This week Yuri Smolyar, the Innovation and Digital Customer Experience at ANZ, joins us to share his insights and experience with innovation. With over 10 years of management consulting, Yuri has worked with senior leaders across large private and public organisations in the financial services, FMCG, telecommunications & education sectors to execute key strategic, transformation and digital projects.
Yuri has specific consulting experience in innovation strategy and new product launches, process automation, asset separation, sales and service model design, growth strategy and project management that has given him a unique perspective on innovation projects of all sizes.
Q. What are the common mistakes businesses make when attempting to innovate?
A. Thinking that you need to create something “totally new” or “big” to get noticed or achieve great success. Sure, that’s a wonderful goal to have but fostering an experimentation culture can yield not only financial benefits, but cultural impacts too. Focusing on small to medium changes to your product, service, process or marketing approaches can yield benefits that compound and flow into larger, more strategic innovations. Too often a business might spend many months or years on a large big impact innovation idea without any significant incremental benefits that could have made an impact today to customers and the business.
Q. What is the first thing a business needs to do if it wants to become innovative?
A. Really clearly understand what their customers’ needs and problems to be solved are (preferably backed up with actual data). “Why are we doing this?” and “how is it helping customers?” should be questions commonly asked on any innovation project. Knowing your customers and their problems as well as how your business’s products or services are trying to meet or solve for those problems, will help drive a strong WHY for any initiative.
Q. What can small businesses learn from big businesses about innovation?
A. Be scrappy & do something! All too often a large business has many hoops to jump through before anything is ‘allowed’ to be done that impacts or touches a customer. You then run the risk of losing valuable feedback, insights and data from customers interacting with your innovation.
I recommend that small businesses try focus instead on getting something, anything done and released early (even if it might be a bit unpolished) as this will help generate momentum, insights and feedback about what works and doesn't. Small businesses are also typically closer to their customers so collaborating with them on a new idea, asking for their feedback and explaining what your business is trying to achieve can really drive valuable insights that sometimes big businesses struggle to get.
Finally allocate time and budget to trying something new. It’s important to understand and accept that this investment might be ‘wasted’ and won’t get a return. However, there will always be 100 other things taking up your time and budget. You’re unlikely to ever try that ‘new idea’ unless you consciously allocate budget and time to it. Big businesses can achieve the same by creating whole innovations teams to focus on idea generation and execution.
Q. What should your number one goal be when tackling an innovation project?
A. Your number one goal should be understanding the clear WHY of the project and its purpose. Without that you will struggle to rally people, stakeholders and customers to support the project or clear the fog of failure or cynicism when things aren’t going right.
This is closely followed striving to follow a “test & learn” approach to execution so you can continuously aim to get some outcome to learn from and then work to build on that to something better going forward.
Q. What does the term innovation mean to you?
A. So many things! I think that just goes to show how innovation has such broad application to so many different people. Some things that come to mind are:
- Better than yesterday
- Solves a customer or business problem
- Outside BAU or the ordinary