All posts by Allison Gutkowski & Kathryn Ambroze

Innovation Lab Webinar Panel: A Recap

From businesses to government all the way to non-profit organizations, the word “innovation” is often thrown around to generate excitement and create the illusion of advancement. Although it is frequently used as a buzzword, there is a lot of substance and value that can be gained from the process of innovation if approached correctly. Innovation in consumer research can improve future growth and sustainability by developing a strategy to take an idea from concept to creation. Establishing a space for creative thoughts allows new ideas to be generated and stretches the boundaries of traditional solutions. Furthermore, harnessing those ideas or concepts into tangible action-items builds an innovation plan which connects consumers to the products in meaningful ways.

“You don’t see new ideas by looking harder in the same direction.”

Edward de Bono

In the latest webinar entitled Innovation Lab: A Frank Discussion on Innovation Essentials, HCD gathered expert panelists from several different areas of the industry to understand how innovative thinking in research, product design, and marketing is attempted. A lot of thought-provoking comments came about from this conversation, so we wanted to share a quick overview of just a few of the many interesting insights that came out of this live session…

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Innovation is everywhere.

HCD’s VP of Research & Innovation, Michelle Niedziela, notes how innovation can be applied to many different areas all the way from products to processes. By sharing a few historic innovation failures, such as Colgate’s frozen dinners and Google Glass, Michelle demonstrates how aspects like timing and alienation can result in consumer disinterest and must be considered when talking about innovation. 

What is innovation? Why is it important?

Michelle Niedziela kicks off the panel conversation by questioning what innovation actually means. The conversation immediately breaks down the process of innovation by acknowledging how innovation is needed for an idea to blossom into something of value and, for many companies, profit. Zvi Loewy mentions that successful innovation requires both an advancement that addresses a need and a consumer who is willing to experiment with the new attempt of satisfying that same need. What happens if one of those two components is missing? The concept remains an idea rather than an innovation. 

3 Pillars of Innovation

Zarak Kahn also describes a useful framework to clarify the different types of innovation that occur. He breaks down innovation into three categories as follows:

  • Incremental Innovation: Adding small changes over a period of time based on continuous learnings which result in small and slow pivots
  • Adjacent Innovation: Using an existing innovation and applying it to a new market
  • Transformational Innovation: Creating a brand-new business model

This clear and concise explanation of the types of innovation is useful when discussing potential approaches with clients. Different types of innovation routes require fluctuating timeframes and budgets while also having varying degrees of uncertainty. Understanding these nuances of implementing innovation can have a big influence on the project and promote divergent thinking to be better prepared.  

Keep context in focus.

While discussing various tools that can help with innovation, Dulce Paredes shifts the lens to focus on the context to help determine the appropriate tool. She highlights the importance of testing a hypothesis through the scientific process for validation, but she also stresses focusing on researchers’ own shortcomings. Consumer research needs to focus on context in order to give an accurate interpretation of daily life. Dulce points out how not every competitor will exist on paper in the same category; therefore, it is important to offer every option as opposed to the options the researchers typically focus on. Learning where the product fits in consumers’ lives helps reveal pain points to ensure the innovation is impactful.   

Brand Dis-harmony

Products that do not fit the expectations set by the brand or messaging often result in the alienation of the consumer; however, a contributing root cause of this disconnect may actually be isolation from the Innovation team. Bob Baron emphasizes the importance of cross-functional team collaboration by revealing how internal alienation ensures innovation failure. For an innovation to move forward in the business process, a strong support from the overall team is nonnegotiable. Having clear and stated objectives with the overall team allows space for differing opinions and perspectives to really analyze the idea or concept to ensure it serves a valuable purpose.    

Consumer-centered Design

Looking into the future of innovation, Alex Woo summarizes a major takeaway of the conversation by responding, “…understand the human side, not the product side, and we will be able to design better.”  Focusing on the user, rather than the technology or metric, grounds the research and accounts for the importance of the environment, emotion, and experience because each factor plays a major influence on consumer decision-making. 

Find inspiration in all aspects of life.

This point was emphasized by Zvi earlier in the webinar with a wonderful example that not only speaks to focusing on the consumer but taking inspiration from all aspects of life. Take previous issues with compliance among diabetes patients for blood sampling. The major roadblock for compliance was the pain of taking a blood sample. Innovation is often birthed from focusing on removing barriers for the consumer.  Taking inspiration from nature, this innovation story focused on mosquitoes. Often, we are bit, yet don’t even notice until we start to itch. If the mosquito can draw blood without us feeling it, how can we do the same? Fast forward to an innovation that essentially mimics the same dimensions of a mosquito’s mouth with the blood sampling needle.  The pain, the barrier, for patients is torn down and compliance increases. By focusing on the consumer and taking inspiration from the world around us, we can make meaningful impacts on consumers’ lives.

This webinar shed light on the multidimensional world of innovation by proving it does not have to be evolutionary or disruptive to be valuable. By thinking strategically about each individual situation and communicating effectively with your team, the innovation process can connect curiosity with implementation.

If you are interested in connecting with Team HCD to discuss this trending topic further, please contact Allison Gutkowski (Allison.Gutkowski@hcdi.net).