Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Innovation Interview: Experience Empathy to Innovate

In our Innovation Interview series, each month we talk to thought leaders, inspirers, and innovators in the industry to pick their brains about the state of innovation, trends, and what’s in store for the future. This week we caught up with Karen Tilstra, PhD, co-founder & inventor at Florida Hospital Innovation Lab (FHIL).

Tilstra is the co-founder of the award-winning FHIL, which has been called one the Florida Hospital’s most transformational initiatives. One year after launching FHIL Karen became the consulting founder of the Orlando Magic's Innovation Lab; and co-designer of the nation's first under graduate degree in Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship offered at Rollins College located in Winter Park Florida. Her most recent project is founding the San Diego State University’s Design Thinking Innovation Lab. 

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

Tilstra: GETTING EMPATHY. Getting out there and discovering what really is needed, not just want you this is needed. Seeing with Fresh eyes - GO AND EXPERIENCE WHAT YOUR CUSTOMER OR END-USER IS EXPERIENCING.  That way you will get NEW insights from both spoken and unspoken needs.

How does design thinking improve innovation? 

Tilstra: Design Thinking puts us in a position to co-discover the truth. to learn what really is needed. Design Thinking keeps us from thinking and operating from patterns of the past and old ways of thinking. When we use deign thinking we can stop producing results we don’t want or never intended - Design Thinking puts us in the position to lead and create from the emerging future.

Why are customers key driving factors in the market success or failure of new products and services?

Tilstra: I believe when we really understand what our customers NEED, not just what we think they need, we discover solution that are relevant and sustainable. Too many products and services are created around old ways of thinking that are not relevant today. Customers don’t always know what they need but they know it when they see it. That’s why designers, leaders and front line professional MUST to seek to experience what customers’ experiences. New products fail because they don’t meet a need.

We can prevent these failures if we stay connected to our customers and then create solutions in an iterative way. That way customers can interact with new products and solutions as they are developed. Feedback can be used to make products that meet needs. So - in short if we get customer empathy and they allow customers to interact with products and services as they are developed in an iterative way - the feedback loops are very authentic. the truth is apparent. but this takes more time and some leaders, companies or developers often don’t want to invest the time. BUT TIME SPENT IN CO-DISCOVER is never wasted!

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

Tilstra: Trial and error. By trying it. Having their bosses and leaders give them time and space to try out new tech options. etc. Patient… rapid prototyping and trusting the journey. Having an encouraging and patient boss who understand that their will be fails and money might be lost at first…but keep at it and each iteration become more clear and successful - if the feedback loops are kept open and dynamic.

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

Tilstra: Living the example. By creating safe spaces that are designed for collaboration. Having top leaders invite and reward collaboration and creativity thinking   Then leaders must create/build spaces and processes for collaboration - especially for those systems that are siloed or locked in hierarchy. It takes time - employees that have grown accustomed to stiff, hiarachial, systems will have to be encouraged to collaborate. Employees might not believe leaders or bosses who move in this direction - they must be shown this is a new way and given time and resources to learn how to collaborate. Also be rewarded for their collaboration and creative thinking.

Why is business model innovation a powerful way to breakthrough? How can companies stop conventional business models from impeding innovation?

Tilstra: Because it is human. Every business is run ultimately by humans - so once we accept that - we begin to understand that business model innovaiton is iterative, trial and error that leads to power and effective collaborations. It’s the truly natural human way to operate - we just forget it because we get blinded by greed, power, knowledge etc.  If we all committed to working in open collaborative ways we’d all be better.

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

Tilstra: I’m am so not your typical business person. I believe we have too often focused on the wrong outcomes - therefore creating silos in business, answers locked away and too much competition. Some commotion is healthy but when we get totally sucked into competition we lose who we really are. We’re all in this world together struggling with the same challenge. If we could stop taking our selves too seriously and focused on what was really important in the grand scheme of things we’d see that open innovation leads to way more answers and opportunity for everyone.

Join Karen at her FEI workshop/double session, “Creating Highly Effective Innovation Leaders by Bringing Yourself into the Innovation Process” on May 10th at 2:00 pm. FEI takes you through the entire innovation process. Learn more:

Use your exclusive blog discount code FEI17BL for $100 off. Buy tickets:

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