedish Space Agency.

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On this episode Vi Nguyen talks on how companies can start designing products and services that creates an amazing experience for their customers/users.

Vi share’s the importance of creating a memorable experience for users, sharing various experiences from establishing a user experience department in a financial institution to working for Swedish Space Agency.

She shares how businesses can explore the combination of physical and digital product/services to improve on their customer experience. 

Also an expert practitioner in Business Design, Vi shares the value businesses can derive for themselves and customers if they can infuse User Experience with Business Design. Pinpointing areas businesses can use in measuring the impact of combining both practices.

A Conversation with Tosin Faniro-Dada, Head of Start-ups at Lagos Innovates

“The first thing businesses should do is have an innovation strategy that describes the direction and desirable future state of the company.”

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Can you tell us what Lagos Innovates is about?

Lagos Innovates is a set of programs managed by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund that aims to create an enabling environment for tech startups to thrive in Lagos State. Through Lagos Innovates, startups have access to high-quality workspaces, talent, capital and mentorship.

We have a workspace voucher program that provides vouchers to startups to use at any of our 29 partner co-working spaces. These vouchers help defray the cost of accessing high-quality infrastructure. The vouchers cover 30%  -75% on average of membership cost for 3  to 12 months depending on the stage of the startup.

Our Talent Development program in partnership with Honeywell Group funds up to 80%  of the cost of participating in a technology skill training, through a student loan program. We have an idea hub a platform for entrepreneurs to share their skills, business ideas, and interact with peers and pre-selected mentors. The platform will help applicants build profiles and encourage a community that fosters interaction and collaboration.

Finally, Lagos Innovates has supported over 150 startups across all our programs since inception in 2018.

What does your role entail as Head of Start-ups? 

My role as Head of startups at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund entails developing and implementing programs that provide an enabling environment for tech startups to thrive in Lagos State, sourcing for local and international partnerships to promote and increase funding for Lagos Innovates programs. In addition, my team connects startups to investors, corporates, Government ministries, department and agencies to make it easier for them to be successful.

How would you describe innovation?

Innovation is when you create or develop a new product, process or service with the aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness or competitive advantage. In the book, Prosperity Paradox, the authors introduce us to a type of innovation that transforms complicated and expensive products and services that only the rich had access to into simple and affordable products and services that become accessible so that many more people can own and use them. This type of innovation reminds me of the Blue Ocean strategy where we pursue differentiation and low cost to open a new market space and create new demand.

What are the key areas businesses need to look at in order to become innovative internally?

I think the first thing businesses should do is have an innovation strategy that describes the direction and desirable future state of the company. The innovation strategy should address organizational growth, competitive positioning strategies, collaboration strategies, etc.

Businesses should also look at their business model to explore new forms of selling, pricing, management/control methods, etc.  The 3 Ps of Management should also be looked at – People, Process and Product. Technology is an area that should also never be ignored, businesses should look at the development of new technologies and explore new ways of commercializing via technological innovation.

Finally, the fundamental piece is Leadership and Execution of the innovation strategy, this is so important.  You can have the best innovation strategy for a business but if you do not have the right team executing it, you are more likely to fail.

“You can have the best innovation strategy for a business but if you do not have the right team executing it, you are more likely to fail.”

In your role as the Head of Start-ups (Lagos Innovates), what major opportunities are there that start-ups can leverage on in terms of getting investments?

Lagos innovates does not directly invest in tech startups however, we connect startups to investors and accelerators that can help with direct investment. Having a pipeline of startups that we have access to and just being part of our network allows us to very quickly match startups to investors that are interested in.  We also connect startups to corporate and government ministries, departments and agencies to help with access to market for their products and services.

How would you say the private sector can collaborate with the public sector in producing solutions that benefit both sectors?

I think there’s already some degree of collaboration between the public and private sectors. What I think was missing was a structured approach for these collaborations. Lagos States Office of Transformation, Creativity and Innovation recently launched a solutions hub where people with civic solutions looking to partner with the Government can upload their solutions and the office will guide them on next steps. The website is www.lagossolutionshub.com

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

I think the establishment of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund and being a pioneer team member is the best #innovationmoment in my career so far. The Fund was created to tackle the unemployment challenge in Lagos, and the way we design and iterate our programs to help us achieve our overall objective is remarkable. From supporting MSMEs with low digit, non-collateralized loans to help them expand their business and ultimately hire new people, to innovative partnerships with donor agencies such UNDP, GIZ, USADF, to train unemployed young people and place them in jobs, and finally the launch of Lagos Innovates to support the growing tech ecosystem which can help us create the exponential number of jobs that we are looking for. All these programs have innovative strategies that are being executed beautifully and across all our programs our beneficiaries have created over 98,000 direct jobs to the Lagos market.

“I think the establishment of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund and being a pioneer team member is the best #innovationmoment in my career so far”

Season 1 | Episode 10: How Large Companies can use Design Methodologies to Succeed (with Marcel Rossouw)

Marcel Roussouw is the Group Director of Fjord South Africa. He shares the value Design can have when used to develop a strategy on how a product or service is introduced in the market to gain consumers adoption.

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Marcel Roussouw is the Group Director of Fjord South Africa. He shares the value Design can have when used to develop a strategy on how a product or service is introduced in the market to gain consumers adoption.

He also shares ways business leaders can get involved in the design process, finding new ways they can deliver on their promise of value to their customers. Marcel paints the picture of design as a tool large organizations can use to understand complexities that may stand as a challenge to their survival as a business.

Lastly Marcel was able to touch on the role of design in shaping the future of business in Africa.

Season 1 | Episode 9: Building Solutions that Delivers Value to your Employees and Business (with Sarah Christine)

Here’s another interesting episode with Sarah Christine Deloughery. Sarah is a Design Thinking expert and team lead digital at 2BM an Information Technology company based in Denmark.

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Most companies when developing a product tend to give most of their attention to the customers, neglecting the employees and staff who also have a major part to play in delivering an offering to customers.
Some companies, on the other hand, go all out to purchase new gadgets for their employees to assist them in their daily tasks without first considering if there is a need for these products by their employees.

Sarah Christine is a Designer and IT consultant who helps teams build User- centric SAP solutions. She shares with us ways in which she approached designs for her clients, also noting out important areas businesses should look out for if they want to create innovative solutions that improve on the value for their customers, employees and business.

Season 1 | Episode 8: The Value of Design Sprints to Product Teams (with Steph Cruchon)

Steph Cruchon, the founder of Design Sprint Ltd. shares the benefits of Design Sprints to businesses.

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The Design Sprint is a 5-day process used to prototype and validate concepts aimed at addressing business challenges.

In this episode, we have a great conversation with Steph Cruchon who is the founder of Design Sprint Ltd. A Design agency geared at helping businesses conceptualize, prototype and test solutions before they are launched into the market.

He shares the amazing benefits Design Sprints bring to various companies, sharing how the results and impact can be measured by those looking to organize these sprints within their companies. 

Steph also pinpoints some major benefits Design Sprints can have in your company, one being the means by which you infuse innovation as a culture practised at scale all through the departments of your company.

This is one of those conversations you hear and immediately want to practice them with your internal team.

Season 1 | Episode 7: How PepsiCo Created A Culture Where Design And Innovation Thrives (With Mauro Porcini)

On this episode, Susan and Thomas talk with Mauro Porcini the Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo one of the biggest Food and Beverage company in the world.

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Pepsico is a leading food and beverage company in the world, making billions in revenue. They have existed for decades now. How have they remained relevant to customers? How have they developed new products and platforms that have helped keep customers over the years? That’s what led to our conversation with Mauro Porcini.

Mauro Porcini is the Senior Vice-President and the Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo global. He shared with us how C-suite executives can lead innovation and design within their companies. Sharing from his experiences from 3M to his present position as the Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo.

His conversation with the Design and Innovation Podcast team brought clear insights to us going forward and those insights prove to be great nuggets that business leaders and product teams can apply to what they do, if they want to have a chance at competing on the same level as Pepsico.

Season 1 | Episode 6: How Businesses Can Use Business Design to Guarantee Product Success (with Tommaso Martucci and Jabbo Gehring)

On this episode, Susan and Thomas had a chat with Jabbo Gehring from Fjord Berlin and Tommaso Martucci from Indeed-innovation Hamburg, on how businesses can use Business Design to guarantee product success.

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In launching a new product, there are a lot of things to consider to guarantee that the product becomes successful upon entering the market. What people don’t look out to validate is if the solution will be accepted by the customers.

Sometimes this product fails not because they do not address a need but because of the way they are offered. You find that product execution is a very important phase in making sure a product is successful but for that to be done the product team must be able to understand how the target customers of whom they are building for will have the product presented to them, in terms of use case, look and feel. A great way to identify these things is by testing the product with customers you want to sell to.
Together with Jabbo Gehring from Fjord, Tommaso Martucci from Indeed Innovation and the co-hosts, they discussed the opportunities that design can bring to improve the probability of a product succeeding in the market. The four touched on Service Design, Business Design, and other important aspects that can guarantee your product’s success when launched.

This conversation breaks into modules areas businesses looking to develop a new product can consider for success.

Season 1 | Episode 5: Design’s Impact on Business so Far and What to Expect in the Future (with Susan Onigbinde and Thomas Osume)

Design and Innovation Podcast Hosts talk about the change in the business world as design is welcomed increasingly across companies.

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Susan and Thomas, did a run through of products and processes that have been created using the design approach to create amazing experiences for customers while still addressing their needs. 

They discussed various companies that have been able to infuse the design process into their company culture which has had mouth watering returns when compared with their peers. 

As we see from the Mckinsey Design Index (MDI) these companies who infuse design in their process have grown in terms of revenue and their total returns to shareholders. This points to the value that design brings to businesses who can properly incorporate it into how they operate and serve their customers.

In summary they talked on past episodes in which teams and businesses can learn and grow their business from.

Season 1 | Episode 4: What Global Companies Should Know About Design (with Chris Do)

Chris Do, Emmy award-winning designer and Founder of globally known Futur platform, shares insights on design, talking about how creatives need to learn more of the business side of design and how global businesses can leverage design to succeed.

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We talked about some misconceptions of design in a chat with Chris Do, a well-known face in the Design world. 

We talked about how design is beyond just logos and aesthetics. He shared how companies can approach product development based on the design approach. 

Chris shared on the creative economy, explaining that designers who are able to understand the business side of creating things have an edge over designers who don’t.

He also highlighted key ways companies can birth effective solutions, giving a clearly thought out means by which global businesses can develop products that their customers will love.

Chris encourages businesses to trust their designers in creating their brands and experiences, trusting in their direction, even as they produce unique results that become of great value to the business.

Season 1 | Episode 3: How To Leverage Sustainable Design To Grow Business (with Scott Boylston)

On this episode, Scott Boylston a Sustainability Design Expert, speaks on the opportunity’s businesses can leverage using sustainable innovation.

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Scott Boylston is the Graduate Coordinator of Design for Sustainability at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). A key advocate of Sustainable Design, Scott Boylston shares with us on how companies can adapt sustainable design in their product development processes.

The concept of sustainability consists of three main aspects which are economic, environmental and social which could also be seen as profit, planet, and people.

Sustainability is one area that people and companies need to consider while they seek ways to meet their present needs. This is so important because if it isn’t considered, it will have a great impact on future generations. Rising temperatures, lower water levels, these have been some of the results of not being responsible enough to consider sustainable means of meeting human needs.

With businesses now considering sustainable means of production more than ever before, Scott shares insights that various companies and brands can adopt in ensuring global preservation while still meeting the expectations of their stakeholders.

Scott took the time to go into details about sustainability, sharing with us a framework in which we could use when designing for sustainability. Here’s a link to the framework.

Discovering the Value for Your New Offering: A Look at the Offering Viability Tool

In developing a new product or service, there is always a need to get an understanding of the value to be gotten for the business. This value derivation might not necessarily be precise but will be based on established economic facts.

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In developing a new product or service, there is always a need to get an understanding of the value to be gotten for the business. This value derivation might not necessarily be precise but will be based on established economic facts. During one of our internal processes, we developed a tool to help us plot out estimates of the returns expected for a product we were building for one of our clients. The tool is called the Offering Viability tool.

The Offering Viability Tool helps teams map out and have critical discussions on the potential market size, revenue and cost of launching a new product to market. The tool takes into consideration facts like the market size, targeted customer base, competitive landscape and cost structure in building a revenue analysis that could be used by your team to test for things like viability and customer buy-in. 

