5 Ways Consumers Can Help Inspire Your Future

This article originally appeared in an issue of be: inspired/, an online magazine co-created for and with marketing experts.

As you know, innovating new products and services in today’s ever more competitive global markets becomes increasingly difficult. Organizations live in a world of commodity hell: fast followers, shorter product life cycles and ever more demanding consumers. Today, innovation has been elevated to sit on the CEO’s agenda and it becomes the benchmark for success or failure during their tenure. The gap between the innovation leaders and those trying to catch up grows ever wider.

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that innovation is inspired and led by the brilliant leaders of the technology organizations; that innovation comes top-down and inside-out, driven by technologically brilliant experts who have a monopoly on future thinking. This may be the case in some instances, but the majority of organizations do not have CEOs who are geniuses or who have innovation track records beyond average.

It is striking that most organizations still expect about a 90% failure-rate in terms of new product and service successes in the market. We at Promise Communispace believe there is a better way. Rather than top-down and inside-out innovation, our “Bottom Up” and “Outside In” approach is grounded in identifying the hopes and dreams of the very people organizations are trying to serve. It also eliminates the pain points that industries themselves have often, unwittingly, created.

In essence, the senior people who make decisions within organizations need to become as knowledgeable about how they build value in their customers’ lives as they are about the specifications of their products or the details of their balance sheet.

Having worked with a number of brilliant organizations over the past decade, we have identified five principles that should underpin any innovation activities:

1. Create Relationships

Relationships are the source of results. Working with your consumers’ dreams allows you to instantly connect with your marketplace, to create products and services with mutual value, for the consumer and the organization; placing the consumer at the heart of the creative process effects real change. Our client at Sony Music once referred to this as: “how we stopped worrying and learned to love the consumer.”

2. Ask the Big Questions

To create breakthroughs you need to ensure you’re asking a big-enough question. You should define the challenge as well as the overall commercial objective. To reach a breakthrough the client has to be prepared to break something significant about their current business model! Our recent work with British Airways truly exemplifies this: our mission was to invent the future of flying. In removing the limitations, you can think bigger, and in turn get surprising outcomes.

3. Listen for Possibilities

Co-creation is being embraced by brands and consumers alike. In what is clearly the age of the consumer, it is time to start really listening hard, in order to differentiate, innovate and survive. Most businesses are not very good at listening to criticism and hearing the truth. But a different approach to listening creates new possibilities and the removal of barriers to allow change.

4. Collaborate Together

Consumer collaboration is key and this can be done in an online or offline setting. We believe everyone is creative. No one person owns an idea; concepts are worked through and built on with the aid of everyone present. The creativity of groups is phenomenal! Consumers, business stakeholders and professionals should occupy the same space to develop opportunities together. When McDonald’s developed the restaurant of the future they worked with families, twenty-somethings and their team of management, staff and franchisers; this ensured greater success when implementing ideas.

5. Play/Dream

We are taught to rely on data and facts to make decisions. In today’s world we are overwhelmed by data, with little time to think. Children remind us that play is the most creative process. Play is an essential part in designing better and different products and services for the future.

A 90% failure-rate suggests that the old expert-driven, top-down, inside-out innovation processes are flawed and ineffective. At the heart of our process is the belief in human creativity and the ability for your consumers to help you develop relevant, useful and exciting products and services that make a real difference to their lives. If you haven’t already, join us on this journey of doing business a better way.

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