Innovative products will generally gain mass market adoption because the innovation makes life easier for people. It is the value exchange between investment in the technology and the time it saves that helps ensure successful adoption of innovative technologies. If we look at business technology, it only makes sense to invest in new technologies if it significantly improves efficiencies or leads to cost savings over time.
Innovation tends to bring change and change is often feared. We see different levels of innovation and each level will either improve, transform or disrupt users’ lives. This all depends on whether the solution delivers on what it is meant to. As a result, success with innovation is measured on whether it is accepted, adopted, retained and maintained by users.
If we look at the words that define innovation, we see that at every stage, it’s about thinking about the end user and the benefit it brings to them. Innovation isn’t about a gimmick, it’s about something that provides value and makes life easier.
Innovation used to mean creating physical objects, now it is often digital services where innovation originates from. We see innovation at every level, driven by the ideas and concepts that people have created around mobile devices.
We can define innovation along three key metrics:
This is the most basic level, where you are improving the way in which something is done. This is where many companies are focused as it’s the simplest route to innovation. Generally, this will be done using agile methodology, where the route to improvements is relatively straightforward. This could be about reducing the number of steps it takes to complete a task, or moving to mobile from paper.
Weather apps are a prime example of this. When many first came out, users would still need to enter their location, or enable the app to find them. Making weather apps location aware was a big step forward, where the user didn’t have to interact with the app to be provided with information on the weather. Push notifications have taken this further by being able to alert users about weather information based on where they are. If we look at newer weather apps such as Dark Sky, they are able to provide alerts about when it is going to start raining, with an estimate as to when it will finish. It’s not disruptive and it’s not transformative, but it is an improvement.
These simple updates are not life changing, but they are significant enough to change human behaviour and make their life easier, either by shaving off a few precious seconds or delivering useful and contextual information – the user has been considered and behaviour influenced.
Transform, opens up the door to changing user habits and subtly introducing new and more efficient ways of operating. London’s Air Ambulance is a prime example of transformation innovation through the creation of a new app, focused around its dispatch process.
Utilising 4G and tablet devices, the bespoke app replaces processes that required information to be repeated three times and entered into a computer, via the phone or radio. Now, with the press of a button, information about the critical missions that London’s Air Ambulance responds to can be sent directly to the highly trained paramedics and specialist doctors. On average, this saves two minutes on the dispatch process, with the ground crews being redispatched in as little as 10 seconds in some cases.
When thinking about a critically injured or ill patient, time is the most critical factor, where a second can mean the difference between someone living or dying as a result of their condition.
Transformation here was only possible because of the technology that exists now. Many people ask why this couldn’t have been done before. Much of it is to do with speed and reliability of the networks and the usability of the devices.
Transformation is also occurring in our homes with smart meters, which are driven by the need to better manage energy flow and our energy usage. Smart meters help energy companies conserve resources and pass the cost savings onto homeowners. As a homeowner, a smarter house means that they have more control.
Disruption is the final, more drastic approach to innovation when a complete industry is forced to reevaluate their approach. If you take the example of the taxi industry – mobile meant that we could order taxis by making phone calls, though this still depended on knowing the number for the taxi service.
Alternatively, in London, we had to go into the street and try to flag one down – something that could be quite a challenge. By removing many of the processes involved and using geo-location on our phones, Hailo transformed the industry, making it easier to book a black cab. Uber then came in and looked at how to further utilise technology to drive improvement and remove some of the obstacles to ordering a taxi, bringing even more power and control to the user.
All of these examples aren’t possible without understanding the user pain points. Innovation only happens because teams of people have looked at the way in which something is done and asked why. Just think about Dyson. Every manufacturer said no to a bagless vacuum cleaner, afraid it would harm their bottom line – bags. Dyson revolutionised the vacuum industry by making life easier for the user and challenging the status quo by thinking differently.
The longer a product takes to create, the more likely it is that factors that impact the organisation, or indeed technology itself, will have moved on. This means distilling issues into themes and translating them into an opportunity matrix where features of the app can be prioritised based on the time it takes to create and the value it provides.
In Part 2 we discuss how to approach innovation to help organisations improve, transform and disrupt they way they do business.