[Commentary] How do you turn an idea into innovation? Jie Xue, Product Manager Innovations at Worldline
Payments form the essence of today’s global economy. Industry stakeholders such as issuers, networks, payments processors and merchant acquirers continue to invest heavily in their capabilities, leveraging technological advances to better align with changing customer expectations and business requirements. One key lesson we have learnt from the past unprecedented few years is that the importance of innovation has never been more apparent. Companies that fail to adapt and innovate will be left behind while those that do will gain a competitive edge.
When it comes to payments technology, disruption and innovation have continued to gain ground in recent years. Already commonplace in many parts of the world, real-time payments are increasing in popularity whilst Point-of-Sale (POS) lending and buy-now-pay-later financing solutions are reimagining lending and changing the POS experience. Further innovations such as tap or scan-to-pay solutions like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and QR codes also continue to rise, coupled with increasing consumer adoption of digital payments. And as online commerce becomes ever more popular with consumers, the customer experience and how it can synchronize in enabling a seamless shopping journey is an increasingly interesting question for many merchants.
Innovation requires finding a way to deliver better value to your customer base. Recent research shows 94% of leaders believe that they are not innovating effectively. So, are there any practical approaches and framework you can follow to kick start innovation initiatives in your organisation?
The innovation myth
There is often a misconception that innovation is all about disruptive technologies and cutting-edge inventions. In fact, this is not always the case. Innovations can also be incremental improvements of your existing products and services or venturing into areas that are new to a company, as shown by McKinsey’s Three Horizons Model.
Another misconception people have is that innovation is only relevant to relevant experts as well as being a purely creative process. In reality, innovation is relevant to anyone across the organisation, and it is more often a practice of scientific thinking and culture cultivation. In fact, you can utilise structure and innovative processes to create new opportunities.
So, let’s say you had this fantastic idea. What happens next? Typically, nothing. Many great ideas never come to fruition for reasons like a lack of resources, time or simply the determination to act. Having an innovation mindset and a team culture that supports experiments is crucial, with the right resources support. Embracing an innovation mindset is a prerequisite to cultivating growth and opportunity for ourselves and our organisations. We all have a role in nurturing an innovation culture.
How to identify ideas
Innovation ideas can come from anywhere. They may arise from external sources such as customers, competitors and market trends. But often, especially when it comes to new product innovations or incremental innovations, ideas also find their place among internal teams, such as sales and customer services – people that are close to customers and have an acute understanding of customer problems. When identifying innovation opportunities, it is important to engage the different stakeholder groups.
One approach, for example, can be to practice an “Ideas Hackathon”, which applies a similar concept to a hackathon, but instead of writing technical codes, teams get together to “hack” interesting business ideas or problems to solve. In an “Ideas Hackathon”, you can apply various practical product and innovation frameworks to guide the teams in their explorations. In this process, teams also gain knowledge of product innovations thinking. This format can be particularly effective in generating ideas as well as crucially, building an innovation culture.
Turning ideas into innovation
Now, you have some interesting ideas to explore. But before jumping head first, take a moment again to reflect and analyse deeper. This can be a useful time to practice an ideas audit, where you run the ideas through a list of a pre-defined questions (or a scorecard if you will) to decide whether you want to pursue it further. Some things to consider may include:
- How unique is the idea? How does it compare to what already exists in the market?
- Does the idea add value that genuinely matters to customers?
- What will you need to bring the idea to life? Can you expect a tangible return on investments? Is the return based on short or long term
There are many ways to turn ideas into products or services. Different companies might have different preferences. But the overall guiding principle from companies are successful at it is similar, which is continuous discovery, testing and learning, with customers need in heart. Here are a set of steps and tips you can follow:
- Discover – Talk to your customers to validate the problem or opportunity. Do market research, competitive analysis and draft a business case to better understand how you should position your idea.
- Experiment – Create an MVP to test in the market with customers. Get customer feedback.
- Build – Build a first “minimum solution” with value offerings and features most relevant to your customers, and also realistic for you to launch with the given resources and time.
- Learn – Measure your product-market fit. Learn from customer’s feedback. Go back to any of the previous steps if needed.
When your idea has reached the initial product-market fit, you can continue to build and expand on your product and repeat and Build – Learn cycle. Always make sure you think ahead and have a forward plan.
About the author
Jie XUE, Product Innovations Manager, Solutions & Innovation at Worldline
As Product Manager Innovations at Worldline, Jie focuses on understanding emerging trends and their intersections with digital payments, with a consumer-driven approach. She leads various innovation initiatives at Worldline where she helps translate these market needs into proof-of-concepts or innovative product offerings, in areas such as video gaming and retail. Prior to Worldline, Jie has worked in startup and innovations space in Europe and China. She shares a passion for tech and emerging markets.
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