Decide how you need to innovate: an interview with Andy Katz, PA strategy and growth expert    

As industries are being redefined by customer expectations, new business models and emerging technologies, our latest research reveals organisations without an innovation mindset and a clear sense of purpose are missing out. So how can you ensure your organisation is innovating? We posed a series of questions to Andy Katz, our strategy and growth expert. Here’s what he had to say.

PA: How good are organisations at looking to the future?

Andy: When I look at organisations today, I see them falling into three categories. The first group are companies very much in denial. Essentially these are the ostriches with their heads in the sand. They don’t consider how they can change in the future and it’s very much business as usual for them. And while for some of them this might be fine, for most this approach will lead to disaster. Think about the massive challenges faced by companies in the photography sector. Many of these companies focused so heavily on analogue photography they failed to see the opportunities digital photography presented.

The second group are those thinking about the future, but who are scared their business models are under threat. The answer? Face this fear head on. We’re currently working with a major Dutch bank to help them rethink their business model and offering because their hypothesis is that banking as we know it won’t exist in three to five years.

The third group are those who are looking ahead and hungry for opportunities. We’re currently working with a health food chain who are constantly looking ahead to see how they can evolve their proposition and business model. This is the only way to ensure you’re going to be relevant tomorrow – not just today.  

PA: What tips do you have for organisations looking to discover what their customers need?

Andy: You’ve got to think, from a customer’s perspective, what’s the job that needs to get done? What are the pain points for your (current) customers? And what do you want your future offering, business model and customer experience to look like? These are three important questions you need to ask yourself. Encourage yourself to be customer and market obsessed in a way that liberates you from the way current solutions are delivered. Once you have the answers to these questions, define what skills, capabilities and assets you have to bring the demand with the supply side together.

PA: How can organisations create an innovative environment?

Andy: The move to creating an innovative culture must be led from the top. The CEO should be personally championing it and having a meaningful and clear goal to aim for also helps. A financial services firm we’re working with has set a ‘BHAG’ – a big, hairy, audacious goal. And this goal is to generate €1 billion in revenue from fundamentally new products and services by 2020. Involving many people in the organisation is also crucial. Set everyone a challenge – some challenges may be disruptive, while others can be aligned against business as usual objectives.

PA: What’s the best way for a company to get intelligence on their customers?

Andy: I find the best value comes from a combined approach of using data and analytics and direct customer engagement, eg through customer dialogue, interviews and focus groups. As our Customer 4.0 work demonstrates, it’s essential to get into the mindset of customers – to understand their preferences in detail by walking in their shoes and seeing the products you’re selling from their point of view. This can take the form of bringing together thousands of survey responses with more personalised and in-depth comments via interviews. In fact, it’s an approach one of our retail clients took recently when they were looking to test a new product concept with customers and non-customers. This allowed them to see how it would impact their different customer segments and significantly helped them to define and tailor their new proposition.

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