This post originally appeared on the Digitally Cognizant blog.
It’s hard to avoid hearing the word innovation these days. A Google search for “books on innovation” yields 193 million results. On a LinkedIn search for innovation, nearly three million people pop up.
Some would say the same of the word design. Depending on the industry, the research focus, the applied process, it means many things to many people.
Both are overused; each has multiple meanings. And today’s executive knows innovation means more than just ideas: ideas aren’t important unless they’re practical, valuable, and can be successfully implemented.
At Cognizant Digital Works, we believe the process of innovation is only useful when it helps businesses meaningfully evolve. Without it, companies risk becoming irrelevant in the digital economy, as a new generation of technologies changes how people, companies, and governments interact and generate value.
This is why I’m excited about Cognizant’s acquisition of Idea Couture. Toronto-based Idea Couture is an innovation, strategy, and design firm for the digital economy, helping the largest companies in the world create digital, physical, and connected products and services. It’s a great fit with Cognizant Digital Works – and it offers a still greater suite of skills for organizations looking to digitally transform their businesses.
No More Notes on a Napkin
One of the most entrenched, romanticized ideas in our culture is that of the isolated genius who dreams up a million-dollar product or idea on the back of an envelope, or on a paper napkin. In today’s workplace, the envelope or the napkin has become a colored sticky note, on a whiteboard in an “innovation lab.”
Sure, geniuses exist. And ideas are great. But can a large company wait for the million-to-one shot? What does it take for a company to develop differentiated innovations successfully –especially in industries that have remained static for years, with legacy systems and research and development processes?
Three principles are relevant:
1. Innovation should be grounded in the experiences of people it’s meant to serve.
That innovation lab, where people are isolated from the customer or core business, doesn’t work when insulated from the very people they need to understand and design for. We need to understand how people behave. To meet them. Ask questions. Observe how they live. As I’ve written before, being more digital means being more human, which means developing a different perspective on what a company strategy should be. Learning what people actually need. Watching how they work and make decisions. Understanding what’s it’s really like to experience a brand.
Idea Couture does this. It infuses human insight into the strategies it creates with its clients, which increases the likelihood of success.
2. Design for a credible view of the future.
Let’s dispense with wishful thinking about cool ideas. We need to understand human behavior and how society is evolving, learn when new technologies will be available, and establish a realistic business case for innovation.
Idea Couture specializes in generating foresight. Its professionals follow a rigorous process for identifying, aggregating and analyzing the multiple weak signals from the world around us, marrying them with experts’ views of the future. That provides a perspective on what’s possible—helping organizations make educated bets on what’s possible.
3. Make it … real!
A useful process of innovation goes beyond concepts to solutions. To invest long-term, organizations need to see what’s possible before committing resources. Showing what an idea is, how it works, and what its value is to the customer and the business – on paper, using video, exploiting interactive technology, or mocking up something to touch and feel so it can be tried out – is vital.
Idea Couture designs and makes. They visualize new experience, creating physical and digital prototypes of products that infuse technology into customer experiences and connected products. They collaborate with clients, because ideas and innovation processes can’t be imposed, but need to be informed by the business and adopted by its customers.
Cognizant and Idea Couture: Innovation and designing for digital
Idea Couture has been successful because it has smart, creative multidisciplinary people and formal methods around insight, foresight, and a culture of physical and digital making. Its talented designers and engineers, its innovation strategists and futurists, its ethnographers, experts in human behavior, and brand strategists team with clients to create new products, experiences, and business models that drive growth in the digital economy.
Cognizant builds and runs processes and systems that work. We have deep knowledge of business processes and leverage the latest technologies at scale. Combining that expertise and reputation with Idea Couture gives us new capabilities for designing bold but practical innovation for clients who want to win in the digital economy. From ideas and concepts to prototypes and then to real solutions – for the largest companies and brands in the world.
Innovating in the digital era is not simply about coming up with ideas, not just about deploying technology or conceiving and executing strategy. It’s about bringing these together, creating compelling experiences supported by business systems that make it work. Cognizant Digital Works gets that. Idea Couture gets it. Together, we’re poised to build meaningful solutions that make a difference.
Steve Burden is head of M&A and Strategic Partnerships for Cognizant Digital Works, where he works on partnerships that help accelerate clients’ digital transformations and grow Cognizant’s business.