De-risking Innovation: Make Creativity Work for Commercial Results
We help businesses refine their digital products from ‘okay’ to ‘unmissable’ with our PPO service. We’re sharing the tips and techniques offered in PPO in our blog. This week, we’re looking at the idea of planning innovation – not an easy task.
Innovation is sort of an impossible challenge when you consider it. It’s the idea of making something novel, being first with the idea that transforms your users or your market as a whole. In the digital sector, innovation is almost interchangeable with progress – the companies which innovate best tend to grow the fastest and win the most revenue. However, the sheer number of competitors in the digital landscape makes innovation a real mountain for many product teams. How can you do something new when it feels like everyone has done it before? How do you inject creativity into a team that may be burned out, bored of the product and ready for something that feels ‘new’? The real challenge with innovation is one of risk. Trying to innovate without a clear sense of where to head leads to frustration and subpar results. The most common issues of chasing innovation are:
Unnecessary features/functions that there’s no user need for. This drains resources and leads to lacklustre product reception.
An improper solution for a defined need. This leads to a negative user experience that can also lead to abandonment.
A long innovation process drains your team’s time and your business' money without reaching any real outcomes.
Tunnel vision around a particular problem or feature means other aspects of the product are ignored.
To de-risk the concept, you’ll need to step back and readdress your entire production workflow. Here’s how…
Benchmarks shouldn’t be static
When you first began developing your product, you may have set certain data benchmarks as KPIs or goals to reach. However, those same benchmarks may be holding you back and hamstringing innovation. Benchmarks aren’t just a goal to be hit, they’re also meant to be a point of reflection and a place from which to pivot your creative process. If you’ve got a bunch of meaningless metrics that you’re collecting for no actionable reason, it’s time to redefine what data you’re capturing and how you handle it. User-based performance metrics are the most actionable for creative teams. Seeing how a user is acting on a given screen in your product, or how well a certain feature is working, allows teams to develop ideas from a clear bottom line. If, for example, your cart process is working well and a particular stage is performing above market average, the creative team can take inspiration from its success and extrapolate new ideas from that feature’s design. At KOMODO, a core part of our PPO offering involves readdressing your data benchmarks in the context of commercial growth.
Your workflow must accommodate user behaviour
We’ve discussed the problem with outdated user research in a previous blog called ‘Do you still know your user’ but it’s too important a point to not go over it again here. In your product’s workflow, how often are you updating your user research? We’d guess that most companies do their research at the start and then rely on it until post-launch. Instead, you need to plan an update to your user research into each workflow cycle, perhaps even with a feedback and testing stage at the end of every development sprint. You could even add a user interview stage to the beginning of every major update cycle, feeding new user problems and needs into the product team to ensure the most pressing and prevalent issues are being solved. Making updated user research part of your workflow means you’ll always be on top of what your users need. If anything, it’s even easier to do in a post-launch world because you’ll be able to gather data and use it to see exactly what users are doing in the product itself. Your team can then use creativity and innovation to enhance well-performing parts of the product or refine poorly performing ones. Just remember, as we discussed in the previous section, you also need to track the right data and set the right benchmarks or you’ll likely fail to see actionable insight.
Creative ideation through competitor research
Your product is competing with those in your exact sector, but also indirectly with other digital products and apps. As a product manager, you need to have your ‘finger on the pulse’ when it comes to what your competitors are doing and how it impacts your workflows. If you’re not actively monitoring your competitor’s products and putting them to your creative team for their insights, you’re missing out on what is essentially an easy win. If your competitors are doing something well, challenge your team to take it and improve it. You should also monitor indirect competitors - businesses whose technology/product is similar to your own but not necessarily in the same sector or market. Apps such as Spotify, Instagram, Amazon and more have all borrowed from indirect competitors to launch new features. Use a combination of competitor analysis and market research to plan future development cycles. If a direct competitor has launched a great feature, improve upon it. If an indirect competitor has something worth incorporating, bring it into your sector and innovate.
Plan creativity back into your process with PPO
Creativity isn’t something you can force. As we’ve discussed, that only leads to time-wasting, burnout and high costs. Instead of trying to make innovation happen randomly, plan it into your process by incorporating more ongoing user research, competitor analysis and data benchmarking so that every cycle of development has a tangible focus to ground your creative team around. Work with KOMODO and we’ll take care of all of this with our PPO service, which analyses your customers, product and arena to define a better pathway to commercial success. Contact us today to get started.
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