As it is with developing solutions using the design process, the tool gives room for teams to constantly iterate. We designed the tool so teams can compare up to three offerings to best decide on which offering gives your organisation the most value for your organisation. See this as a pivotal tool in building your business case for your new offering just before you launch. It is also a good way to share the value of a potential product with stakeholder and sponsor within your organization.

This tool is great for product teams, strategy and innovation teams wanting to launch a new product/service to use this tool in measuring the offering’s viability.

Here is a breakdown of how you could use this tool.

Step1: Download the Offering Viability Tool here.

Step 2: Write out the offering(s) you want to measure to see if its capable of bringing in revenue for your business. You can use this tool for a maximum of three offerings (3) and a minimum of one (1).

Step 3: Fill each block with the necessary information needed. 

Step 4: Make decisions on the next steps based on the results.

At the end of the session, you’d have come up with clear insights to guide on next steps moving forward to product/service launch.

Season 1 | Episode 2 – An Overview: Design and How It’s Used in Business (with Tommaso Martucci)

On this episode, Tommaso Martucci from Indeed-Innovation shares from his experience on how businesses have been able to use design as a means to innovate and why the design process is a great strategy business leaders can leverage on.

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In this episode, we had an interesting conversation with Tommaso Martucci, an Innovation Manager at Indeed-Innovation, a Design and Innovation company based in Hamburg, Germany.

Tomasso has had years of experience in Design and Innovation, having consulted for various companies across various continents, Tommaso comes with great insights around design and its value to businesses.

Tommaso shared what he sees as the value that design brings to a business. Speaking to how it influences employees’ mindsets within their organisation. Sharing how those influences the way people see things.

In his own words, Tomasso describes empathy in design as  “giving a heart to Tin man” (from the wizard of Oz). He expressed his view this way because to him, it helps companies see things the way their users and customers see their products, offerings or gaps.

Listening to this just gives you amazing insights on how you can use design to improve your offerings.

Tools You Need for More Productive Meetings

Meetings are very important for any business to exist, however, they could also be a major time killer, especially if there are no results to show for all that meeting time.

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What was the longest meeting you’ve ever sat in? How productive would you say it was? No doubt, meetings are very important for any business to exist, however, they could also be a major time killer, especially if there are no results to show for all that meeting time.

As your team seeks to work more efficiently and deliver increasingly better results, there is a need to find ways to reduce time wasters and speed up productivity.

Recently our team carried out a workshop with the digital team of a Bank. We worked with them to show how they could leverage design methodologies to drive efficiency and push for more innovative solutions in their department.

 As we like our workshops to be more practical, we had them divide into 2 small groups of about 8 each, and then select in the area of products solution and processes, issues they wanted to tackle.  

 We introduced them to an effective process that helps teams tackle obstacles and move forward with feasible next steps from a meeting. 

We call the method, Mountains and Valleys or the Decision-making Tool.

The Mountains and Valleys Tool is a tool that can be used to address many of the challenges around a product or process (or anything else really) effectively, resulting in solutions that can be implemented quickly.

We’ve broken the process into simple steps so you and your team can use it to ensure your next meeting is productive.

First, decide on what you want your outcome to be… 

Seeing the team’s overall goals, we had the team focus on two areas, on their product and internal processes. Due to the large number of team members that were present, we divided the team into two groups, one group focused on product, the other on process. When that was done, we had the team decide on a specific challenge in the area they chose. For the process team, for instance, the focus area was easily onboarding new customers onto the digital platform.

Side note: Within each team, we identified the ‘deciders’ for each group. ‘Deciders’ are people designated to ultimately select what option or direction the team will move forward with. Now in a creative setting, having a superior or ‘Oga’ deciding which way a team should go is heavily frowned upon, reason being that for the best idea to win, the team has to be objective in their selection. However, in sessions like these, where the team has got to keep moving, a Decider is needed should the team reach a tie when voting on ideas or next steps. This is to ensure the team doesn’t get bogged down with arguments and are able to move on a way forward quickly.

Next find what helps the team, ‘move up the mountain’ (meaning what helps the team progress)

When the objective is agreed upon and noted, in this case it’s: easily onboarding new customers onto the digital platform, members of the team wrote down on post-its, the things that were currently working well with the status quo. Here, team members write down things they are doing that is pushing them, ‘up the mountain, or helping them achieve their ultimate goal – which, in this case, was to easily have new customers onboard and start using their app.

This step is important because it helps the team identify hidden motivators that encourages team productivity. This also helps other team members see what other members see as motivation.

With that done and all positive things written posted on the Mountainside of the tool, we moved to the next stage, the Valleys, or challenges stopping them from achieving.

Then note down the challenges

Having found things that what was pushing the team forward and up the ‘mountain’, we asked the team to write down things that were holding them back, things that were keeping them in the valley. The team wrote as many things as they could think of that were holding them back from reaching their ultimate goal. 

Next, the team voted to select the most pressing challenge they felt needed to be addressed.

And then we started Ideating…

After the team voted, the most voted challenge was then converted into a How Might We (HMW) statement.

For those who are new to the process of Design Thinking, a HMW statement helps to frame a problem into a question that helps teams to come up with a wide range of ideas.

How Might We statements are broad enough to have us imagine a wide variety of solutions, however they’re not too focused that they limit our ideas.

Essentially, they’re good for coming up with a large quantity of out-of-the-box ideas.

To put it more practically, let’s say a team is faced with the challenge of not getting enough new customers, possibly due to their service structure:

A narrow (and incorrect) HMW, would be –> “ How might we gain new customers using our digital platforms”

A broad (and incorrect) HMW, would be –> ” How might we gain new customers”

An appropriate HMW statement could be–> “How might we structure our services to attract new customers”.

Then, in answer to the How Might We (HMW) question, the team wrote down as many ideas as they could think of, within the given time, we gave them about 5 minutes.  

Now, vote on the winning ideas 

After all the ideas were gathered, we had the team vote on the winning solutions. The top 5 solutions were selected and placed against the effort-impact scale to help the team identify the solution that would have the most impact but would require a small amount of effort from the team when implemented.

After selecting the solution with the highest impact and lowest amount of effort i.e. the solution that will require the lowest amount of resources (time, money, people) yet deliver the best possible result. We then moved to the implementation stage.

At this stage, teams map out all the necessary details needed for execution using the implementation map.

This points the team to the next steps, identifying the why, what, who, and when of the solution to be implemented.

Typically, teams come out of the ideation phase, with a lot of great ideas but very few of them are ever accomplished or see the light of day.

This has left most teams with a graveyard of solutions with huge potential for growth, market disruption, profitability and more.

This is a major area that the Implementation tool and the entire decision-making exercise is built to tackle.

Download the Mountains and Valleys tool here.

 You can find some of our other tools and resources here. Also, if you’re needing assistance with improving your team’s work processes or developing more innovative solutions, contact us to find out more about our workshops.

Don’t forget to like, share and leave your comments. Thanks.

Season 1 | Episode 1: An Overview on How Design Became a Strategic Tool for Businesses

We talk on how design emerged from being just an aesthetic tool, to a strategic tool driving growth in various companies across the world.

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Design has become an important tool for businesses seeking to be leaders in their various industries. We have seen how global brands like Apple, Uber, Airbnb, Google have been able to use design to improve on the value offered to customers.

Susan and Thomas trace back in time to how design became established as a process in which businesses used in discovering new opportunities to enable them meet customers needs.

 We examine the design approach to business, sharing from popular examples that gives you, the listener a clear understanding of how you can apply this approach to your business to enable you identify customers needs and how your customers will best enjoy the experience of your product offering.

Plug in your headphones, press the play button, and get in on the conversation on how you can apply the design process as an approach to be able to compete better at the same level in terms of product delivery as other fortune 500 companies using design.

Introducing Design and Innovation Podcast

Design has gone beyond aesthetics. Design is no longer limited to paintings and crafts done with paper and ink.

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Design has gone beyond aesthetics. Design is no longer limited to paintings and crafts done with paper and ink. Design has also become a means to improve on general experiences people have when they interact with a product, service or process. Businesses who have deliberately used the design process for their business have really benefited from it.

At DODO we desire to teach these principles (Empathizing, Experimentation and Expansive Teaching) to businesses through conversations and interviews we have with Designers like us from all over the world. These Designers share their experiences using design to improve on offerings either for their internal processes or for clients.

This particular episode is only an intro into the deep values in which we hope to unearth by conversing with experts around Design and Innovation.

The Innovation Sourcebook: Finding Inspiration from Successful Products in the Market

There are many ways you can get inspired in launching your new venture or improving on an already existing one. The innovation sourcebook serves as a means to gather various inspirations in one place to help you as you innovate.

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Innovation, as defined by Wikipedia is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.

Innovation, in some cases, can be something totally new that was never in existence and in other cases, it is inspired by technology, process or concept that has once existed. However, we see today that business leaders are getting innovative around their businesses more and more.

There are certain reasons why and one I’ll like to point out would be the inspirations they get from novel ideas which may not necessarily be something that directly applies to them or comes from their various industries. For example, we see how a digital revolution led to online booking and leasing service as Airbnb which opened the door for an online car hiring service like Uber and a parking space hiring platform like your parking space UK.

The innovative cycle of new business opportunities is in a loop fuelled by existing ideas. With that said this post is aimed at sharing some of the eye-catching innovation that can inspire you in building your next business venture which will be worth $1 billion, I hope.

The simple way of sharing great ideas that have impacted businesses would be to use the Innovation sourcebook, which is a tool to help you organise various innovative solutions and the unique values they offer to customers and shareholders. Below is one of our curated sourcebooks.

Looking at the curated book above, find out ways that one or more of the above listed solutions can impact the next thing you develop.

A quick thought

How might your team leverage AI in helping people use your offering better?

Use models like the innovation sourcebook to find solutions you can align to meet a unique challenge you may face within your environment.

For business leaders within the banking industry looking to leverage new models or technology, you could use this sourcebook to compile some of the most interesting business models that have caught your attention. Looking through them at a go will help you discover patterns and opportunities you can leverage on to drive business growth.

Be on the lookout for new products and processes being developed around you. Download the innovation sourcebook to help you curate new solutions as they come.

A Conversation with Robin Jadkowski Consultant at Kobold

“Most people have the impression purpose is a thing that’s located in your heart or that it is connected to the deeper meaning of life. While that is true to some degree, purpose design in business means something different: It is the compass for your organization that drives your business into the right direction.”

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What is Purpose Design?

A good way to think of purpose design in business is through the analogy of a car: The organization’s purpose is the windshield through which you and your employees look ahead. Most people have the impression purpose is a thing that’s located in your heart or that it is connected to the deeper meaning of life. While that is true to some degree, purpose design in business means something different: It is the compass for your organization that drives your business into the right direction. It enables yourself and your employees to experience meaningful work.

The purpose of your business is the reason WHY your organization exists: What positive impact are you making on society? Studies show that having integrated a purpose in your organization has a strong long-term performance pay-off, because it is the one most powerful intrinsic motivator for you and your employees. It is the reason you get up in the morning and you know that you’re working on something meaningful.

“purpose design in business means something different: It is the compass for your organization that drives your business into the right direction.”

How can businesses leverage on the model?

A superficial purpose statement on the office wall or in the design of marketing campaigns doesn’t leverage the potential of authentic purpose in business. This is just “purpose washing”.  An authentic integration of purpose has implications not only on marketing or recruiting. Purpose guides your product development, defines your organizational structure and directs the day-to-day leadership and employee behaviour.

Leveraging purpose in your business is done in a co-creative bottom-up process starting with your employees and key stakeholders. You begin by interviewing them on what they experience as the current purpose of your organization. After that, you synthesize the data and co-creatively craft a purpose statement. In the next steps it is vital to lead by example: embrace your purpose and implement it into the strategy and organizational structure. Make these direct implications of your purpose clear to your organization.

It is vital to facilitate purpose-driven organizational change. A good way this can be done is by giving your employees responsibility for exploration of new ideas that are aligned with your purpose. Combined with an internal structure which helps these ideas to blossom within the organization it gives employees the feeling of being valued and leads to a more engaged workforce.

What areas as a Design and Innovation coach do you look out for to impact teams?

 I am an advocate of strength-based approaches to enable teams to work to their full potential. The (German) work culture is often focused on improving weaknesses and only shipping a product when it’s close to perfectionism. The result of such a culture is often making small incremental improvements of existing products while being scared to take a big step forward. When we focus on the strengths of innovation teams, the teams gain self-efficacy and -confidence in their own actions. They are empowered to take risks.

