You don’t have to be Apple, Amazon or Google to be an innovation powerhouse. It often feels that way, but it shouldn’t.
If you look up innovation in the dictionary, here’s what you find:
1: the introduction of something new.
2: a new idea, method, or device. NOVELTY.
You’ll notice there aren’t any qualifiers of size or magnitude.No references to innovation only relating to ‘life-changing’, ‘market-disrupting’, ‘never-seen-before’ stuff.
But when most of us think of innovation that’s what we think of.
We crave and covet the huge, game-changing “life will never be the same” kinds of innovation. That’s what gets the attention. That’s what we celebrate. So that’s where we set the bar.
Is it any wonder then that most of us don’t often feel up to the task? But we need to be up to the task. We can’t not be up to the task. It today’s ultra- competitive environment the survival of your business depends on it and your customers are counting on you.
Thankfully the dictionary has it right. Innovation is simply about “new”, and the opportunity for “new” is there all day, every day, for all of us. Every meeting, every conversation, every insights debrief, etc. – is an opportunity to see something new, and to choose to do something differently.
No one can predict where we’ll be 3-5 years out because the pace of change is so great. We can’t know for certain what the next “big thing” will be. But, something you can do, is keep your innovation switch set to “on” all day, every day.
If you can make it a way of thinking and working, a habit, – not a rare event – you’ll have more fresh ideas and perspective that will power your growth and future-proof your CX strategy.
You won’t miss those small shifts that end up changing the game. You won’t be left behind.
Everyday CX Innovation: 3 Habits
1. Stretch every success to the max.
Do you have an idea that’s already taken off? A program that’s already a success? Find new innovative ways to apply it with 4 easy questions:
- Where else? Where else could this apply, be useful, have a big impact? With another team? Another location? Another part of the country? With another product line? Online? Another channel? Etc.
- When else? When else could this work? Another time of day, week, month, year? Another occasion? Another meeting? At another step in the customer journey? Etc.
- How else? How else could this work? In person? Virtually? Digitally? In a different language? As a team? Alone? With customers? For free? Etc.
- Who else? Who else could benefit from this? Another customer segment? Prospects? Employees? Who else could help us make this even better?
Prior to 2010 TELUS CX was still pretty centred on marketing, insights and frontline teams. We had achieved some great successes but knew we could do more. We asked “who else” could help us make this even better? The answer was everyone: HR, Finance, Procurement, Legal etc. All of these teams had experience and ideas we needed and made sure we had a truly end to end view of the TELUS customer experience. 12 months after inviting the full TELUS team into the CX fold we realized the largest improvements in customer and employee experience results in our history.
2. Ask more questions. More often. Of more people.
The best way to get more and better ideas is to ask more questions, of more people, more often.
Some great ones to use to keep your innovation switch set to “on”? Here are 2 favourites.
These were shared with us by Michael Bungay Stanier, founder of Box of Crayons one of our leadership and culture partners. We’ve been amazed by how much these seemingly simple questions improve our thinking, our creativity and our ability to get things done!
And what else? (Generate more possibilities)
Whether you’re trying to get to the root of an issue, exploring a new course of action, brainstorming, etc., asking “And what else?” is probably the quickest and easiest way to uncover new ideas and create new options, new possibilities, and new solutions.
It keeps you from running with the very first idea that pops up, which is never the only idea and rarely the best. It helps you tap into the collective experience and thinking of the group. Keep asking it until the answer is “There is nothing else!”
Some other ways to frame it?
- And what else might be possible?
- And what else should we consider?
- And what else could help us here?
If you’re saying yes to this, what must you say no to? (Make sure it happens)
The problem with getting things done isn’t usually a shortage of ideas, it’s execution. It’s finding the resources to make it happen. And, more often than not with so much on the go, many things never get off the ground.
One of the ways to increase the chances of your CX ideas having the success you envision is to ask this question when new ideas or plans are on the table.
It puts a spotlight on what’s needed to make sure you have space, focus, resources, and energy to make a new idea happen.
Try asking those questions more often and with more – and different – people to really get your innovative thinking going. What kinds of “different” people? Consider the following when inviting people to your CX planning and decision-making table:
- Thinking style– Analytical, emotional, contingency planners, blue-sky idea builders, ROI modelers, skeptics, etc.
- Generation– Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z.
- Career stage– Interns, fresh out of school, 5-year veterans, 10-year veterans, mid-career, near retirement, retired.
- Perspective– Consider people outside your company and outside of your field – colleagues in other industries, family, neighbours, and friends often see things you have become blind to and/or question assumptions that might have made sense at one time but are now out of date.
During the 2007-2009 recession our Small Business team was looking to dramatically improve both customer experience and costs. We started asking more questions – more questions of our customers to better understand what they really wanted and why (no assuming!), and then more questions of our team to make sure we were tapping into every creative idea.
We found many of our CX assumptions were off and we were over-delivering in a lot of areas customers didn’t care about. With new customer insight and team input we put our time, energy and money behind those things that really mattered, and eased up or even eliminated the things that didn’t. Customers told us we’d improved significantly (double-digit feedback score improvements) and we spent far less doing it.
3. Dwell less, dream more.
We can measure more things, with more sophistication than ever before. We can review and analyze, re-review and re-analyze to our heart’s content. But, that doesn’t mean that we should.
If we want to innovate more, we need to spend less time dwelling and more time dreaming.
- Make time for it. When sharing your latest CX data, feedback results, etc. allow more time on your agenda for looking ahead and planning next steps than reviewing the numbers – your next great opportunity is in front of you, not behind you.
- Ask more questions. Look forward. Ask questions that will help you move the needle: What have we learned? What could we do next? How? What else might be possible? What would be a bold or ambitious next step? What help do we need? Etc.
In our industry, managing wireless churn is known to be extremely challenging. So when we set our sights on achieving a wireless churn rate of less than 1%, people told us to “dream on”. So we did. Instead of dwelling and repeating the known wireless churn challenges we tasked ourselves with making time to think about churn differently, to give ourselves some space to imagine new approaches. In February of this year, we announced our fifth consecutive year of industry-leading wireless churn below one percent and lowest customer complaints in our industry.
Innovation. Yes, You Can!
You don’t have to be Apple, Amazon or Google to be an innovation powerhouse. Innovation is a process, a way of thinking. It takes discipline and it can be learned – by anyone. We can all be good at it. And we can do a little bit each day.
So consider lowering your bar a bit when it comes to innovation. Consider those everyday opportunities.
Stretch every great idea to the max. Ask more questions of more people. Dwell less, dream more.
Your innovation switch will always be set to “on”. You’ll future-proof your CX strategy a little bit every day. You won’t miss those small shifts that end up changing the game. You’ll never be left behind.
Interested in more ways to make innovation easier?