“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else” – Eric Ries
Lists nominating ‘The Most Innovative Company’s’ of <name the year> highlight one common theme, these are companies who have embraced experimentation in order to move their business forward. Moreover, the biggest long-term winners are those who have figured out how to test new ideas with end customers that drive product decisions.
Take Chobani for instance. Their highly competitive space requires a continuous flow of new products. How do they continuously learn about changing customer tastes? Look no further than Chobani Soho, a bricks & mortar store inviting customers to ‘blend their own’ and to try new interesting flavors. As Chobani uses this face-to-face relationship to get first hand reactions to new products and flavors, they study the point of sale data to deeply understand, what’s working and what’s not.
What Does a Successful Innovation Program Look Like in Big Companies?
“There’s an opportunity to do innovation in big companies,” says author and startup guru Eric Ries. “But very few big companies have done this really well. Amazon is one of them.”
Amazon is well known as perhaps the leader in innovation. Why? Experimentation. Jeff Bezo’s has created a company that greatly favors the experiment. He’s involved in selecting the projects which can bubble up from anywhere in the company. When Lean Startup guru Eric Ries talks about Amazon he says “A key factor in making this work is that experiments start small and grow over time”. Amazon creates a small team to experiment with the idea and find out if it’s viable. A ‘series of small successes and fast failures’ is a recipe for saving a great deal of time and money on ‘innovation’.
Important to note that Amazon does not spend too much time on internal testing. They prioritize launching early over everything else. Learning fast, and with direct market feedback is the top priority. The market experiment is key to success.
Zachary Gipson, USAA’s Chief Innovation Officer would agree that getting to market to ‘finalize’ the experiment is essential. The USAA Innovation team is set up to ‘put things in market’ and learn. “You can get very enamored of the ideation and testing and learning, but if you don’t get things into the hands of your customer, you haven’t created value”, he states. This type of experimentation makes all the difference between spending too much time and money on the wrong ideas.
Prat Vemana of Home Depot explains their experiments in using Google Home to help customers find their way around a store. Home Depot asks if an idea fills their ‘3 buckets’: customer behavior, business proposition, and tech feasibility. They also experiment with new technologies such as augmented reality and AI, however they recognize experimentation is important, but implementation may be on a different time horizon. Finding a business benefit to doing it is extremely important and that only comes by experimenting in market.
Sorting Ideas More Efficiently Wins the Day
We know that many innovation teams struggle to decide which ideas warrant an experiment. Home Depot says that it’s a continual challenge to sort through ideas to find those with the highest potential. “The number one challenge of driving an online team is picking the areas to focus on,” Vemana states.
Getting from Idea to Launch is no easy feat. It requires a process to identify those ideas with the highest potential for your business. Lean Innovation is the process that will help you to sort through a portfolio of good ideas and decide. Next, you need to find the best method to do early market testing and find partners (inside or outside) to help you build a product or offering faster than your competition. The Innovation Scout provides our Fast Track and Scout Platform to help guide your team through the Idea to launch process. The Scout platform uses AI and Big Data to help you find solutions, understand competitive forces and see potential wins for your business. Why? Every day that you are not deciding which ideas to move forward, park or reject, wastes precious time to innovate. You need a methodology and a platform that automates the time consuming parts of the process. You need access to a global innovation marketplace to make sure the best, most timely solutions can be created.
The ‘Chief Experiments Officer’ is an essential role in your business in order to move your innovation process forward and find ongoing, reliable growth.