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.

Scroll

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.

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.

Scroll

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 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.

Scroll

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.

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.

Scroll

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.

Scroll

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.

Scroll

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.

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.

Scroll

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.

Scroll

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 […]

Scroll

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’.

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.

Scroll

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 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.

Scroll

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. 

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.

Scroll

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.

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.

Scroll

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.

Empathy Map

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

Scroll

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.

Scroll

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.

Scroll

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.

Scroll

Innovation Sourcebook

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

Scroll

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.

Scroll

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.

Scroll

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.”

Scroll

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 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.

Scroll

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.

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.

Scroll

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.

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.

Scroll

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.

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.

Scroll

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.”

Scroll

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 Sabrina Goerlich, Innovation Facilitator, Design Sprint Studio

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

Scroll

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 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.”

Scroll

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.