Some of you might be familiar with the Diffusion of Innovation. It is a theory that seeks to explain how new ideas and technology spread and is typically used to explain consumers’ adoption of technology.
Through our course of work, we’ve come to realise this theory can also be used to describe the readiness of a business for innovation.
First we have the Innovators. They are companies that view innovation as a driver for their business. They constantly look at what they can do next, investing in R&D to create new technology, products and services to better serve their customers needs. They have a great creative culture, experiment often and learn from failure.
For them, being so ahead of the curve, they need to educate others on the benefits that their new product or services offer.
Early adopters are open to, but cautious about innovation. They are typically very aware of what leading businesses in their industry and similar industries are doing. After doing their homework, they create their own products and services inspired by what the innovators are doing.
Being earlier on the curve, their challenge is to convince customers of the value they provide and to adopt the solutions offered.
They try new ways of doing things, but are less consistent with doing so. They know they should innovate and are driven to do so due to a competitive business environment.
They typically innovate from outside in, focusing more on products and services they deliver, sometimes forgetting to change their internal processes to support what they deliver. They need to look their businesses not just from the front-end but also the back-end, so they continue to deliver what they aspire to do.
Being less open to innovation, they wait to see what works and what doesn’t work, enabling them to avoid the common pitfalls. They focus their energies on providing those products and services they are sure people need, but in a more efficient and streamlined manner.
As they arrive later on the market, gaining market share is a challenge as the innovators, early adopters and early majority have taken up a good chunk of market share.
Typically the most risk averse, they wait until almost all their peers and competitors have moved ahead before they realise “I need to do something”. They may not keep up with technology, often updating their processes only because the old way is far too inefficient and the new way is the norm.
They are often caught in a situation where they have to compete with other more innovative businesses. Due to their lack of innovation, they find it hard to survive. A vicious cycle of daily fire-fighting drains time and money, affording them little capacity for innovation.
What do you all think? We love to hear your thoughts, let us know in the comments below!
Many of us, stuck in the trenches of Design Thinking, have to challenge the status quo.
We have to convince, cajole, or fight with people to effect change. Change goes against established Orthodoxies or cultural norms, thus you would have likely heard a lot of: “Son, this is how things have always been done here…”
Kelli Richards, a 12 year Apple veteran, shares some of her tips to help get you going. (Words in brackets are mine.)
- Create a risk profile for your current strategy the way you would for a new opportunity. Looking at the trends you already know about—and considering you’ll inevitably face some that you so far don’t—how does maintaining the status quo increase your risk? (Map out relevant trends that is going to make your existing business model outdated.)
- Show how the steps you recommend can lead to an increased return on investment, keeping in mind that you’ll need to define ROI in a way that resonates with upper management. (This may not always be about money. Customer loyalty, increased traffic, brand awareness are good alternatives.)
- Shine the spotlight on indecision and help teammates get more comfortable taking action with incomplete information. Ask, “How much do we really need to know before making a decision?” (Also remind your team mates that when we made a decision, it was based on the information we knew then.)
- Diplomatically resolve turf wars that hold the company back. When new products risk cannibalizing old businesses, emotions unavoidably get heated. Still, it’s better for an internal department to innovate than for an external competitor to gain an advantage. (Better us then them.)
Earlier this month, it was reported that 22 patients in a renal ward of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) have been infected with the deadly hepatitis C virus. 4 have since died. The current prognosis is that it was likely due to cross-contamination across medical equipment. I’m convinced that the hospital in question and the Ministry of Health will take steps in identifying the root cause and fixing the problem, however the real victim in this series of unfortunate events is trust.
If we took a user or customer centric point of view to these proceedings, we will soon realize that the basic reason for medical institutions to exist has not been held. All this said with no disrespect to the many professionals in the industry, many of whom are my good friends.
In design thinking, we often adopt a problem solving mindset we call: “Jobs to be done”, or “What’s in it for me?”. This helps us understand what is in the mind (or heart) of the consumer when he or she visits a medical institution. In most cases, our research tells us that this “job” is to get well. In this case of cross contamination due to poor infection control, not only did patients not get well, they just happen to pick up an incurable disease as well.
This aligns with some ethnographic research that we did some time back when people whispered to us that there are certain “hospitals” you don’t bring the sick or elderly to…if you do they never leave. When people’s deep-seated needs and motivations have not been satisfied, they lose trust in the system. Further reports telling us that such infections are rare is only going to create more cynicism. While this challenge of building trust is a wicked one to solve, some basic principles apply.
Say Sorry – To the credit of all the parties involved this was done. Admission of guilt shows that you are taking responsibility and ownership of the problem. Nothing diffuses hate and distrust quicker than saying sorry.
Transparency – This is one of the cornerstones of building trust, which unfortunately, takes guts to deliver authentically. People don’t like to see the responsible parties hiding behind bureaucracy or even things beyond their control. Try engaging your stakeholders (patients, caregivers etc.) by brining them into your organization to validate what you have done to solve the problem. Even better, work with them to co-create an even better solution. I believe the role of patient or community advocates in hospitals are here to stay.
Stop treating people like numbers – Many large organizations, not necessarily in healthcare, tend to look at their customers as a number on a spreadsheet. When this happens, it becomes too easy to treat problems like we do collateral damage. Numbers should be used to track improvements, not as a means to accept failure when your percentages are low enough.
Be Human – understand that people have deep seated needs and motivations (often not expressed or made visible) that need to be satisfied. Most importantly recognize that this is going to conflict with how you do your job, especially if you are in healthcare.
The key to all of this is about understanding and managing your stakeholder’s expectations. Many things that we do, especially when they are systemic, are now expected as a standard deliverable by our customers. Especially if we have good competitors that do their job well. This means we need to classify services, productivity, efficiency, infection control etc. as “hygiene” factors. Something that we need to get right from the start, if not we are just wasting our time doing what we do. Not an easy task, but at least we know that the design thinking mindset will help you manage this and even alert you when these expectations shift.
What an awesome Creative Mornings talk by Brad Frost on why we should not to be lazy in design. Or for that matter, in the creation of anything.
If anyone can be a designer, (or an editor, writer, publisher, programmer, videographer, and photographer etc.) the difference between an amateur and a professional is the element of Craft, respecting yourself in what you do, and your user.
Thanks for the timely reminder.