Great platforms make it possible for customers to achieve things previously impossible or out of reach. Platform-driven innovations are most productive when customers struggle to do challenging tasks. The hyper-networked nature of digital technology has fostered many different platforms, from e-commerce solutions to social networks, but this approach can be harnessed by any industry. Consider focusing here first when you see a set of customers that is clearly finding it difficult to piece things together, and needs ways to reduce complexity, friction or cognitive burden -- especially if the solution involves orchestrating many firms together into a seamless network.
Here are some indications that it's time to focus on a new platform:
-- Customers can't get the solutions they need without exerting considerable skill or effort to pull all of the pieces together (for instance, you see customers "hacking" products, or existing offerings are too complicated for many of them).
-- There is a community or group with shared interests or needs but no central hub or forum that brings them together.
-- There is broad demand for a particular set of capabilities or assets in a market, but it is too complex for customers or other players to develop.
When Should You Shift Toward A New Customer Experience?
Great experiences are essential whenever a category has grown over-contested, stale or too complicated. This shift is a good bet in contexts where you can build enduring relationships with customers, when they are hungry for better (or simply fresher) interactions and particularly when the normal industry experience is a drag. Customer experience-driven innovation can succeed in virtually any industry -- even in staid contexts, where becoming the easiest firm to work with can even overcome competitive gaps in price or quality.
Here are some indications that it's time to focus on a new customer experience:
-- Customers routinely complain about their buying or service experiences -- or worse, they actually expect them to stink.
-- There is a significant group of customers that ignores a market because its touch-points lack personalization, wit, elegance or other humanizing attributes.
-- Most players focus on capturing customers by creating punitive switching barriers such as long contracts with termination penalties or technology lock-in such as proprietary and closed interfaces.
Understanding the current center of gravity in your market, and contemplating other ways of playing, will help you see opportunities your competitors are missing. Armed with this insight, you can develop some new plays that will focus your innovation efforts. The heart of innovation -- and the heart of leadership in innovation -- is understanding when a broad shift is called for, and driving it forward with courage and conviction.
Ryan Pikkel and Brian Quinn are co-authors of Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs (April 2013; Wiley).
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Brian Quinn leads client relationships and innovation programs at Doblin, the innovation practice of Monitor Deloitte within Deloitte Consulting LLP. He collaborates with senior executives to help their organizations innovate and become better innovators. His writing on innovation has appeared in Fast Company, Bloomberg Businessweek and the Conference Board Review.