Last week, I had the opportunity to deep dive into Disruptive Innovation with my fellow International MBA 2020 candidates at EADA. It’s a class that has challenged our traditional understanding of business principles and consumption and the relationship between a customer and the problem they need solved.
The class is designed to examine Innovation holistically, covering topics like Design Thinking, Research Methods, Ideation, Co-Creation, Prototyping, and Agile Management.
While some of these terms have entered the mainstream “buzz”- this course has dug up their roots and shown us the essence of where curiosity and creative problem solving can change even the most traditional industries…if you’re willing to challenge the status quo.
There are problems truly worth solving in today’s world. The future is inherently unknown. But for those open to leaning into that unknown with curiosity and playfulness and a willingness to break the rules: Innovation is the way forward. Here are some of the big ideas that came out of the week. Ideas that disrupted my own way of thinking. I hope they spark as much creativity and curiosity for you as they have for our team:
The world is full of “jobs to be done”
Innovators challenge themselves to engage in a world where people don’t buy products/services, but they “hire” them to do a job that needs to get done. Potential customers are people who are really asking for help in solving a problem. And if companies listen closely enough and solve the right pain, they may just get hired to solve it for them.
This approach means that if companies accurately identify the perceived problem, they can identify what assumptions are at play and then question them to redefine and reframe issues. The “Jobs to be Done Theory” is a business approach set in an academic framework by Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School. But it is also a trend we see among the most successful, competitive market leaders of our time.
The practice requires keeping focused to win at the one thing your customers care most about, and most need, and not getting distracted by the “nice to haves”. There is power in that focus. The details that we hone in on ultimately define or limit the issue at hand.
Ditching (Traditional) Competitive Benchmarking
What are the reasons that would compel you to run a marathon? Let’s say that differently. Why pay to run a marathon? A love of paying to run 26.2 miles? Likely not. But when we deeply engage with runners, and have the opportunity to see and feel their emotional center, what will we find? What job is it that runners have hired the marathon to fill? Mid-life crisis. Loss of a loved one. Grief. A need for structure. Craving for purpose. The list goes on. And so, if people run marathons driven by mid-life crisis for example, is that to say they could have just as easily bought a red convertible?And how can Marathon Organizations benchmark and market themselves against the red convertible competition to begin to solve what is really the human crisis of facing our own mortality? Benchmarking just got a lot more existential.
The Jobs to be Done approach necessitates a hard look at traditional benchmarking. And another hard look at the real problems offers are actually solving, and the psychological backdrop of why consumers are drawn to that offer.
A Problem Worth Solving
Many of the innovators we’ve spoken to throughout the week have developed breakthrough solutions because they had a personal connection to the pain point. They showed us time and time again that our lived experiences point us in the direction of our most innovative selves. To listen deeply to our own pains and allow them to direct us is to start an authentic path towards innovation.
We heard stories of lived experiences in business and large corporations where Innovators eventually arrived at an “AHA” moment. They experienced some problem real enough and big enough to solve. And with a personal connection to that pain, came to a solution worth sharing.
Tech ≠ Innovation
Innovation happens in and outside the world of Technology. Often technology can be a tool for innovation, but the two are not synonymous. We had the opportunity to have a candid conversation with Brian Guidry, Partner of Pixelz. Pixelz is an ecommerce digital retouching service. And though their plug-in technology and AI is impressive, one of the most important Innovations lies in their business model.
Pixelz uses Impact Sourcing to employ high-potential but disadvantaged employees in developing countries to work with them as editors. By training outsourced employees in the developing world with digital skills, Pixelz has managed to open its team outside of the typical candidates bringing diversity and a global perspective. Aside from its clear social and ethical benefits, this outsourcing is a smart way to maximize business outcomes.
Innovators stay hungry
In our exclusive, intimate conversations with disruptors over the course of the week a clear trend surfaced. Each of them constantly invests in their own education regardless of how successful they or their project has become.
The innovator is obsessed with constant learning, and while many of these successful innovators are alumni of EADA, their education isn’t always traditional, and often happens outside of a classroom. Innovators acknowledge their own limitations and are unafraid of seeking new information. They stay ambitious and passionate about asking the big questions – that can often lead to big answers.
And what does it mean when companies solve real problems for real people, rather than hunting customers for something they may not need? In a world of pandemic and racism and global warming- breaking the traditional rules towards innovation seems the best way forward. It’s a paradigm shift towards humanity. And we’re just in time.
Thanks to Jordi Diaz for his creative pedagogy and agility in teaching this course. Although we were anticipating a face-to-face class on innovation, his use of the flip-model and ability to virtually invite Disruptors into our classroom proved invaluable for discussion and development of real cases.
Also a huge thanks to the speakers who were so open in sharing their journeys and learnings: Keenan Thompson (ABinBev), Sven Huber (Fiction Express), Hans Munz (Simon & Kucher), Esther Defren (Softonic), Pol Jorge (Salesforce), Stephanie Hoyle (Glovo). And a special thanks to Brian Guidry, Partner at Pixels.com, for sharing his personal professional journey as a disruptor with our team.
Author: Alexandra Faller, International MBA 2020