 A small step is implementing the following questions into kick-off meetings of your next project: “What are you proud of?” “What strengths do our customers or stakeholders see in us?” followed up with “How can we use these to our advantage?”.

Design Thinking is seemingly popular, what unique factor(s) differentiates designers? 

 Designers are the interface between creativity and problem-solving. I believe that everybody on the planet is creative, meaning that they can create a novel solution to an existing problem. In contrary to the popular misconception of creativity that a single person sits down on the train and scribbles the next big idea into her notebook.

Design thinking leverages the skills, experiences and knowledge of diverse people to come up with a solution to a challenge. Therefore, there are many differentiating factors for designers and design thinkers to be successful problem solvers: Being willing to understand the problem space from multiple perspectives, building empathy with the users, trying and testing out new ideas while not being afraid to fail and being able to work on a shared vision together with a team.

“Designers are the interface between creativity and problem solving”

What resources around Design and Innovation do you think business leaders can learn from?

I’m not a fan of learning something from reading articles or books. The best resource for learning that we are equipped with are our hands, our words and the interaction with other people. Meaningful personal experiences have the ability to impact our thinking and change our behaviour.

 Therefore, my advice especially for leaders and decision-makers is to walk the talk and get out of your own comfort-zone: Expose yourself to people that are unlike yourself, may it be innovation experts or designers that you find inspiring. Book a training where you learn about innovation in a group setting and most importantly learn by doing: Begin by discovering unmet needs or problems that your users face and test solutions on a small scale. By doing that you have already learned the fundamentals for innovation: rediscovering your own curiosity and doing instead of talking.

“The best resource for learning that we are equipped with are our hands, our words and the interaction with other people.”

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share it?

The most impactful #innovationmoment I experienced was while working with a client in a quite traditional organizational structure and mindset. We facilitated an innovation process for the development of an internal product for their employees. In the research phase, interviewing employees and key stakeholders, it became clear that they were in a state of refusal: Why should we change what we are doing? We know how to do it and it always worked out fine. The powerful insight we had in this phase was that the employees were scared of making the change into a more digital workflow due to the fear of making their own workforce obsolete.

For me that’s an important ethical question to consider when innovating. The powerful shift in the mindsets of the employees began when they realized that their knowledge was valued, and they were included into the steps of the product development. For them it became more of an opportunity than a threat. Through the iterative process they were able to shift their fear into a motivation to effectively change their organizations processes and to move themselves out of the comfort into the learning zone.

A Conversation with Robert Skrobe, Dallas Design Sprint

“If you’re going to approach a client with a solutions-first approach, you’re going to lose.”

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You have had extensive experience in User-Centred Design, how would you describe a product or service that is centred around users?

They typically favour metrics like adoption rates, usage and time spent.

What do you think about incorporating User-Centred Design and analytics for business pitches?

I don’t think it’s a good idea for two reasons.  One, you’re coming into the pitch with some information about their audiences that may or may not be true.  If you’re citing existing paid or free research, chances are they have direct data on their users and customers that are fresher and more relevant.

Two, you have to understand what their problems are before pitching solutions.  If you’re going to approach a client with a solutions-first approach, you’re going to lose.

“If you’re going to approach a client with a solutions-first approach, you’re going to lose.”

How would you say companies can innovate around their services in ways that bring value to them as a business and also to their customers?

By watching the customer, seeing what they do and making products or services that bring them value.

In the area of using customer feedback, how would you say teams can balance the insights gotten from the customer in building their solution? (you know Steve Jobs once said “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”)

It depends on where that team is positioned in the company and what purpose it’s serving.  If they’re in the product lifecycle, they have no shot of serving the customer, They serve the business and what their product managers and executive leaders ask of them.  If you’re on a team with direct access to users, customers and the people you serve (like sales, customer service and strategy), you can better position yourself to meet their needs.

What techniques are you currently using to drive innovative solutions within businesses and why?

Less process, faster execution. The murkier and more breakable the process, the happier my clients are these days. 

“Less process, faster execution.”

What industry can you say is yet to fully utilize the opportunities available in the design process and how can they go about leveraging on the opportunities?

Oil and gas.  I learned today that they are historically slow to adopt better and more efficient process, and their time is almost up.  I expect they’ll have to feel the pain before they move.

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share it?

That “User Experience”, as a term, is meaningless when the people that work in that discipline a) don’t have regular, direct access to the user and b) don’t influence their experiences at all.  UX is basically mass conceptualism at scale without any relevance to market impact in most businesses.

#innovationmoment

“That “User Experience”, as a term, is meaningless when the people that work in that discipline a) don’t have regular, direct access to the user and b) don’t influence their experiences at all. ”

A Conversation with Jon Kolko Partner, Modernist Studio

“Design Strategy is about creating and presenting an optimistic vision of the future. It’s a north-star: a direction in which to aim.”

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Jon you’ve acquired a significant amount of years doing Design Strategy and Design Research, you’re considered an expert in these areas and in areas such as empathy for customers. These terms have recently begun to pervade the business world globally. How would you describe these areas of Design Strategy and Design Research for business leaders, who are just hearing of this term and are very interested?

Design Strategy is about creating and presenting an optimistic vision of the future. It’s a north-star: a direction in which to aim. When I describe Design Strategy to executives, they understand the need for a vision, and it’s often left to them to paint the picture of that vision. But while they may be the most equipped to understand where the business should go, they often need help understanding how that business vision can align with a customer vision. Design Strategy, working in parallel with a business strategy, describes where to go in order to deliver real, emotional and experiential value.

“Design strategy, working in parallel with a business strategy, describes where to go in order to deliver real, emotional and experiential value.”


How about innovation, how would you describe this within the sphere of Design and Business?

I don’t really know what innovation is. For some time, I thought it meant “something new that people need.” Then, I thought it meant “something new that sells.” Now, I think it’s closer to “something new.” A lot of innovation is meaningless. It’s new for newness sake and has no real value for anyone. I would push a business to aim towards “appropriate” and “valuable” rather than “innovative.”

Having taught design over the years, would you say design is something that can easily be adopted by businesses who aren’t familiar with the process or is design as a process only for a certain type of business? And why?

Design (or anything else) can become part of a business context if it’s treated as a first-class citizen. This means providing the discipline with funding and autonomy. But for companies with more conservative and formal business culture, or for companies founded on the backs of technological advancement, there’s more needed than just money and power. A cultural change doesn’t happen through a mandate. It happens slowly and with evidence. Introducing design into a culture means playing a long game, and the bigger the company, the longer that game may be. We’ve seen companies like IBM and GE stand up design studios seemingly overnight, and the results are shaky (one is rumoured to suffer from attrition, while the other has imploded entirely).

“A cultural change doesn’t happen through a mandate. It happens slowly and with evidence.”


What do you think makes this process of design successful? Do certain things have to be in place, is there a specific pattern to follow?

Doing design is about having attention to detail and craft. This is true when drawing things, and it’s true when doing qualitative research, synthesizing data, developing strategy, and any other form of design. For design to thrive, an environment needs to be provided that fosters this craftsmanship. Designers need to be recruited selectively, rather than in mass; they need time and a clear runway to do their job; they need to be well compensated and feel empowered and recognized; and, they need to see the results of their work manifested in real change for the company and for customers.

“For design to thrive, an environment needs to be provided that fosters this craftsmanship.”

You have taught and are still teaching people about design; you have also consulted for global companies who have launched successful products/services. From your experience, how can a big organization of say over 500 staff build a culture of design and innovation from top to bottom?

Slowly, which is typically not the answer most executives want to hear. Like any other cultural change, an autocratic approach doesn’t work, because it disenfranchises as many people as it may empower. A bottom-up approach works, but takes a very long time, and needs to be grounded in small wins. Many of the companies that are successful in introducing design into their company didn’t do it on purpose. It emerged that way based on the types of people that were hired, and how those people were treated.

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

I’m not sure that starting a school counts as an “innovation moment,” because it took about two years to get started, and in the last ten years, we’ve reinvented it at least ten times. But I do know that any educational institution can claim impact on people: alumni, students, and the community benefit from any form of quality education. I stay in touch with my alumni, and when I see them in positions of leadership and hear about the great things they do, I realize that the school has had a strong, measurable, and positive impact on their careers.

A Conversation with Gbeminiyi Laolu-Adewale, Head, Innovation Strategy and Commercialisation at Guinness

“Business leaders will drive innovation by encouraging openness and diversity within their teams. This enables team members to be free and unbiased in their assessment of business situations.”

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What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation simply is the act of doing things differently to drive efficiency that ultimately improves customer experience, humanity and the world we live in. 

How can business leaders drive innovation within their teams and company?

Business leaders will drive innovation by encouraging openness and diversity within their teams. This enables team members to be free and unbiased in their assessment of business situations, it also makes room for out of the box thinking that generates innovative ideas. Business leaders must also be humble enough to receive feedback as this is the only way to test the quality of output be it product or services. Most of the time, the feedback received from team-mates, employees, customers and consumers form the necessary springboard for Innovation.

“…the feedback received from team-mates, employees, customers and consumers form the necessary spring board for Innovation.”

How do you think the private sector can develop innovative solutions that can drive growth and push for disruption within the public sector?

First of all, I’d like to say there is no better sector equipped to lead and drive innovation as much as the private sector and I say this because of the bureaucracy that poses a limitation in the public sector does not exist such in the private sector as it is mostly profit-driven. The quest for profitability in a tight economy has led many private sector organizations and multinationals to innovate and come up with better quality, more efficient product/services that command higher prices whilst striving to drive down cost significantly.

“…there is no better sector equipped to lead and drive innovation as much as the private sector…”

Linking this to the public sector, the private sector can drive growth and disruption in its counterpart sector through partnerships. With the huge opportunities in the power, housing and transport sectors, private organizations would have to come to the table with their disruptive solutions and seek to partner with Government to create a win-win situation. Example of disruption in the power sector would be offering solar-powered electricity solution for homes and businesses. Private sector execution with Government backing in terms of funding and platform will lead to a big positive change in the Nigerian economy and a win-win for all. This way, the private sector can command a profitable price point for stable power supply, the Government/Public sector wins by delivering on its age-long promise of stable power and also generates revenue in the process and the Nigerian citizens win by having stable power supply which makes it easy for their families, small business owners and large corporates to thrive.

As Head of Innovation strategy in a multinational company as Guinness, how have you been able to translate internal challenges to innovative solutions?

Working in a multinational company in a tough economy like ours leaves you with only one option which is to Innovate for growth. Product innovation is the only way to unlock new growth and profitability. With the rising cost of commodities, government policy changes on duties and taxes, constant change in consumer behaviour and the unending squeeze in consumer income, the only way for multinationals to remain relevant in business is by translating these challenges into opportunities to innovate for growth.

What disruptive techniques would you say companies can adopt to drive business growth?

Companies planning for disruption could adopt 2 techniques:

  1. Deliberate strategy: With this technique, companies make the choice of disruption through careful research, data gathering, financial analysis and planning. This usually takes years of research and planning with a dedicated project team in place to plan and execute the disruptive Innovation. This is the most common technique adopted by big multinationals.
  2. Emergent Strategy: This is a more spontaneous approach where disruption happens as a result of unplanned events. i.e. with the advent of the Coronavirus in China, The MD of Fine Hygienic Holding seized the moment to turn around a lot of his company by adding the production of 210 times reusable face masks to his product offering. This is a company than previously majored in Toilet papers and diaper production but with an unplanned event, he took the onus upon himself to Innovate and disrupt the Asian/middle east market with this unique facemask offering that commands higher price point than the existing facemasks in the market but offers better value to the consumer.

What new concepts have you been inspired by that has caused a shift in the way you approach business challenges.

I’m very much inspired by the disruption in education with the new wave of online courses which ranges from short courses to long term courses, B.Sc’s and MBA degrees that can be earned right from your bedroom or office without stepping into a physical class. This wave of online studies has changed the face of education in Nigeria and around the world putting an end to geography thus enabling more people to stay connected with learning at their own pace in the comfort of their bedrooms. This has influenced the way I approach business challenges as I am able to engage with my team, customers and target audience using online platforms to deploy new ideas, make sale pitches, conduct research and get feedback via online tools and platforms.

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

My #innovationmoments would be the launch of Baileys delight. A light lush crème liquor with a taste of African honey that is produced here in Nigeria by Nigerians for the drinking pleasure of Nigerians. It was a first of its kind and afforded many Nigerians the opportunity to unwind with an affordable but indulgent crème liquor from the house of Guinness.

