Dedicated Innovation Hubs for a Successful Approach to Modernization
Disrupting the status quo at big companies can be a difficult proposition. Though effective innovation introduces new ideas and can help improve the bottom line for businesses, it can also create a host of complicating problems. Many companies trying to innovate run into problems they didn’t know existed, and their innovation efforts can drag on at great expense.
However, there are some proven and successful innovation strategies. The best approach uses a dedicated “innovation hub."
Why Innovation Efforts Fail
There are several reasons innovation efforts can falter. The most common is that a company does not engage the right people. The most innovative employees are those who approach day-to-day responsibilities like entrepreneurs. These team members aren’t afraid to find out what doesn’t work and try something else. Many companies seek to hire people who think this way, but may not have the perseverance or the capability to bring concepts to life.
Another cause of innovation efforts stumbling is that a company doesn’t have a process or protocol for conceptualizing, planning and executing on new ideas. An effective approach doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it must provide a healthy amount of guidance.
A third problem can be the process itself. Many processes focus on ideation and incubation but don’t facilitate scaling which is an important part of any proof of concept.
Finally, there is teamwork. Even the most carefully orchestrated innovation efforts can fail if they don’t engage partners who specialize in solving aspects of a larger issue. Sometimes, admitting when and where an innovation effort needs outside help, perspectives, or support can make the difference between failure and success in a business.
The Solution: Innovation Hubs
An effective way to overcome these problems is to use an innovation hub, which brings together developers, internal clients, external clients, and partners to design and build solutions using an established and tested process. Hubs also facilitate specialists from different functions, such as engineering and design, working together to develop radical new ideas. Hubs encourage creative thinking while applying discipline to the process of determining which initiatives are likely to be most fruitful.
Take the case of a luxury retailer. In early 2018, the company wanted to revolutionize their customer shopping experience. Their goal was to incorporate real-time concierge service and tablet computers to eliminate the need for shoppers to go to a register. And they wanted to do it in under six months.
The solution included portable point-of-sale (POS) units that link to the company’s inventory in real time. The team redesigned the customer experience around the tablets instead of cash registers. Today, at stores using the pilot, the entire transaction runs through the portable POS. If a shopper sees a sweater she wants, she tells her concierge, the concierge puts the request into the tablet which pings the warehouse to check the inventory, someone from the warehouse brings out the sweater, and payment is handled right on the device.
The solution was designed by the retailer together with Infosys in one of five innovation centers we launched in the last year, including an 87,000 square-foot hub in Indianapolis. Another center is scheduled to come online in Arizona before the end of 2019.
Five steps to innovation
Infosys uses a tried-and-true five-step process to streamline innovation efforts within its centers:
- Discovery. The bringing together of stakeholders to get a sense of base knowledge, culture, environment, and expectations.
- Problem statement. Exploration of pain points and identification of the problems a company wants to address and resolve; a team must clearly define the problem before it can develop an effective solution.
- Fact-finding conversations. Sit-downs and interviews with stakeholders to get a broader sense of considerations such as budget and technical expertise and possible technical solutions.
- Mixed-reality experiments. Multiple attempts to solve the problem from different angles, while avoiding ideas with a low chance of success.
- Conclusion. Use of the data collected and design ideas to create a prototype, taking care to develop pilots that are scalable and affordable.
In addition to having a process, it is essential to educate design teams about innovation’s potential. Infosys uses an “Innovation Gallery” for this, a museum-style area with featured exhibits, each of which tell a story about the development of a solution, emphasizing the intersection of business and technology, and drawing attention to the fact that technology should only be applied where it adds business value.
How Innovation Hubs Unleash Solutions
Following this process and prioritizing business value leads to benefits for companies and their customers. Because the approach is well-defined, clients can innovate within a budget. Also the five-step innovation process has the advantage of providing a clear endpoint that tends to keep teams stay focused on the problem at hand, and less likely to digress into “science experiments.” The process also makes it less likely that the engagement will fall victim to scope-creep, and that team members will lose confidence or change their minds midstream. It also often helps companies achieve successes in short timeframes. The luxury retailer’s project lasted six months.
An engagement for a money-transfer service was completed in four weeks. The money-transfer company had a clear problem; they needed a way to send cash to people who weren’t near any of the company’s physical locations. After a few meetings, they settled on a concept for a lockable and secure, 3D-printed moneybox that could be attached to and delivered by a drone. An authentication app and code sent via text message would allow the customer to unlock the box. Field tests were a resounding success; the cash was delivered safely every time. And at the time of writing, the company is planning to roll out the solution in certain remote markets.
Companies in every sector are feeling the pressure to improve their speed of innovation to stay relevant and maintain an edge. Yet many attempt to try and innovate alone and miss the opportunity to bring together different stakeholders to spark new insights and ideas. But by coming together with experts in innovation, and using a proven approach in a conducive environment, companies can maximize efficiency more quickly to design and build a brighter future.