Here are some New Year resolutions for the growing group of bankers who are adding “innovation” to their do-to list in 2016. Getting these right will greatly improve your chances for success in the new year.
1. Define your innovation goals
So, what do you want to get out of your innovation program?
Incremental improvements or radical disruption?
Catching up to competitors or breaking new ground?
Renewing existing capabilities or creating new ones?
Updating your offerings or launching new products?
Pushing more ideas from the top down or bubbling more from the bottom up?
A focused challenge or a broader initiative across business lines?
Define your innovation goals and align your team and your priorities accordingly.
2. Take your innovation program seriously
Hopefully, you are doing this because you recognize that the world is changing and that companies in every industry have to change and adapt with it– to retain your current customers, to acquire new ones, to generate new revenues, to stay relevant.
Innovation shouldn’t be the flavor of the month or something that someone from your executive committee wrote down at the “strategic offsite” as a box to check off for the next board meeting. It should be part of the way you do business. Part of your DNA.
Put the right people in charge. This isn’t the place to park your retiring executive or the place to create some resumé padding for your up and comers. Find smart and curious people who challenge the status quo. Get some outside help. There’s a pretty good chance that starting an innovation program is significantly different than anything you have managed before, and many of the instincts and experiences that have led to your current successes might actually get in the way.
3. But not too seriously
Create a sandbox where people are free to experiment and test and try new things. Don’t force your normal ROI metrics on an innovation project that is really unique, disruptive or conceptual. If you do, you’ll end up watering it down to something much more incremental. That might be OK, but you also might miss out on something that could really differentiate you from your competitors.
Truly transformational ideas take a while to build and test and get traction, don’t throw all of your resources into one massive project. Start with some smaller projects where you don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes.
4. Focus on learning
Get out of the office and learn from what others are doing. Meet entrepreneurs who are coming up with new solutions that you might be able to use– many of them want to partner. Look at new ideas from different industries and think about how they might be applied. Read more!
We have a tendency in the banking industry to develop new ideas inside our own four walls, validated only by our own people, inside our own echo chambers.
5. Focus on the customer
Innovation isn’t necessarily about cool technology. The most successful ideas are those that solve a real pain point or create an important gain for a customer.
Don’t be afraid to get customers involved early. Talk to them. Even better, watch what they do. What workarounds have they created to fill gaps between existing offerings? What products or services are they using from your competitors?
Focus your innovation efforts on things that matter to your customers.