Innovation is the buzzword today; everyone is talking about it. Everyone wants to be innovative. The pressure to be innovative is so high in business today, that sometimes I feel it is almost detrimental to the innovation process itself.
Here is the thing: business is about people. In primitive economies one used to barter. You would give your cow’s milk to your neighbour and you will get rice in return. You will do this with multiple neighbours and the society would run in a harmonious way. Should you suspect your neighbour of eyeing your spouse, you will probably start taking rice from someone else, although you had no problem with his quality of rice. And so on and so forth. At the end of the day, it has always been about the overall experience, rather than about the product alone. Nothing has changed today. If you order a product online, it is not only the product quality which matters; what is equally important is the experience of service you received during the process of laying your hands on the product.
Experiences are the result of people’s behaviour. McDonalds is successful because kids enjoy the whole experience, not because they have the best burgers. Businesses become successful when customers have happy experiences.
Inside organisations, your internal customer is your staff. The organization exists because of its people and can do well only if the people are happy.
In my 20 years of consulting organisations, rarely has management at any organization asked me to find out “what their people really want”. In a few organisations we have seen the use of traditional methods like structured interviews to find out what the staff needs to be happy. Now, when you ask questions like “Would you like shorter working hours?” or “How can you increase sales?”, you can only have improvement upon an existing scenario. True pathbreaking innovation within an organization which makes you go “Oh Wow Maaan” is possible only if you can fulfil people’s unmet needs by giving them what they have not even imagined. Now, people cannot clearly articulate their unmet needs, as they have not seen the future.
For example, 30 years back, before video-conferencing became popular in organisations, in a HR interview, you would not have framed a question about cross border meetings through video-conference, as such a product did not exist.
The “Oh Wow” kind of innovation happens only when you can give people what they cannot even imagine. Perhaps this is why Steve Jobs said “I do not do research.”
The trick lies in following a non-conventional path, through which you begin to understand what “people really want”. We call it the 3P method or the Probe-Ponder-Prove method. We use the power of observation to get insights about people’s needs and then help ideate and come up with what’s best for people.
The result of this human-centric approach is that consultants like Designers, Project Managers, Branding experts will then have a very strong and proven base to plan things out. For true innovation happens only at the intersection of Viability, Feasibility and Desirability.