Many, but not all, innovations involve some kind of technology, and start as an invention. Many of these technology-based inventions that may eventually become innovations are created by startups, but many are created inside large companies as well. In both cases, these technology-based potential innovations are often created by engineers or technologists that are well-versed in the problems they are solving to make the technology work, but not always with the problems that the technology may solve for customers. Often the inventors speak the languages of science and technology, which is not always the same language as that understood by the potential customers for their invention that they hope will become an innovation.
As I wrote before in the always popular, and often linked and liked, ”Innovation is All About Value,” there are three keys to achieving a successful transition from invention to innovation:
1. Value creation
Value creation is pretty self-explanatory. Your innovation investment must create novel or incremental value large enough to overcome the switching costs of moving to your new solution from the old solution (including the “Do Nothing Solution”). New value can be created by making something more efficient or effective, possible that wasn’t possible before, or by creating new psychological or emotional benefits. This creation of new value is what most people focus on, but you can’t achieve innovation without achieving success in the next two components as well.
2. Value access
Value access can also be thought of as friction reduction or experience design. How easy do you make it for customers and consumers to access the value you’ve created? How well has the product or service (or the experience of using it) been designed to allow people to access the value easily? How easy is it for the solution to be created? What is the employee experience like? How easy is it for people to do business with you?
These are some of the questions you must ask and answer as you seek to create success in the value access component of innovation.
3. Value translation
Value translation is all about helping people understand the value you’ve created and how it fits into their lives. Value translation is also about understanding where on a continuum your solution falls between the need for explanation and education. Incremental innovations can usually just be explained to people because they anchor to something they already understand, but radical or disruptive innovations inevitably require some level of education (often far in advance of the launch).
Done really well, value translation also helps to communicate how easy it will be for customers and consumers to exchange their old solution for the new solution.
Unfortunately, not all three parts of innovation success are equally understood or valued.
Most people understand that the creation of new value (or value creation) is a key component of innovation success.
Many people understand the concept of barriers to adoption and that value access is thus also a key component to whether or not an invention successfully makes the transformation into an innovation.
BUT, few understand that value translation is probably the most critical component to innovation success. Because value translation inevitably requires both explanation AND education in varying amounts, having a good evangelist (see ”The Nine Innovation Roles”) that is a gifted storyteller on your innovation team will prove crucial to your innovation success. If people don’t understand how your new solution fits into their lives and why they should abandon their old solution, even if it is the “do nothing” solution, then you stand no chance of your invention becoming an innovation.
And what’s the difference between an invention and an innovation? Wide adoption…
Achieving wide adoption comes not from some catchy advertising campaign, but from creating ridiculous amounts of value in the solution itself, the way that people access the solution (or the experience that they have), and in the story you create around it.
The role of experience in your innovation story
Many true innovations create an experience that someone wasn’t able to have before, or take a painful experience and turn it into a delightful one. The automatic transmission liberated millions of people from the struggle of successfully starting a car on a hill and the worry of grinding their gears every time they go to shift gears.
How does using your potential innovation make people feel?
What is the experience like?
Where is the experience awkward or full of friction?
Could it be better?
Experience design has become increasing important because a good or bad user experience, customer experience, or employee experience creates stories, stories that get shared, stories that sometimes take on a life of their own. This is what happens when something goes viral. Sharing of the story itself becomes a new story, meaning that people are now sharing two stories (the original story, and a new story about the sharing of the original story). The power of these shared stories is why the various fields of experience design are growing both in terms of visibility and the numbers of people employed in these kinds of roles (customer experience, customer success, user experience, human-centered design, etc.).
When it comes to innovation, experience and design matter.
Bringing it all together
Crafting a compelling innovation story requires both a compelling value proposition and a memorable experience. When you have both, your innovation story will be more engaging, easier to tell, and more likely to be shared.
Your innovation story also requires the same type of design thinking process to achieve. You must:
- Understand who your audience is
- Define what they will find convincing about the value proposition and the experience that your innovation will create
- Come up with ideas on how you will tell your innovation story (including the appropriate level of explanation vs. education)
- Choose one and prototype your innovation story
- Test it with people
- And iterate until you find that your innovation story (as well as your potential innovation) is resonating strongly with your target customers
So, plan ahead. Design your innovation story at the same time you’re designing a compelling innovation value proposition and innovation experience. Think about what people will say about your potential innovation as they begin using it. Show it to people and ask them for feedback about your potential innovation. Craft an explanation for it, build an education plan, and test both. Take all of what you learn from asking and testing these things to begin crafting your innovation story, while also refining the design of the product or service, and the experience of using it, to make both more compelling. In doing so, at the same time you’ll also make help your innovation story that much more powerful, and increase your chances of achieving innovation success!