The Customer Confidential Podcast

Five Keys to Successful Innovation (Hint: Start with Customers)

Darrell Rigby, head of Bain's Global Innovation practice, discusses what it takes to turn a great idea into an innovation, the "BothBrain" innovation concept and the dangers of multitasking.


Five Keys to Successful Innovation (Hint: Start with Customers)

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There’s no shortage of advice available on how to innovate more effectively. The reason is simple: Innovation fuels growth.

Net Promoter® companies know that if you want to earn your customers’ enthusiastic advocacy, you’d better innovate. It takes an innovative product, feature or sales experience to differentiate your company’s customer experience from the competition’s. Sustaining loyalty leadership requires innovation.

Why, then, do so many companies struggle to create cultures that enable innovative thinking? Why do they have so much trouble bringing their ideas to market? Why do some companies aimlessly chase big, zany ideas that have no hope of making money?

My colleague Darrell Rigby has devoted much of his career to this complex topic. He’s head of Bain’s Global Innovation practice and has written about the topic for more than 20 years. More important, he has helped dozens of companies develop innovation pipelines that power their revenue and profit growth while helping them cultivate their customers’ and their employees’ loyalty.

We recently chatted on The Net Promoter System Podcast about what it takes to create a culture that nurtures innovation or, as he calls it, “the profitable application of creativity.” During our conversation, Darrell debunked some of the common myths of innovation and discussed some of the factors that prevent companies from innovating effectively.

According to Darrell, successful innovators do five key things right:

They develop a strategy geared toward innovation. Employees are more likely to come up with successful ideas if they know the specific opportunity or market the company is seeking. A finely honed strategy allows executives to point employees in the right direction.

They recruit people with the proper creative and commercial capabilities. A company can’t get by on visionaries alone. Successful innovation requires business-savvy leaders to translate big ideas into profitable initiatives.

They generate ideas with customers’ needs in mind. These companies thoroughly understand their customers and often use data and feedback to get a clear picture of their needs. That allows them devise innovations that will enhance their lives.     

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They cultivate an innovation portfolio. Every company needs a combination of incremental innovations that make everyday operations work better and some that are radical and stray far from the company’s current approach. Net Promoter System practitioners might use the “outer loop” mechanism to prioritize projects based on their contribution to long-term growth.

They expand thoughtfully. Strong innovators allocate resources based on an opportunity’s potential. When necessary, they use feedback loops and testing to improve or make changes.

Darrell calls this approach BothBrain innovation. The idea is that successful innovation requires companies to use the creative and rational sides of the brain.

During our discussion, we also talked about strategies for creative thinking, such as reducing multitasking and making time for free thought. You can listen to the episode of the Net Promoter System Podcast on iTunes or through the player above. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System Podcast episodes.

 Net Promoter®, Net Promoter System®, Net Promoter Score® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.


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