What is Innovation? This is a question we are asked all the time at Malauzai. For us, the tactical side of innovation is built around a mantra of continuous, incremental improvements focused on listening to customers and implementing a solution that is somehow different from competitors’ offerings. A steady stream of incremental improvements based on what customers are asking for. Executed to be different for different sake. And this is enabled by an agile mindset and methodology. Rapid releases and lots of learning in production, then quick turn-around to fix what’s broken and continue to incrementally improve.
What this methodology is NOT, is innovation in a vacuum or what I call the Starbucks Innovation Model. People criticize incremental innovation. Some say asking customers what they want isn’t really innovative. I will admit, at times, incremental is arguably not really innovate and listening cant work as people don’t know what doesn’t exist. For example, no one was talking about innovation as paying $6 for a cup of coffee! This idea of Starbucks Innovation is problematic as it assumes these ideas really did generate in a vacuum. Doubtful. I bet if you really researched it, most great innovations at this level, really had very strong ties to the past and were in fact incremental. They were breakthroughs connected to past breakthroughs by lots and lots of trial and error. Ok, enough on that.
Innovation as a feeling. I read a great quote yesterday, “People don’t remember what you say or what you do, they remember how you made them feel.” Feelings leave long lasting impressions. That’s it. Innovation is a feeling. Think of it as “innovative”, maybe a better tense of the word in this description. Either way, really good innovation is based on emotion. At a previous company where I had the opportunity to work, they described it as “delight” or “moments of delight”. Great innovation is really an intangible collection of things, all leaving an emotional impression. I believe that rarely is innovation just a single tangible solution. Rather it is impressions and feelings. Well, for most of us who are not an Edison or a Jobs, this definition just might have to suffice.
Take Malauzai; we have carved out a niche in innovation in Mobile Banking. There are tangible proof points of this, headed by a series or small collection of “mobile-banking-firsts”. Picture Pay, Debit Card On/Off switch, Apple Watch apps, all examples of Malauzai’s banks and CU’s being first to market in mobile. We execute a roadmap over time, now 6 years running. 10+ releases a year, delivered in an Agile process for maximum flexibility. This is the incremental improvement, lots of singles and doubles. Lastly, we launched entirely new solutions: Consumer Internet Banking and Business Internet Banking. That is the “do” part of the equation.
What about the “say” part? Malauzai harnesses PR well. We have a particular focus on getting our message out and helping to shape the digital banking marketplace. Our ratio is good; for every dollar in PR spend, we generate 10X in advertising equivalent. That is leverage. At minimum, one can say we are very active, we get lots of coverage, we “say” a lot. A shout out to William Mills Agency, if you want to do PR in Fintech, you work with WMA. So we shout a lot, appropriately, about mobile banking, digital banking and all associated topics, and people hear from us often. So we do and say. Back to the quote. People over time, have not really remembered the specifics of what we delivered first, ie what we do. They don’t recall exactly what they read about us or our view on Mobile Wallets, ie what we said. But they remember how it made them feel, they can sense in their gut disruption and emotion. And they equate that feeling with innovation. Innovation as a feeling.
One other important point. Differentiation. At the heart of innovation is being different. This is really at the heart of the feeling one gets about innovation. Everything about how we execute day-to-day must be different at Malauzai. Being different forces change and change is by its very nature, innovative. Being different is in fact more important than being better. And being different means not following convention, even when the convention is better. Why? Because different is better than better. It emotes. It feels. When you are different, it sparks emotion and feelings. The satisfaction one derives from experiencing “better” is lower than the feeling or the impression one gets when experiencing something different. Yes, that is a highly speculative statement. But what we know, is that over time, a series of consistently delivered incremental improvements all focused on creating differentiation is in fact leaving a very very strong emotional impact or feelings. People are remembering the feelings they get when encountering the differentiation. Innovation as a feeling.
What is innovation? Is it tangible, the things you do and say? Could be. Is it about being different or doing things differently? Very likely. But what people remember is how you make them feel, not what you deliver (the do stuff) or what you talk about (the say stuff). Real innovation is based on stirring emotion over time. A series of impressions. A series of emotions. A series of feelings. For most of us who cant dream up the $6 coffee or other really revolutionary ideas, we practice incremental innovation based on listening to customers. We make everything different, or slightly different and we try to leave lasting impressions by creating a series of positive feelings about our solutions. Who would have thought that in the end, Innovation was more about feelings than the hard stuff?