Monday, February 27, 2017

Ideas Are Cheap – Real Innovation Comes from Flawless Execution

In our Front End of Innovation interview series, we caught up with Mark Jones, VP of Design Thinking and Strategy, United Healthcare. His design background and experience in qualitative & quantitative research methodologies allow him to uncover user issues, convert them into design strategy, and create service experiences that serve customers’ needs, & inspire long-term loyalty.


What is the key to transforming ideas into market winning strategies?

Jones: Ideas are cheap---any group of smart people can come up with some ideas that look good on the surface. But few of those ideas bear fruit. Real innovation comes from a disciplined process of understanding a real market need, designing a robust solution for that need and executing flawlessly.

How does design thinking improve innovation?

Jones: Innovation projects that employ design thinking come up with solutions that have a better chance of making it to market successfully, since they are developed with holistic thinking that considers desirability, feasibility and viability simultaneously. Design thinking also encourages iterative development, which helps work out the kinks before a company has to commit large how to allocate their investment, getting the best ideas to market.

How can innovators learn how to work alongside the technologies that will shape their product innovations of the future?

Jones: New technologies don’t appear out of nowhere—they are generally around for quite a while before they become mainstream. I like to scan the world and look for places where emerging technologies are being used in new ways. They are likely to be in very different industries or contexts than your own business, but they are still relevant. Many of these products or services are unlikely to scale since they are so early in the market, but you can talk to people who are trying them out, see what they value in them and use that insight as a springboard to apply them to your own business.

How does leadership, teams, and the environment help empower and accelerate innovation?

Jones: Championing from leadership and the culture of an organization are critical factors for successful innovation. Innovation projects need to have a different approach than the core existing business. Teams need permission to fail, time to dedicate themselves to an innovation effort, funding and time to get things to market with uncertain timelines for a return on the investment. Top executives should expect that initial launches and pilots need to be adjusted before they can be scaled. These are not the ways that the existing parts of the business are run—nor should they be.

Why is business model innovation a powerful way to breakthrough?

Jones: There are just so many more ways that a service can create value in the marketplace, particularly when one considers a stakeholder landscape that is complex and involves multiple parties. Being limited by a conventional fee for service model narrows the potential market significantly, so we need to expand thinking to consider alternate revenue streams. It’s more complex, and hard to pull off well, but it is essential in today’s environment.

How can open innovation leaders de-risk external collaborations and usher in efficient pathways into their organization?

Jones: Key is to have a clear understanding of the role of the people participating in an open innovation effort. What are the terms of engagement? For example, what happens with the ideas that come from open innovation? Are there clear guidelines regarding IP? Who is running the initiative?  Lack of clarity on any of these issues creates risk for all of the players.

Join Mark at his FEI session, “Understanding the End User: Driving Innovation Through Empathy” on May 9th at 11:30 am. FEI takes you through the entire innovation process. Learn more: https://goo.gl/6ipcsB

Use your exclusive blog discount code FEI17BL for $100 off. Buy tickets: https://goo.gl/6ipcsB


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