A Conversation with April Anazodo CEO & Co-founder Metamentis

“To stay ahead in an era of global market disruption, business leaders not only need to innovate, but also build a creative culture that enables their teams proactively drive innovation.”

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How can a business turn a challenge into an innovative solution? What steps will they have to take using the strategic play model? 

There’s definitely no singular approach on how to turn a challenge into an innovative solution, problem-solving and innovation require a blend of various tools, methodologies, skills and values.

However, it’s important that businesses consider diverse perspectives when trying to solve a challenge. Ground-breaking innovation is often a result of embracing different points of view and making connections to get the complete picture. Remember the story of “The Blind Men and the Elephant”? All six blind men had touched a different part of the elephant but tried to use their individual experience to define what an elephant felt like.

“Ground-breaking innovation is often a result of embracing different points of view and making connections to get the complete picture.”

Many businesses still have meetings and strategy sessions where just a few people feel confident enough or are given the opportunity to share their thoughts and bring their ideas forward. You can already tell that they would end up with less than half an elephant! 

Businesses can use LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®  to radically enhance their problem-solving and strategy process. LSP allows people to use LEGO® bricks as a tool for creating, thought-building, storytelling and deep reflections. It creates a safe environment for innovation to thrive and gives all participants a voice regardless of culture or position.

You and your team seem to leverage the idea of ‘playfulness’ for creativity and innovation in business. Can you speak more to this, for business leaders looking to drive innovation in their organizations?

My team and I love the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Methodology because it’s not random play, we engage teams in deep thinking and reflection within an experiential framework. The process of building and collaborating often produces insights which simply would not have appeared in regular discussions. Participants use LEGO® bricks to create models that express their thoughts, reflections and ideas, unlike the typical strategy sessions that occur in places of work.

 In the past organizations focused on logical and methodical thinking but that’s no longer enough. It’s no surprise that LinkedIn has ranked Creativity as number 1 in its list of most in-demand soft skills for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

 With play, most of our senses are awakened and our imagination is freed to go wild and generate unconventional ideas. Busy work life and rigid routines tend to kill creativity but when organizations give their employees the space and time for constructive play the results are phenomenal.

“With play, most of our senses are awakened and our imagination is freed to go wild and generate unconventional ideas.”

To stay ahead in an era of global market disruption, business leaders not only need to innovate, but also build a creative culture that enables their teams proactively drive innovation.

“To stay ahead in an era of global market disruption, business leaders not only need to innovate, but also build a creative culture that enables their teams proactively drive innovation.”

Seeing the complexities businesses face either as a result of a new policy, customer trends or economic strains do you think the Design process is a good strategy to turn to when seeking to create innovative solutions around those constraints? 

The pace of change like you have outlined in today’s business environment is very swift. What design thinking and other creative processes do is to make room for rapid problem solving using a structured process. 

This process consistently helps you maintain focus on the customer; the very essence your business exists. It helps you track the customer journey and create tailor-made solutions or improvements on this journey.

 The tools used develops the capacity of employees to think on their feet, generate, select and analyze ideas within a short period of time.

Creating ideas is not enough; communicating these ideas is also as important as creating them. The design thinking process makes it easy to communicate ideas in 3D thereby making abstractions concrete. To develop innovative solutions to customer or business challenges, design thinking and a plethora of creative processes are your go-to toolkit for today’s business environment.

Which company would you say you admire for their approach in using design to create innovative solutions?

It’s awesome to see more companies embrace design as a critical business driver. However, I absolutely admire Apple’s tenacious approach to design. I would love to see more of our traditional institutions in Nigeria embrace this same level of commitment to design in order to create highly intuitive customer experiences.

“I absolutely admire Apple’s tenacious approach to design. I would love to see more of our traditional institutions in Nigeria embrace this same level of commitment to design in order to create highly intuitive customer experiences.”

You have a background in the Banking industry, if there’s something you could add or do to improve the process around corporate governance (which you know quite well seeing you have worked within that department in the past when you worked in the banking industry) or any other department based on your experience now in design, what would it be? 

There seems to be a common assumption that corporate governance introduces bureaucracy and roadblocks that hinder innovation. This is based on another common misconception that creativity and design thinking should not be structured processes.

However, I believe, the core corporate governance principles of fairness, transparency, accountability and responsibility are critical in building a culture of innovation.

The problem might just be the way some banks execute corporate governance controls. It is possible to be more creative and intentional around implementing these controls in a way that does not negatively impact customer/employee experience but rather complements innovation efforts. This is what I would love to improve.

“I believe, the core corporate governance principles of fairness, transparency, accountability and responsibility are critical in building a culture of innovation.”

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share? 

A real estate firm approached us about their growth challenges. They had spent a lot of money on marketing efforts but the CEO didn’t feel the ROI was worthwhile. 

We gathered more facts and information on their challenges and we realized they had never really defined their brand and this was negatively impacting the customer journey.

So, we ran a customer experience design workshop for them. The challenge was “How might we design a unique customer experience across all touchpoints and meaningfully portray their brand”.

Following the workshop, the firm immediately redesigned its marketing strategy and offices to reflect their brand identity. They have since doubled their revenue and exponentially grown their customer base.

“A real estate firm approached us about their growth challenges… we ran a customer experience design workshop…They have since doubled their revenue and exponentially grown their customer base.”

#innovationmoment

“A real estate firm approached us about their growth challenges… we ran a customer experience design workshop…They have since doubled their revenue and exponentially grown their customer base.”

A Conversation with Sabrina Goerlich, Innovation Facilitator, Design Sprint Studio

“Innovation is at the same time a mindset and natural behaviour.”

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Could you tell us what you do and what the Design Sprint is all about?

I run a design agency that has developed into an innovation consultancy since 2017. We support our customers in innovating faster and increasing their competitive advantage. With a focus on sports brands (sport is the passion of our team) we also work with a wide range of industries in our region.

My transformation from a Designer (when I started there was no UX at all) to UX Design and then to Strategic Design was made with the Design Sprint and therefore Design Thinking as well. Exploring the Design Sprint was like puzzle pieces that fit into the right gaps. It answered my questions about business design questions, handling clients and team collaboration. Design Sprint is a system to solve complex business challenges.

Within a week you go with a diverse team from a vague idea to a concept and get feedback from your customers. It helps to reduce the risk of investments, aligns the team, creates buy-in from stakeholders and enables a competitive advantage for companies – fast! Both Fortune 100 companies and start-ups are using the proven methodology. I use the methodology to support my clients with product innovation, business concepts and process improvements.

“Design Sprint is a system to solve complex business challenges. Within a week you go with a diverse team from a vague idea to a concept and get feedback from your customers. It helps to reduce the risk of investments, aligns the team, creates buy-in from stakeholders and enables a competitive advantage for companies – fast!”

You have worked with various teams across various industry, would you say the Design Sprint is suited for people in a particular team/industry or for everyone? And why?

But what I have learned, and what I have learned from my global community, is that the design sprint is a neutral innovation process that suits every industry – but not every problem. Good situations for a Design Sprint:

  1. Complex challenge
  2. New markets
  3. You have the decider (someone who has the power to foster the development of the concept)
  4. High risk to lose money
  5. Strong and innovative competitors
  6. Time pressure to innovate

“…what I have learned from my global community, is that the design sprint is a neutral innovation process that suits every industry – but not every problem.”

Today there are so many ways people view and define innovation, how would you define innovation?

Innovation is at the same time a mindset and natural behaviour. If you want to design innovation – with a team and sustainably, on a scale – you need a process. The Design Sprint is a perfect way to promote innovation at high speed.

“Innovation is at the same time a mindset and natural behaviour.”

Now, some people don’t see the connection between design and innovation, if you were to describe the connection how would you do it?

The connection of Design and Innovation involves more than shapes, forms and functionality. It’s a process to create solutions that meet the needs of people and can be anything from services, processes, business ideas or products (hardware or digital). The Design Sprint is a perfect process to develop innovations as it integrates the user perspective (desirability) as well as the business perspective (feasibility, viability). The attached illustration is from codomo.

“The connection of Design and Innovation involves more than shapes, forms and functionality. It’s a process to create solutions that meet the needs of people and can be anything from services, processes, business ideas or products (hardware or digital).”

As a facilitator who has helped product teams and innovation managers accelerate their innovation process, how would you say a company, in any industry can go about birthing and accelerating innovation in their teams and companies?

That’s a good question. I can think of a way like this

  1. Starting with a Discovery Sprint to identify different challenges in a company.
  2. Prioritize the challenges. There is a great tool to score possible Sprint projects: Sprintness
  3. Assemble a team with different perspectives and a decider (the one who can foster the development of the concept).
  4. Run a Design Sprint
  5. Integrate the Design Sprint as a way of innovation process in the company (with training and scaling). For enterprises there is an Enterprise Design Sprint as well.
  6. Don’t lose momentum and continue the focus. Develop the project or if the validation failed – start a new Design Sprint. 

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

In a virtual Design Sprint in 2019 I facilitated a group to develop a business concept for refugees in Kampala to work with international companies. It was an experiment and the prototype was validated. I was impressed by how we were able to work together across all kinds of borders. Now we are still looking for a pilot project to further develop the concept.

“…I facilitated a group to develop a business concept for refugees in Kampala to work with international companies. It was an experiment and the prototype was validated. I was impressed by how we were able to work together across all kinds of borders.”

#innovationmoment

“…I facilitated a group to develop a business concept for refugees in Kampala to work with international companies. It was an experiment and the prototype was validated. I was impressed by how we were able to work together across all kinds of borders.”

A Conversation with Kaan Turnali Global Senior Director, Enterprise Analytics SAP

“If we think of design as a mindset, instead of an abstract concept, people and processes become the primary focus of innovation, while technology plays a secondary role”

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Your job description is incredibly intriguing. Can you tell us what you do as Global Senior Director, Enterprise Analytics?

By drawing on my more than 20 years experience in leading the design and development of business intelligence (as known as BI) solutions, I apply the principles of design thinking to deliver successful business outcomes with enterprise analytics.

At SAP, I guide small, agile teams that embrace an entrepreneurial spirit to create new opportunities for innovation and help our customers and C-suite executives realize business growth and profitability.

Since the birth of smartphones and tablets, I have been fortunate to have been at the heart of digital transformation as we embrace mobile BI. I love this intersection of mobile, analytics, and the cloud.

You’re as much an evangelist for design (thinking) and innovation as you are for using technology (cloud and mobile) to empower C-suite through analytics. What are your thoughts on design and innovation as they stand on their own and then used in the area of business intelligence (that is, if there’s a relation there)?

I have always advocated the use of design-thinking principles to innovate new solutions for business problems. If we think of design as a mindset, instead of an abstract concept, people and processes become the primary focus of innovation, while technology plays a secondary role. And the rules behind designing and innovating business intelligence solutions are no different.

“If we think of design as a mindset, instead of an abstract concept, people and processes become the primary focus of innovation, while technology plays a secondary role”

Let me give you an example. Several years ago, SAP asked me to design our internal business intelligence platform called global customer operations (GCO) to support our double-digit sales growth. At first, our teams immediately focused on technology, especially since, at the time, a cloud deployment was not an option and on-premise solutions required much more effort and investment. But I chose a different direction: I deliberately chose to focus on the user experience because the area was often overlooked.

I began asking questions that were never considered for the implementation of traditional enterprise systems or business intelligence solutions. This move surprised everyone in the organization and received some push back and strong objections due to pre-established aggressive goals and timelines.

By mapping the user journey, I was able to help our teams recognize, isolate, and address pain points to design a complete user experience. With each rapid prototype, we validated interim steps and made new discoveries in areas that would have been never considered otherwise.

Even if the initiative was something different, I would have used the same approach to execute it. This would be the case whether I was involved or asked to assist in projects for an enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resources (HR), customer relationship management (CRM), or finance solution. 

The focus of technology design and innovation should never be on what the technology can do for the user, but rather what the user can do with that technology. If our design—especially in an enterprise setting—does not proactively tackle the weaknesses nor maximize the strengths of the technology, we are bound to fail no matter how elaborate and intricate the solution.

This reality requires leadership with forward-thinking ideals to cement a culture of design thinkers who can expand the window of opportunity with solutions that can be built on top of an innovation foundation through design. 

“Several years ago, SAP asked me to design our internal business intelligence platform called global customer operations (GCO) to support our double-digit sales growth. At first, our teams immediately focused on technology, But I chose a different direction: I deliberately chose to focus on the user experience because the area was often overlooked.”

