Innovation isn’t just driven by technology and devices; it’s also a product of people’s ingenuity in challenging circumstances. There’s a pressing need for organizations to rethink their approaches to innovation by offering tools instead of prescribing solutions, and by empowering people to get more creative with how they live.
What’s going on?
So-called “life hacks” have been a part of popular culture for a long time, but 2020 amplified this behavior. Creative workarounds have popped up in every home. We’ve seen people repurpose their living spaces and modify household objects to suit their changing needs. Entrepreneurship is also on the rise, with people converting their pandemic workarounds into careers, like a cyclist who set up Backyard Bicycles pop-up shops to tune up bikes and a former publicist for fitness studios launched her own online workout platform. Platforms are being repurposed to solve pressing problems. With live shows on hold, Fortnite and Travis Scott partnered up to stage an in-game performance4 for an audience of more than 12 million. Platforms are also quickly becoming places for people to monetize their creativity. Artists are making the most of opportunities on TikTok, with some finding overnight success after their songs and challenges go viral. A fascinating plot-twist, however, is that doctors and nurses are also using the platform to reach wider audiences. These platforms offer something critical to people with small businesses: a way to easily create content and reach a lot of potential customers.
Organizations must find a way to join the DIY revolution. They must acknowledge how the lines between innovation and creation, and between creator and customer, have blurred. In the design industry, we have long evangelized about the virtues of cocreating with people to achieve the best possible products and services. But now, organizations should begin thinking of cocreation as an output—by designing tools and platforms that enable people to create for themselves. Creative teams must take an ecosystem approach to design and build platforms on which third parties can build other products and services. Platforms come in an array of guises—ranging from Shopify, which provides small and medium-sized businesses a way to sell to customers, to the social gaming platform Roblox, which lets players design, buy and sell digital fashion items. Corporate innovation is not just about ideas. You also need stamina, courage, alignment and leadership to see it through, often iterating over a long period of time before nailing inventions. An old approach to innovation would be to ask: What follows the smartphone? Now, every organization should build a new question into their innovation process: What else could people do or make with this?
Shift your focus on customers to one on co-creators. Consider your products and services as “unfinished”—ask what elements of your experience could be co-created as an output and if it could increase the circularity of your business model?
Innovation is a long game. We commit to it. Create innovation habits and rituals that will quickly become ingrained. Stamina matters in innovation.
Create a platform and let your customers use your data to enable them to play and create—with your products and services but also with others. The data you can then generate becomes very valuable.