Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Innovating designed products and experiences

There's a good, short article in today's Irish Independent which states that people want designed, not designer products.  While I doubt that many people are going to rush out and give up their BMW cars or Breitling watches, I suspect that the notion of "designed" products, services and experiences is really the next big opportunity for innovation.  And the real opportunity isn't in the designed product as much as it is in the designed service and experience.

We still live in a mass customization world, so while your product may be mass produced it can be customized, and perhaps even designed, for you or someone like you, in your particular segment or market.  What I believe can be even more readily designed, however, is your service, your experience and the solutions, extensions and offerings around the base product - what you might think of as the "total experience".  This is the real innovation sweet spot.

After all, any product that you acquire will eventually become older or lose its usefulness or charm.  A new version will emerge or a new product will arrive to knock the existing product off of its "Feeds and Speeds" pedestal.  If all you care about are the base features of the product, you'll jump as soon as the new product is fast enough, or has enough new options.  If, on the other hand, you experience a completely designed experience that wraps the product or service into a complete offering, replete with extensions, services and experiences, you may be less likely to leave an antiquated product that has linkages to a total solution for then next "feeds and speeds" winner.

Most companies miss this concept entirely.  They spend their meager innovation dollars on creating the next features and attributes winner - what I am referring to (tongue in cheek) as the feeds and speeds winner.  While that accomplishes some short term innovation leadership, it merely teaches the customer to look for the next inevitable winner of the feeds and speeds race.  What we should be innovating - what's more valuable and more differentiable - is the experience.  Can we create a total experience, linking the product or service to other services, support, third party apps and other networks, that is so compelling that even if the product suffers a bit over time, the consumer remains committed?

Many firms over-innovate and over-engineer the "product" and under-innovate the services and attributes surrounding the product, trying to create the most "efficient" processes, support and services.  This creates the worst of both worlds - customers trained to care about feeds and speeds who expect the minimum "experience" and usually get it.  Feeds and speeds are easy to copy, experiences aren't, yet other than Nordstrom's, Virgin and a few other firms, most organizations simply don't think about innovating experiences, much less designing them from the customer's perspective.

Want a simple, powerful and sustainable innovation?  Design the customer's experience to delight and sustain the customer, rather than spending all your innovation effort on the speeds and feeds.  As Microsoft Word demonstrates, we typically can't consume all the features in the product, and they often get in the way of what we are trying to do.  Microsoft would be much better off improving the help function, the user interface and extending the solution to new social media uses rather than adding new features.  Plus, designing and building a sustainable customer experience is differentiable.  While Target, Wal-Mart, Sears and JC Penney may compete with each other, they are all very similar in experience, while Nordstrom's stands alone.

Increasingly customers want designed products, but take it one step further. Use innovation to create designed experiences.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:30 AM


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8:29 PM  
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9:20 PM  
Anonymous Maria K Todd, MHA PhD said...

Our company is a unique, relatively new industry vertical in the global healthcare market. We are incorporated in two countries, the USA and the England, and offer a global healthcare provider network together with network management, health travel coordination and professional development through our full service consultancies, educational institute and insurance and wealth management options through affiliated licensed and authorized insurance brokers and agents.

For the last three years, I have used the phrase Globally Integrated Healthcare, by Design™ on our materials. I had to fight the USPTO for 15 months to explain the innovation differences in our model in order to register the trademark for Globally Integrated Health Delivery System®. They had simply never seen one like us before and fought hard to pigeon hole us into an existing dysfunctional red ocean model rather than embrace the innovation. On three different occasions, I almost abandoned the exercise.

Rather than create more ways to raise the cost of our services with internal infrastructure, we believe in creating simple, powerful and sustainable innovations and partnering with best-of-breed affiliates who complement our offerings. Therefore we own and accountable to the processes and linkages we engineer and perform as a service rather than the technology, insurance financial risk, facilities, or providers of service. We hold our partners and affiliates accountable for their parts as well. This win-win objective enables us to free up capital and creativity to design our customer's experience to delight and sustain our customers, rather than spending all our innovation effort and capital on fancier technologies, businesses or bricks and mortar we could "own" outright.

There are enough gaps in healthcare delivery on a local basis and on a global basis that we can fill a lot of holes and break down many silos simply by innovating existing resources into better solutions.

In spite of this, there are so many red ocean traditionalists in healthcare that like the silos and status quo and are puzzled by our approach. Thanks for eloquently reaffirming our approach as I drank my first 4am cappuccino of the morning. You delivered my first morning smile.

5:33 AM  
Anonymous Mickey Lonchar said...

Amen. A quote I will use often with clients is: "The may forget what you said. They may forget what you did. But they will never forget the way you made them feel."

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:31 AM  

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