You recently wrote an article on customer empathy as it’s used in design thinking. Would you relate this qualitative aspect of understanding and providing solutions to customer needs to the practice of, for example, mobile design and analytics to make informed decisions on how to better serve customers?

If we believe that customer-centric design is about “looking out from the inside, not outside-in,” we need to be in the trenches with our developers and users. Working, observing, and, more importantly, suffering side by side with them allows us to see the experience through their eyes, within their authentic circles of influence, and under realistic conditions. We can’t do that from behind a desk. We have to live the experience, rather than experience it from a distance.

Empathy is the shortest distance between design thinking and customer-centric innovation. When we place the user (or in some cases, the customer) at the core of everything we do in our design-thinking journey, we foster a human-centered approach that remains focused on needs, including those that are unarticulated or unknown. If we bring empathy to the forefront and make it a focal point, we can expand our capacity to understand our users, before we judge the experience or execute the solution. That’s the essence of customer empathy.

Take, for example, the performance concept in business intelligence and mobile applications. It represents the speed at which information is loaded and displayed on a mobile device. And the design and management of that can be tricky. 

People who design mobile experiences often forget the psychology behind judging or interpreting experiences. Humans react to emotional probes—whether solicited or not—that are typically accompanied by emotional assurances, instead of logic, reason, or dispassion. I call these triggers “emosurances.” 

Emosurances include sentiments such as: 

  • “We don’t want to be left in the dark.” 
  • “Updates and continuous information flow are good.” 
  • “We want to know the next steps.” 
  • “We hate uncertainty.” 

Regardless of their shape, form, or frequency, we seek these cues to assure ourselves and shape the user experience. Emosurances are the points of light in design thinking that we seek to uncover, which are commonly hidden or marginalised. 

When you compare the experience of a mobile device with that of a desktop PC, people tend to be less patient. 

Think about it for a moment. When we work with PCs or laptops, we may sit in a relatively comfortable chair. We are not holding anything, but we are likely waiting for the next step after we click on a link or button. In most cases, we can minimize the active application window and multi-task as we take an unexpected phone call or take a break for coffee or tea. In this case, minutes can feel like seconds. 

Now, contrast that PC experience with a mobile experience. There is a good chance we are not in an office or sitting at a desk. We are likely holding a mobile device in our hands. If we switch from an analytics app to another app to kill time or view a notification pop-up, the live session on the cloud application may stop. In other words, you must restart the query to acquire real-time information. A report or dashboard with average performance on a desktop may not survive in the hands of a mobile user. Seconds seem like minutes. It doesn’t matter what app you build; people won’t use it if they are frustrated or discouraged.

“…By mapping the user journey, I was able to help our teams recognize, isolate, and address pain points to design a complete user experience. With each rapid prototype, we validated interim steps and made new discoveries in areas that would have been never considered otherwise.”

In describing empathy, the design-thinking methodology of learning about customers, you said, “To learn, we must listen more than we talk. When we observe, we disappear, rather than interfere. There is no room for sharing our opinions or selling the solution. We want facts. If we can’t understand the ‘why’ behind an experience or problem, any assumptions about the ‘what’ and ‘how’ become skewed or misleading.” We thought this was a very profound and descriptive way to talk about empathizing with customers. How does this apply in the world of cloud and mobile analytics?

Subject-matter expertise is a critical multiplier of innovation, as well as an essential element of collective insight. But its strength lies in the application of the empathy principle from design thinking: the desire to seek realization and perceptiveness in the experience, not accumulated experience confined to raw knowledge. 

Listening and observing are critical exercises, but we must do more. If you know something, you can’t suffer because the knowledge holds you hostage. If you are not experiencing the pressure that, for example, a salesperson or executive faces and the serious implications of those decisions, you’re not capturing the essence of your users’ journey. Whether you are an analyst, designer, or software engineer, you must get away from your desk and jump in.

For example, when creating reports and dashboards for enterprise-wide consumption on mobile devices, analysts or content developers use online viewers that simulate the look and feel of a mobile device. Sometimes, I find out that some of them may never view it on an actual mobile device before implementation. Testing on a simulated screen does not even come close to the real-life experience of a mobile device and the conditions that affect it. 

A best practice that I use when designing an application for a mobile use case is an immediate move toward a proof of concept because I want to fail early and often. The prototype, no matter how basic it may be, provides the opportunity to capture, what I call, fail points. I closely watch users, with different backgrounds and tech-savviness, play and interact with the device. I want to see how they handle the device and consume the information on the screen. Are they focused or unfocused? When possible, I record these findings on video when possible, so I don’t interrupt their natural workflow or habits by taking notes and asking questions. 

“Empathy is the shortest distance between design thinking and customer-centric innovation.”

For C-suite executives, is there a way to combine the empathy of design thinking with cloud and mobile analytics to drive innovation and transformation in their companies?

This is a great question! I have spent most of my career helping C-suite executives. That experience has afforded me with a deeper understanding of what drives executive decision-making. 

When I taught doctorate-level classes at Wilmington University, I had a very different philosophy in teaching this subject, compared to traditional methodologies embraced by the faculty. Instead of focusing on theories, tools, and technologies, I designed a curriculum that centered on how data-driven decision-making drives better-informed decisions, not necessarily better decisions. Employing familiar, everyday business models, products, and services, I had a chance to highlight the role that people and processes play when shaping actionable insight. And as I engage with C-suite executives, I have found that the same experience and approach apply as well. 

Competing on design thinking requires a fundamental shift in how we design solutions to business problems and, more importantly, how we channel the essential values of design thinking in everything we do.  To make a greater impact and enable a competitive edge with design thinking, businesses need to place more emphasis—first and foremost—on what I like to call the application of core principles.

This viewpoint requires design thinking as a framework for innovation. We pollinate new and old ideas, which translate into solutions that drive growth and profitability. Furthermore, we can compete on design thinking because its core principles will remain timeless for generations to come.

Can you elaborate on this profound statement you made in a recent post on Medium? “The traditional value proposition of a product or service is a promise of particular utility value. If you get X, you will receive Y as a result of Z. The design-thinking value proposition is a promise of core values: You want to get X because you care about Y and Z matters to you.”

Thank you! I love this equation. For a concept that’s so simple, it is tremendously powerful. 

The foundation of digitalization and the value created through digital transformation are centered on that understanding that they are drastically different than the design precepts of the analog world. Although the design-thinking mindset was equally effective before, its impact is amplified in the digital era. 

We no longer can remain stuck in linear thinking aimed at maximizing the expected ROI at a given risk. Nor can we afford to focus on the transaction, instead of the human experience. These mindsets may have been okay in the analog world when design capabilities were limited in most cases and made up of one-dimensional experiences. But digitalization has changed it all by transforming the user and bringing the experience to the forefront of innovation and design.

When we design products and services, we are creating experiences, even if the boundaries are narrow and controlled. This is true for a product, cloud subscription service, or online transaction. Unlike the analog world, users are empowered and in the driver’s seat because they have control, choice, and influence. In return, we must understand what matters to the user so we can build for and with that purpose to go beyond transactional elements. This, I believe, is where innovation happens. Design thinking doesn’t guarantee innovation, but innovation always hinges on design-thinking principles.

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve done, have been a part of, or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others)?

#Innovationmoment is such a great hashtag. This one is easy for me to recall. Shortly after the release of the very first iPad in 2010, I designed and developed SAP’s first internal mobile analytics dashboard for the office of the CEO. 

At the time, Bill McDermott was our CEO at SAP. When he began using the dashboard during his presentations, TV appearances, and customer events, I was captivated by how he would not only showcase the technology but also demonstrate firsthand the incredible value that it brought to the C-suite. Remember, this was happening during the early days of mobile adoption in Fortune 500 companies. More importantly, people were still chained to their PCs and requested printed paper copies of reports, even if the data could be consumed on their monitor screen. 

During one of those interviews, it dawned on me that he wasn’t just showcasing our technology but, more importantly, telling a story. I quickly realized the power of storytelling and building user experiences that empowered it. 

I always argue that mobile analytics isn’t about jamming lots of data with useless charts and tables on a mobile device, no matter how colorful and pretty they look. Instead, it’s about user experiences that empower faster and better-informed decision-making through storytelling. 

This #innovationmoment is what kick-started my fascination with mobile applications and analytics. This project was one of the very first projects where I had the chance to apply design-thinking principles as part of a business intelligence initiative. And ever since then, I never looked back. 

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the opinions of any organization.

#innovationmoment

“…I designed and developed SAP’s first internal mobile analytics dashboard for the office of the CEO. At the time, Bill McDermott was our CEO at SAP. When he began using the dashboard during his presentations, TV appearances, and customer events, I was captivated by how he would not only showcase the technology but also demonstrate firsthand the incredible value that it brought to the C-suite…this was happening during the early days of mobile adoption in Fortune 500 companies…it dawned on me that he wasn’t just showcasing our technology but, more importantly, telling a story. I quickly realized the power of storytelling and building user experiences that empowered it…”

A Conversation with Chris Wan, Strategic and Experience Design Specialist

“The simplest advice to improving product or service experiences is for companies to have regular contact with their customers and to start this as early as possible.”

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You’ve had an impressive career, from IBM to Hasso Plattner Institute. Can you share what you do as a Strategic and Experience Design Specialist?

As a Strategic and Experience Design Specialist, I uncover user needs and problems to design relevant solutions for users that also address business requirements and long-term strategic goals. This ensures that such solutions are actually desirable and usable while businesses also have the right incentives and benefits to invest in satisfying these user needs.

What is Experience design and how is it relevant for businesses?

There can be a lot of different understandings as to what a (User) Experience (or UX) Designer does and the definitions can vary when you start to look it up online. However, first and foremost, Experience Designers must advocate the needs of the users through user research and testing – usually qualitative. In analyzing these findings, we have a more accurate understanding of the users’ problems and pain points and only then can we start to create solutions to address them. This refers to the point of desirability – whether or not users really need or desire such a solution. There’s another side to Experience Design that focuses on usability by ensuring that a given product, service or system creates a positive and intuitive experience so that users are more likely to use it correctly and/or are happy to continue using it in the future.

One of your goals is to uncover and convert user insights into tangible solutions that not only meet user needs but also business objectives. Can you elaborate on this?

The role of an Experience Designer is about understanding and advocating for users, their needs, problems and pain points to design more relevant solutions. Making these solutions as tangible as possible early in the development process is necessary to better test and validate these ideas with users and iterate based on their feedback. However, addressing users’ needs quite often doesn’t line up with business objectives that are frequently driven by profit and benefits to the business itself. This means that many ideas and solutions need to be explored early on to ensure that some can be found that satisfy both user as well as business needs. Designers today are getting better at understanding and “speaking” business to improve their stakeholder management skills as this also increases the likelihood of getting investment and support for an idea.

Can you share with us the common problems or challenges businesses face in relation to their product offering experience?

Regardless of what size or type of business, the most common challenge or hurdle that I face in delivering a great product experience is budget and time. Quite often you hear a client or senior management saying that there isn’t enough time to do a proper user research phase before development or there isn’t enough budget to do a user test before an idea gets carried forward. This is also usually a result of people either understanding Experience Design at a very superficial level or misunderstanding it completely – expecting aesthetics and visual design to be the full experience and neglecting to see the actual benefits of it. I think an important way to work around this is if people don’t understand Experience Design, then the education of it is needed and this is also where “speaking” business becomes a powerful skill. The benefits of Experience Design then need to be made clear and the only way to communicate this effectively is to “speak their language” of gains and losses.

“Quite often you hear a client or senior management saying that there isn’t enough time to do a proper user research phase before development or there isn’t enough budget to do a user test before an idea gets carried forward.”

Based on your knowledge as a strategic and experience designer, how will you advise businesses offering digital and physical services to improve the experience of their customers around their offering?

The simplest advice to improving product or service experiences is for companies to have regular contact with their customers and to start this as early as possible. Quite often in traditional business models, a lot of ideas and concepts arise from within an organization without any contact with the customer or understanding of their needs.

“The simplest advice to improving product or service experiences is for companies to have regular contact with their customers and to start this as early as possible.”

This leads to creating irrelevant solutions with terrible experiences because all concepts and ideas were developed from unvalidated assumptions. Assumptions are fine to work with, but they need to be recognised as assumptions and should therefore be validated with customers/users through research and testing. This also means working iteratively and being open to changing ideas.

“Assumptions are fine to work with, but they need to be recognised as assumptions and should therefore be validated with customers/users through research and testing.”

Which companies do you admire for the way they designed experiences around their products offering and what particularly stood out to you?

Apple is a clear and obvious choice – at least in the past. They designed smooth, intuitive and seamless experiences within and between their products that customers were and still are willing to pay top dollar for it. AirBnB and Withings are also companies that clearly have a strong focus on good design that has led to a beautiful experience in their products.

“Apple is a clear and obvious choice – at least in the past. They designed smooth, intuitive and seamless experiences within and between their products that customers were and still are willing to pay top dollar for it.”

As an experience design specialist, what is your #Innovationmoment? (something you have done, and feel has really been inspiring)?

My favourite #innovationmoment came from my time as a student at the Hasso Plattner Institute, School of Design Thinking in Potsdam, Germany where we worked with Radioeins, a German radio station regarding the future of radio. Unfortunately, it didn’t get carried very far forward as we were less experienced with stakeholder management but it’s a project that I still hold dear to me as I still believe it would have a lot of impact if implemented properly with a fully dedicated team. The insights that we found from our user research were so powerful and exciting that we were able to get a funding of 30 000 € for 6 months after the course was over to further develop our idea into a Beta version. In the end, it was a desirable idea and there were a lot of potential benefits for radio stations but as I mentioned, due to a lack of experience and also a lack of dedication to the project (pretty much all team members including myself were employed elsewhere at the time and this was merely a side project), it didn’t get carried forward any further after the 6 months. Perhaps I’ll revisit and revitalize the project sometime soon if I have the time!

#innovationmoment

“My favourite #innovationmoment came from my time as a student at the Hasso Plattner Institute, School of Design Thinking in Potsdam, Germany where we worked with Radioeins, a German radio station regarding the future of radio… The insights that we found from our user research was so powerful and exciting that we were able to get a funding of 30 000 € for 6 months after the course was over to further develop our idea into a Beta version.”

A Conversation with Victor Orie Ononogbu, Innovation Manager MTN

“I believe the cliché that the largest room anywhere is that for improvement. A trophy is a quick rush to death – keep moving, and that is what innovation is all about.”

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Tell us a little bit about your journey to this current position of Innovation Manager at MTN Nigeria

I started out in accounting and auditing, working for a medium size private auditing firm. Then moved to Nigerian Tobacco Company PLC. (now British American Tobacco) first as a trainee and then a Asst. Manager Research and ending up as Regional Marketing Manager.

I took my marketing career to MTN Nigeria as pioneer market research manager, setting up and resourcing the unit under the Marketing and Strategy division. I left MTN briefly to work in real estate as head of marketing and returned to the corporate services division of MTN as Education and later Health Portfolio Manager of the MTN Foundation.

Then the move to MTN’s innovation unit in the Transformation office where I am focused on delivering a handshake between business and the academia, and the entire innovation ecosystem. I have birthed the MTN Academic Research Development and Innovation Challenge (ARDIC) and other innovative ecosystem-based solutions to enhance the company’s customer experience.

What led you onto this ‘path’ of innovation?

Interest and passion to see things differently and find new and better ways of achieving greater results. Coming from a research background, asking questions comes naturally to me. I believe the cliché that the largest room anywhere is that for improvement.  A trophy is a quick rush to death – keep moving, and that is what innovation is all about. I am excited by seeing uncharted paths conquered and underrated individuals, teams and nations conquering erstwhile untouched challenges.

“Interest and passion to see things differently and find new and better ways of achieving greater results.”

What are your thoughts on innovation as it is currently in Nigeria?

Based on my experience I am very positive about innovation at the macro level in Nigeria.  My concern is on innovation at the micro level.

At the macro level as shown by Nollywood and Nigerian musicians, the absence of formal structures does not deter Nigerians. Yaba is beating its path to join other global innovation centres (Silicon Valley, Singapore, Bangalore, Tel Aviv etc) and is brimming with solutions to several local challenges in business and the society.  Perhaps the greatest challenge remains access to information and relevant technologies to enhance productivity. That is why the recent trialing of 5G technology is gratifying and holds the ace for a surge in innovation across industries and sectors in Nigeria.

Private sector involvement in catalyzing and harvesting latent innovation activities from the ecosystem is central to reducing the impact of the absence of formal innovation structures in Nigeria. And that is what initiatives like the MTN ARDIC seeks to address by creating a platform for key research in key areas of national development to become solutions rather than become archival artefacts only good for few citations here and there.

“Private sector involvement in catalyzing and harvesting latent innovation activities from the ecosystem is central to reducing the impact of the absence of formal innovation structures in Nigeria”

At the micro level (i.e. firm levels) the pace of innovation will be dictated by industry dynamics. For example, it will be suicidal for any Nigerian bank to rest on its oars today in the midst of the enormous changes in fintech and mobile telecoms which threaten the brick and mortar model within the industry.

Overall, there is a ground swell of innovation in health, agriculture, finance, logistics, retail etc. driven by enthusiastic young Nigerians who are unsatisfied with the status quo.

“it will be suicidal for any Nigerian bank to rest on its oars today in the midst of the enormous changes in fintech and mobile telecoms which threaten the brick and mortar model within the industry.”

What are your key responsibilities in your current position as Innovation Manager at MTN Nigeria?

In summary, ecosystem innovation management, which includes innovation in the academia (universities, research institutions, etc.), innovation and tech hubs, government agencies and parastatals focused on research and innovation and relationships with global innovation and research entities interested in Nigeria. We believe that a lot of solutions reside outside our industry and they need to be harvested for national development; and it is my job to achieve this.

“We believe that a lot of solutions reside outside our industry and they need to be harvested for national development; and it is my job to achieve this.”

Do you run sessions for ideation or problem-solving? If so, how do you go about it?

Internally, yes, I do. We have what I would call a proprietary ideation protocol which enhances our ability to drill down quickly to innovative ideas and get them running in the shortest possible time.

How would you define innovation based on your experiences at MTN Nigeria?

Strictly based on my experience driving innovation and not textbook definition: innovation is creating new processes and/or solutions that lead to considerably big and scalable improvements in value delivery, customer experience and ultimately quality of life.

“…innovation is creating new processes and/or solutions that lead to considerably big and scalable improvements in value delivery, customer experience and ultimately quality of life.”

How do you factor your users/customers as you drive for innovation at MTN Nigeria?

We start off with ascertaining what the customer requires – remember that innovation is meant to solve customer pain-points at a scale hitherto non-existent. As an innovator however, in most cases you see beyond the customers’ imagination. That means, the customer may not even know that she needs a particular solution until you present it to her. In that case, traditional research would do little to guide the innovation process. It requires something different, modelling the unimaginable needs of some geeks. Whatever the case however, an idea of use case and the type of groups that will adopt same is fundamental to innovation.

“…innovation is meant to solve customer pain-points at a scale hitherto non-existent. As an innovator however, in most cases you see beyond the customers’ imagination.”

Which companies (around the world) do you admire most for their approach to innovation? Can you share what caught your attention about their practices?

Grab (which grabbed Uber out of Singapore and the region – talk of daring ‘bigly’), Walt Disney (incredible run, reinventing itself), Alphabet/Google (restless innovation to conquer the world and the way people live), Alibaba (their nothing is impossible kind of attitude to innovation), Amazon (with a finger in practically every pie coming from an industry where nothing like this would have been expected).

What advice would you give to professionals looking to improve their career in management?

Acquire and display loads of passion for changing and disrupting the way people live. Then follow your nose. Equally important, get into the innovation ecosystem and circles; learn some skills especially things around technology (5G, IoT, AR, ML, APIs, block-chain etc.). Study to understand these concepts and their impact on innovation today – they’re means to an end in innovation, and not the end in themselves.

“Acquire and display loads of passion for changing and disrupting the way people live. Then follow your nose.”

What #innovationmoment are you most proud of in your role?

The emergence of the 6 winners of the MTN ARDIC; rollout of MTN’s mother and child OHP campaign in 2018 arising from the Yellow heart campaign which I championed.

If you could build a company from the ground up, what innovation tactics or design methodologies would you use to build?

Design thinking is a sure bet for me, as well as end-user embedding to systematically query the solution and process for delivering it from point one (1). The customer at the centre, – nothing trumps innovation with this kind of design. Then I will adopt agile project management principles in birthing the innovation to optimize both cost and time.

A Conversation with Faiz S. Hussain, Founder of Creation + Practice

“Innovation means something different to everyone who uses the term. It could be the opposite of tradition – something completely new – it could be the recontextualisation of a product or service to a new market, or the bundling or decoupling of services as they stand.”

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Tell us a little bit about your journey to your current position as Founder and Social Business Designer at Creation + Practice. What led you on this path?

I didn’t arrive here consciously, to look backwards rationalises a series of chaotic decisions into a sensible stream of progress. I freelanced as a self-taught designer from High School to Graduate School; stretching my ability, working on increasingly elaborate projects from publicity to publishing to patient management systems for private hospitals.

With each project, I went deeper into how my clients’ businesses worked, their operating environments and how their insides matched their outsides. With more trust, I was given more leeway to inspect their business models and be a critical voice; pushing the discourse higher and farther from ‘Business Design Light’ to ‘Business Design Heavy’ (Tanimoto) under the banner of human-centring operations and sustainability.

I’ve worked on a range of businesses from smart textiles, brick-and-mortar stores in China, aerosol bitters for cocktails, agricultural education in East Africa, the first craft beer for a Taiwanese palette to athletic tourism platforms. Each experience has challenged me to make my practice more robust and adopt a ‘beginner’s mind’.

Within the next few years, I aim to build a venture studio, codifying what I’ve learned in client services and creating a space for venture origination by committee, within its own independent fund to meet citizen success, open source and circular economic ideals.

What are your thoughts on (Business) innovation as it is currently approached around the world?

From the outside looking in, innovation means something different to everyone who uses the term. It could be the opposite of tradition – something completely new – it could be the recontextualisation of a product or service to a new market, or the bundling or decoupling of services as they stand. I think the best tangible examples are ‘leapfrogs’, where a business impels adoption from one technology to an unexpected one several levels of complexity higher. Consider how payments in China jumped from cash to debit digital payments (and the insurance that sits on top of that platform), ‘skipping’ Credit Cards and lo-fi digital wallets.

“… innovation means something different to everyone who uses the term. It could be the opposite of tradition – something completely new – it could be the recontextualization of a product or service to a new market, or the bundling or decoupling of services as they stand.”

What are your key responsibilities as a Social Business Designer?

I work with Founders to help them originate and refine new business ideas, products and services, within the scope of the mission of their organisation. No two projects are the same, and I work across a variety of sectors from Enterprise Technology to Agriculture to Cosmetics and Craft Beer.

The stock definition of a Business Designer is one who originates new venture activity and its ecosystem along the axes of technical feasibility (invention with traditional and/or innovative technology), financial viability (sustainable segments, partners and supply chains) and human-centred desirability (from the margins to centre). I use these axes as a guide to segment and respell Founders as Inventors, Optimisers and Visionaries respectively, reflecting their starting point and the work to be done.

A Social Business Designer takes this further to consider systems, ethical externalities (non-user-centricity, ethical hacking), future speculation, social impact, regulation, intercultural sensitivity and organisational dynamics (can a process survive within a larger organisation?). These are emerging aspects that I’m working to codify and integrate into my practice.

“I think the best tangible examples [of innovation] are ‘leapfrogs’, where a business impels adoption from one technology to an unexpected one several levels of complexity higher. Consider how payments in China jumped from cash to debit digital payments, ‘skipping’ Credit Cards and lo-fi digital wallets.”

What tools do you use when designing for businesses?

Business Design is undergoing a bit of a ‘prime canvas’ moment. Not a week goes by, when someone introduces a new sheet of paper with boxes to better segment and categorise business and impact strategy. The verdict is still out on which are the real winners, but I have my favourites: Julian Cole’s “Planning Dirty” and verynice’s “Models of Impact”, as well as the standard offerings from Strategyser and the “This is Service Design” series.

Aside from those well-heeled tools, I lean heavily on my training in User Research and Area Studies. I use discourse analysis in particular to delineate the boundaries of organisational silos, what makes a user a user and what lies systemically within the remit of a business, product or service.

How would you define innovation based on your experience?

I don’t like using the word “innovation”, as it feels like a false, inconstant idol in an everchanging world, but I consider the benefit of innovation to be the rejuvenation of a business, fully assimilating new technology, toward a path of sustainable development; where no two businesses that innovate can arrive there by the same, replicable, linear means.

“[My favourite Business Design Tools are]: Julian Cole’s “Planning Dirty” and verynice’s “Models of Impact”, as well as the standard offerings from Strategyzer and the “This is Service Design” series.”

How do you handle factors that hinder innovation within your (clients’) organizations?

Innovation is often placed at odds with the tradition or heritage of the company or industry that I work with, which is not always a good thing. Many companies downplay their own strengths to take risks on what might come next. As I’m bought in as an external to run these processes, I’m often in a position to throw out the rulebook, and that can be a mistake. The best collaboration is in the open, when all stakeholders get the opportunity to participate in the work we’re doing.

“Innovation is often placed at odds with the tradition or heritage of the company or industry that I work with, which is not always a good thing. Many companies downplay their own strengths to take risks on what might come next.”

Does your team run ideation sessions, problem solving sessions and the like? If so, can you shed light on some of your processes?

I’m always a little weary of giving too much attention or weight to a set process when it comes to ideation and problem solving. Almost all of the best hypotheses and solution in my working career have arisen in the most incidental phases; after the meeting is formally over or a stray insight when my team and I are looking at a problem fresh. More generally, our sessions are to create the parameters of play; aligning on what we want to achieve, and not worrying about how we get there; giving people permission to go deep, be creative and intellectual (which looks different in different people).

Which companies do you admire most for their approach to innovation? Can you share what caught your attention?

There are quite a few companies and groups that really bring attention to the field. Most recently, I’ve been really impressed with the in-roads Board of Innovation have made to demystify what innovation looks like to corporates, and the opensource initiatives taken by verynice to bring best practices to the firms that need it most.

What advice would you give to professionals looking to improve their career in business design, strategy or innovation leadership?

Look beyond the industry that you currently work in and learn from other fields. Business Design is already a diverse field, people arrive from all over the place: finance, other parts of design, product management and marketing; prior experience in another field actually enriches your practice.

Make it your responsibility to raise your level of discourse; write to develop your language (as a translator from needs to action), find depth (mediate ambiguity and complexity) and explore emotional intelligence; three things that will make you indispensable.

What #innovationmoment are you most proud of in your role as Business Designer?

It might seem counterintuitive, but my most proud moments have been the times I’ve shut down or said ‘no’ to a superfluous initiative, and pushed my clients to follow their values over the next trend. A sustainable business starts and ends with its values, with a model that brings these values to life.

If you could build a company from the ground up, what systems would you take from existing companies across the globe to build yours?

My clients and I constantly review our systems and operating procedures for better ways of collaborating. R/GA is a great example of a long-standing business that regularly interrogates its own existence, mission statement, business model and objectives for the short-, medium- and long-term – it’s an anomaly that has become increasingly relevant in our era of acceleration.

New startups, social enterprises and small businesses have an understated advantage over their forebears – they can freely experiment and adopt new systems. It’s something few of the clients I’ve worked with really appreciate. It’s very easy to slip into unnecessary administrative overhead, multi-platform anarchy and always-on synchronous communication. It takes a great deal of restraint to fashion good systems that maximise time for deep work, reflection and executive function to work less, with less duress and more creativity.

In my next venture, I’m considering these principles from the outset:

1. To be strict on the number of platforms; to factor in their switching cost and expiry dates from the outset – considering ‘Rundles’ like Microsoft Teams and Basecamp.

2. To reduce context (Erin Meyer’s term in ‘The Culture Map’) and build a multimedia knowledge base that operates as the ‘single source of truth’ for knowledge work – Notion, Coda, AirTable and Figma.

3. To favour open source over proprietary formats – we’ve lost some great tools along the way, so make sure everything can be ported to your next tool.

4. To be transparent and open source with as much of the work as possible to create information symmetry with those our work impacts and for others to build on our work abundantly.

5. To make privacy a centrepiece beyond the realm of regulation, collecting data thoughtfully and respectfully; e.g. don’t use ‘single-pixel tracking’ just because it’s easy.

6. To centre employee experience within our systems, affording autonomy and agency to teams to create better systems for themselves and others – akin to Stripe’s Operating Principles.

7. Appreciate that your employees are with you for a short time (in the grand scheme), make their time with you valuable, and be present to help them grow.

#innovationmoment

“but my most proud moments have been the times I’ve shut down or said ‘no’ to a superfluous initiative, and pushed my clients to follow their values over the next trend.”

A Conversation with Michael Mureithi, Group Head of Digital & Data at UAP Old Mutual Group

“One of the ways we factor our customers as we drive for innovation is by focusing on truly understanding the need of customers and the emotive drive behind it.”

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Tell us a little bit about your journey to this current position as Group Head of Digital & Data. What led you onto this path of Digital Innovation?

I’m a heavy user of tech products – I have close to 200 apps on my phone. I started this journey because I truly believe that technology can solve our problems as a continent from financial inclusion to poverty to low literacy levels to high unemployment and so on to every single person in the economy. I started my journey at KPMG where I was part of the team that set up management consulting in East Africa. I’ve also been at OLX Kenya, Cheki Kenya as the CEO where I founded Timam Cars before joining UAP Old Mutual as the Group Head of Digital & Data.

“I started this journey because I truly believe that technology can solve our problems as a continent from financial inclusion to poverty to low literacy levels to high unemployment and so on to every single person in the economy.”

What are your thoughts on innovation as it is currently in Kenya?

Amazing time to be in Kenya and the greater East Africa! [The market is] educated, young, risk-taking, with the availability of disposable incomes, great skills, and amazing support from the government for innovation, along with a growing appetite from investors to invest in unproven but innovative business models.

What are your key responsibilities as the current Group Head of Digital & Data at UAP OLD Mutual Group?

3 key things:

  1. Leading the digital transformation for the group.
  2. Exploring new opportunities/ventures where the group can invest in.
  3. Build a really ‘smart’ group of businesses through advanced business analytics, AI, robotics, etc.

How would you define innovation based on your experiences at UAP OLD Mutual Group?

[Innovation to me is the] practical application of a new solution to an existing, hidden or future problem.

How do you handle factors that hinder innovation within your organization?

A couple of things;

  • Be a great listener
  • Focusing what the customer & business needs are, not what I think their needs are 
  • Continuous and open communication, both when we have great wins and when we make mistakes
  • Identifying key enablers who can act as your advocate
  • Generally…be a nice guy; someone people actually like being around.

How do you factor your users/customers as you drive for innovation at your organization?

  •  Continuously talking to them every day
  •  Being very analytical, fact-based decision-making process (numbers don’t lie).
  •  Focusing on truly understanding the need of customers and the emotive drive behind it.

“[One of the ways we factor our customers as we drive for innovation] is by focusing on truly understanding the need of customers and the emotive drive behind it.”

Which companies do you admire most for their approach to innovation? Can you share what caught your attention about their approach to innovation?

a. SpaceX & Tesla – their boldness; they’re high-risk takers

b. Microsoft – for their high operational excellence

c. Cellulant – created for Africans by Africans

d. Safaricom – their power of scale & great partnership.

A Conversation with Tommaso Martucci, Innovation & Design Manager at Indeed Innovation

“Innovation is a result of the design process.”

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All the way from Hamburg, Germany, Design and Innovation Manager Tommaso Martucci of INDEED Innovation speaks on how design brings about innovation, and shares how he and his team design successful products.

Tell us a little bit about your journey to this current position as Innovation and Design Manager at Indeed-Innovation. What led you onto this path of design and innovation?

I’m a designer by training, even though I’ve experienced it in all its forms. I’ve got a bachelor’s in Industrial Design, then a Diploma in Landscape Design, a first Master in Service Design and a second Master in Business Design. It would get even more complex to mention all my working experiences. But the long story short is that they are all very different. During these 10 years, I lived/worked in multiple cities and countries. And when INDEED proposed [for] me to come back to Europe, [it] seemed [like] a very interesting challenge to me, and a month after their call, I was in Hamburg.

What are your thoughts on innovation as it is currently approached around the world?

Innovation is a big word, it comes along with evolution, so it’s part of our natural process as humans, we evolve naturally. The current approach, from the perspective of a designer, is related to the general understanding of the design process. Meaning: innovation as a result of the design process.

And it’s a great time for designers. Some words like “Design Thinking” and “Human-centered” have been spread all around, and the more they become “buzzwords” the more they function as important tools of communication, so as to reach a broader user target.

“And it’s a great time for designers.”

What are your key responsibilities as an Innovation and Design Manager?

The most beautiful aspect of my job is to keep moving between tasks of a doer and a thinker. This approach enables me to connect the dots between the daily job of the designers and the value that clients perceive for them.

Mostly, my effort is to make my clients aware of their full capabilities, which often means turning their requests to us into a structured briefing, to aim for higher purposes. Nowadays designers must share the same perspective of their clients, it’s important to go out of the “design bubble”, that’s the only way of effective consulting.

“The most beautiful aspect of [design] is to keep moving between tasks of a doer and a thinker. This approach enables me to connect the dots between the daily job of the designers and the value that clients perceive.”

How would you define innovation based on your experience?

Back in the day, when working on projects for innovation, it was easy to read articles about the world in the next 50 years. Nowadays, when defining a roadmap for an innovation project, the most common horizons move between 1-3 years, 3-5 years or 5-7 years, in some rare cases it goes up to 10-15 years. But in any industry, we are all conscious about the speed of transformation which prevents us to foresee a future which is too far away. Antoine Lavoisier wrote, “Nothing is created, everything is transformed”. Thus innovation could be any transformation that changes our lives for better, not in a hugely impactful way, but in the small daily things. Regarding the nature of innovation, for sure we notice a shift of focus, from technology-driven to technology as a tool to support people.

“…innovation could be any transformation that changes our lives for better, not [only] in a hugely impactful way, but in the small daily things. Regarding the nature of innovation, for sure we notice a shift of focus, from technology-driven to technology as a tool to support people.”

How do you handle factors that hinder innovation within your organization?

By definition, Design Thinking is a “creative problem solving” process, which implies the presence of a problem. Thus it’s important to change perspective, to see the problems as opportunities, not as obstacles. Every unfilled gap is an opportunity to do better.

Does your team run ideation sessions, problem-solving sessions and the like? If so, can you shed light on some of your processes?

We tend to do what we preach for our clients, so we are based on multi-disciplinary teams that adapt their knowledge from case to case. Luckily there is no recipe for good results, otherwise, it would be boring. We love to host clients at our office to involve them in every activity, it helps us to discover the little details behind the briefs, and it helps them to understand what we do before handing anything over to them.

Which companies do you admire most for their approach to innovation? Can you share what caught your attention about their approach to innovation?

I believe that companies are made by individuals, there are leaders and there are teams. I pursue many great minds related to the design world and [those unrelated]. I feel that they are those who make a difference. I tend to admire and respect those who can deliver great thoughts and results over the promotion of brands. To name all of those great individuals it would be a long list, but if you follow my daily posts on Linkedin with the hashtag #timeforreading, you’ll read about many of them.

“ I tend to admire and respect those who can deliver great thoughts and results over the promotion of brands.”

What advice would you give to professionals looking to improve their career in innovation management, strategy or innovation leadership?

Do what you love. And if you don’t know what it is, keep searching, keep experimenting, keep trying. Once you find it, share it, and fall in love also with something else. If it’s really hard to find something, then look for someone, a visionary, someone who inspires and motivates you, someone who moves you with words. And follow that leader.

What #innovationmoment are you most proud of in your role as an Innovation and Design Manager for Indeed-Innovation?

I’m proud of all projects, but in particular of those cases when we developed entire ecosystems. More in detail, to convince and guide our clients in scaling up, so in moving from the development of a single product to the entire ecosystem made of multiple touchpoint, such as physical products with services and digital products. Some of those projects are ongoing, but some others have already their first touchpoint displayed on our website.

#innovationmoment

“…moving from the development of a single product to the entire ecosystem made of multiple touchpoint, such as physical products with services and digital products.”

A Conversation with Gbolahan Fagbure, CEO of Supermart.ng

“When I think about innovation, I see it as thinking of new ways of doing things, trying to enhance processes, being more efficient and effective.”

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Tell us a little bit about your journey to this current position as Co-founder and CEO of Supermart.ng, what led you on to this path?

My journey in E-commerce & technology started with Jumia in 2012, prior to Jumia I had worked in the banking industry for 5 years. At Jumia, I was the Chief Operating Officer for the first 2 years before I and my co-founder Rafael stepped aside to start Supermart, which we run now for the last 5 years. That’s the history in a nutshell.

So, what led you to this path? When Supermart came out it really was seen as an innovation because there was this need, and no one thought of it or put it together till you guys came on the scene. Can you share how that happened, how the idea came about and how you have built till now?

Well, when we were at Jumia, we realized that no one was doing groceries. I think there were a couple of smaller companies doing online grocery retail. Jumia wasn’t doing it and they hadn’t done it in any other markets anywhere else in the world.

We worked long hours and closed late, so this was a problem we had ourselves. When I had to go to the supermarket, it would be a pain finding parking, spending time in the store, and queuing. It just wasn’t something I wanted to do.

I guess I had also gotten used to online grocery retail while I lived abroad, so for me, it was something that was fairly straight forward. I thought to myself, ‘this is something that can work here locally, especially with all the traffic situation we have.
So we thought about all those things and said this is an area we can add value in, it’s probably one of the most difficult areas of e-commerce, but for us, over the years we’ve continued to learn, to innovate and continued to try new things. We are happy every time we have better service than in the previous months and year.

Looking at Nigeria’s current landscape, what are your thoughts on innovation in Nigeria today?

I think of innovation as new ways of doing things, trying to enhance processes, being more efficient and effective. In that regard, when I look at many companies we interact with, I think too many companies are too slow to try things, too many companies are still stuck in regimented ways of doing things.

“When I think about innovation, I see it as thinking of new ways of doing things, trying to enhance processes, being more efficient and effective. In that regard, when I look at many companies we interact with, I think too many companies are too slow to try things, too many companies are still stuck in regimented ways of doing things.”

For us at Supermart.ng, I can’t count the number of things we’ve tried over the years, we get an idea, we start it, we stop it [if it’s not working].

For example, recently we started selling groceries from the UK, we launched the service on Monday, but the idea came 3 or 4 weeks ago and literally 3 weeks later, we launched that new service.

Today, we have 2000 additional products from UK supermarkets. I can’t count many other things we have started over the years; some we’ve started, and we’ve stopped, some we’ve started, and we’ve carried on with us, but the most important thing is we have to be quick and nifty. I have discovered most companies are too just too slow and this is beyond technology or start-ups.

“I can’t count the many other things we have started over the years; some we’ve started, and we’ve stopped; some we’ve started, and we’ve carried on with us, but the most important thing is we have to be quick and nifty. I have discovered most companies are too just too slow and this is beyond technology or start-ups.”

What are your key responsibilities as CEO of Supermart.ng on a day to day basis?

I have about 10 reports that I review on a daily basis. Every morning I look at things like sales, performance reports on our marketing initiatives, operations report, customer service issues, and based on those reports I can react to specific things or think of a more holistic way of solving a long-term problem.

I start my day with those 10 reports and depending on the situation, for example with the UK project we just launched, I would be a lot more involved for the first 2-3 weeks, just making sure that things are working properly but once we have things settled, I take my foot off the paddle and look at something else.

So, it’s providing direction, guidance, making sure the various team leads are doing what they should be doing but again to me, it’s just about having a process that works. For instance, we have a lot of documented processes for almost all departments, even simple things like approving payments, there are certain things that we should see before a payment can be approved at various approval levels and if those approvals are not there, the payment will not be made. Right down to how we pick items, and how we deliver, what we say to customers. We have those processes identified, it’s only when there’s a deviation from those processes, that I now step in and ask questions.

All the guys I work with know that about me, I didn’t study marketing or operations, I’m not a programmer, but what I’ll always do, is ask questions. The guys know I will always ask those questions, so it comes, they must be ready for answers.

These questions come every day, I will always see things that can be changed or improved, or where someone has been out of line, and take into consideration how we fix them.

What would you say are factors that hinder innovation in your organization?

I think for me, it would be good to have more innovative thinking across the entire organization, from top to bottom. We’ve tried to create that kind of open environment where everyone can speak up. But I find out that sometimes even though you try to give that message, you find out that people still keep things to themselves. Sometimes, cause they’re not sure how it would be received, or they just feel, I’m just here to collect salaries, if ‘oga’ says to do it, do it fine, and if he doesn’t, then ‘oh well’.

We can do more to get more people coming up with ideas and suggestions. One thing we came up with, about a month ago was remote working. I thought to myself, do we need to be in this central place called ‘office’ to do our jobs? And the answer was ‘no’.

I asked the team leads to go and figure out how we’d still manage the company and make sure everyone is still performing. What kind of reporting structure do we have? How do we ensure that people are still getting their jobs done? Are people still motivated to come into the office? Are they still disciplined to get out of bed at the same time and at work at a certain time? How do we communicate, is it Skype, WhatsApp, e-mails? So, I just left it with them and went on to do other things.

So, at the next town hall meeting, we had one of the junior guys in the company who said, ‘why don’t we consider doing remote work? Within a week, we agreed that we would start it, and for the last 4 weeks now, we’ve been doing 3 days away and 2 days in the office. We will continue that to the end of the year, at year-end we will review to see whether it’s been working well.

We’ll then ask, can we now do it on a full-time basis, and have more social activities that compensate for the physical time that we don’t spend with each other. We can have team lead meetings once a week for a few hours and at another time, we can have a social activity, say to go out for drinks or maybe go to the cinema, to build a level of camaraderie within the team.

So we will go with this experiment till the end of the year, then in January, we can decide whether we will continue or go back to working 5 days a week, or whether we’ll decide, ‘hey it’s working so well, let’s get rid of the office.’

How do you factor your users and customers as you push the envelope at your company?

For a long time, I think our tech team was just working on too many different things that were not properly articulated, in the last two months we decided to work on just 2 things:

  1. Things that bring operational efficiency
  2. Things that bring customers to the site and attract them to shop.

Which companies globally or in Nigeria do you admire for how they innovate or operate?

I don’t know if there’s any one company in particular but if you’ve read my book you probably know that I observe things a lot. It may be one person or one thing I learn from somebody else.

I don’t think there’s any particular company whose mode of operation ticks all the boxes for me.

Not too long ago, I used to run a monthly speaker series program, where I invited CEOs to come talk to young professionals. One of the guys that came, arrived maybe 45mins before the interview.

I said ‘wow you are really early’, he responded that he doesn’t like to waste time, if he wants to do anything he does it quickly. He says ‘yes’ quickly and he says ‘no’ quickly. That mind-set stayed with me up until now, and it’s how I run my personal life and business. I apply it to simple things, like when job candidates come for interviews, I always tell the HR Guy, ‘let them come in and go quickly. ‘Don’t have many people come in and wait, when you know you’ll interview them one after the other.

So that essence of speed of executing, not really wasting time on things is one of the key ethos by which we run the business.

We’ve had a lot of people who have joined the team and left to what I guess we would call ‘bigger companies’, say that they really learned entrepreneurship and business at Supermart, because yes bigger companies are good, but the speed in which things are done and the level of detail in how they are done is completely different to the way they’re done in those bigger organizations.

You gave a lot of advice in your book, ‘Working on a Dream: Lessons in life and business’, what advice would you give professionals who want to grow in areas of business strategy and innovation?

Read my book (LOL). We are always learning, I guess nobody has all the answers, as long we have an open mind to learn as we talk to people. But I think more important than learning is implementing. We like to listen, we listen with one ear and it comes out from the other ear, we don’t actually practice all the things we talk about.

Some big companies are just too slow in their mode of operation, many of these guys have gone to the top business schools both locally and abroad. I am sure they have learned about building proper structures, you don’t need to wait for the MD to be physically in the office to make a payment or to decide if we are doing a, b, c, d or e.

There’s this one company we went to recently where they actually wanted to pass a memo to the MD, I thought to myself, ‘using the MEMO just shows that there’s something wrong here.’

What #innovationmoment are you most proud of at Supermart.ng?

There are so many things we’ve done so it’s hard to keep track.

I guess probably the most recent one is around remote working. Before we started, a couple of people I spoke to said it’s not going to work, you are wasting your time, guys won’t be committed, they would be doing other things.

But we found people are actually working and even I, I find that I’m working more hours than when I go to the office and that didn’t require any significant change from us. All the tools were well placed to start this. Yes, there are a couple of areas and 1 or 2 people who are not quite keeping up, but I think by and large we are happy with the progress.

It makes it lighter, a lot more efficient, just a better work-life balance so that people who were spending 4-5 hours in traffic daily, that’s now gone.

A Conversation with Scott Boylston, Sustainable Design Expert and Social Entrepreneur

“People hear the word innovation, and they immediately think: iPhone, AI, VR, etc.”

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Sustainable Design and Innovation Expert, Scott Boylston shares with us how businesses can innovate and profit, from the lesser-known approach of social innovation and sustainability. He gives examples of companies doing this and sheds light on what innovation truly is-beyond just technology

Tell us a little bit about your journey to your current position as Graduate Coordinator of the Design for Sustainability Program at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). What led you onto this path of innovation?

It’s been an interesting path that has included everything from writing fiction and designing sustainable surfwear, to creating package design for luxury cosmetics and facilitating change in how professional groups perceive the value of construction waste.

The big driver for me has always been a deep and active curiosity that’s manifested itself in the interplay between the tiniest and most transient of expressions and the broadest and most complex of contexts.

Innovation generally starts with questions; why are things the way they are, and what keeps them in that state even when imperfections are obvious, abundant, and even fundamentally problematic? We’re a strange species; while our desire for change is constant, dysfunctional habits whose detrimental impacts are on full display can remain sacred and ingrained.

“Innovation generally starts with questions; why are things the way they are, and what keeps them in that state even when imperfections are obvious, abundant, and even fundamentally problematic?”

In my transition to teaching design, I’ve focused on exploring how the value of innovation is determined not by the innovation itself, as much as by what it is perceived to be. As we teach it in SCAD’s Design for Sustainability program, design is understood as the creative potential to create conditions for sustainable innovations to burst forth from any given context.

“design is understood as the creative potential to create conditions for sustainable innovations to burst forth from any given context.”

What are your thoughts on design and innovation (particularly in the area of sustainability) as it is currently around the world?

People hear the word innovation, and they immediately think: iPhone, AI, VR, etc. These are all great forms of innovation, but when almost 100% of our population thinks about technology when they hear the word innovation, we’re way out of balance.

“People hear the word innovation, and they immediately think: iPhone, AI, VR, etc. These are all great forms of innovation, but when almost 100% of our population thinks about technology when they hear the word innovation, we’re way out of balance.”

With so much emphasis on technological innovation, humankind’s ability to keep up with all of that technology’s unintended consequences is lagging disturbingly behind. We need to turn our attention to social innovation—innovating the ways in which we work together; the ways in which we explore shared futures of abundance and equity through generative conversations.

That doesn’t necessarily mean slowing down technological innovation as much as informing it with deeper, inclusive, and future-oriented intentions. When you’re driving a car at 20 kilometers per hour you have plenty of time to react to unforeseen complications in front of you. When you’re traveling at 120 kilometers per hour your response time has to be faster if you want to survive.

The rate of technological innovation continues to accelerate at an astonishing rate, and it’s out-scaled our human ability to respond to unanticipated repercussions. Yet we consistently neglect to focus on the character of the human dynamics that could infuse human-scaled and human dignity-oriented quality controls into this technological deluge.

What are your key responsibilities as a Graduate Coordinator, Design for Sustainability program at SCAD?

My great honor in this life is to help guide young, creative, and deeply caring individuals through a journey of discovery into how their passions can manifest themselves through sincere, curious, and rigorously impartial explorations of complex situations.

I co-founded the Masters’ program a decade ago and teach many of the classes, as well as mentor the students through their everyday challenges and epiphanies, including thesis development, internships, community interactions, and professional development; you name it. I also recruit young and justice-oriented individuals who are seeking ways to make a visible difference in other people’s lives.

How would you define innovation based on your vast experience in the sphere of design?

Our program talks about a three-pronged approach to innovation: Mind, Matter, and Society (see image).

When we speak of ‘mind,’ we focus on people’s mindset or worldview. Paradigms matter. In systems thinking, the purpose of any system defines the interaction of its elements, and in societies, our worldview—what we cherish; what we emphasize in our daily lives, either explicitly or tacitly; what we deem normal or abnormal; acceptable or unacceptable; just or unjust—determines everything else.

The ‘matter’ part of the equation explores the materiality and technology of our rapidly changing world. This covers what most people think of when they hear the word innovation, and from a sustainability perspective includes everything from renewable and distributed energy production to circular and re-localized flows of material goods, and from economically just forms of finance and banking to open source software and hardware.

And the ‘society’ part focuses on social innovation; participatory and iterative human interaction with a shared vision of a common future. The idea is to activate different aspects within each realm of innovation when considering how a context-specific solution can enhance the social, cultural, environmental, and economic conditions of that situation.