All posts tagged: Innovation Equation

Empathetic Innovation

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Scott's Monday Morning MessageStaffing and recruitment firms who are achieving the fastest growth in margin percentage and dollars are taking their cues from some of the best at innovation: Starbucks, Airbnb, Warby Parker, Patagonia, Kickstarter, and Apple. Instead of bombarding tons of prospects with mundane sales and marketing pitches, hoping to get them to care about their offerings, they are figuring out what matters most to these buyers, then delighting them, one person at a time. This approach, called Empathetic Innovation, can be achieved through the Innovation Equation:

Good or Great
PLUS Irresistible Value
MINUS Labor and Complexity
EQUALS Sustainable Innovation

Starting with what you do that is already good or great, value is added based upon insightful, empathetic understanding of the customer, while reducing the amount of effort and complexity to deliver that service and value. All together, this creates sustainable, meaningful innovation.

Why does this work? The following illustrates why:

What do we mean by empathy in terms of creativity and innovation? For us, it’s the ability to see an experience through another person’s eyes, to recognize why people do what they do. … Gaining empathy can take some time and resourcefulness. But there is nothing like observing the person you’re creating something for to spark new insights. … We’ve found that figuring out what other people actually need is what leads to the most significant innovations. In other words, empathy is a gateway to the better and sometimes surprising insights that can help distinguish your idea or approach. — DAVID KELLEY AND TOM KELLEY, CREATIVE CONFIDENCE

When we empathize, then solutionize (the act of applying innovation based upon why people do what they do), it’s as close as we can get to waving a magic wand, often creating surprising delight for those we serve.

Scott WintripEmpathetic Innovation
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Putting Lipstick on a Pig and Calling It Innovation

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Hundreds of leaders in the staffing and recruiting industry heard panelists and speakers talk about “innovative” ideas last week at the Executive Forum in San Diego. In a number of instances, what was said was no different than putting lipstick on a pig and saying she’s a contender for Miss Universe. The reality is that many so called innovations are nothing more than old ideas regurgitated in a different way.

This observation is not a criticism of the event, which was outstanding, or the ideas that were shared, as many were prudent or even incredibly wise. Leaders benefit from reminders of what works, which I refer to as sustainable practices, and methods that stand out for their ability to improve the way work is done, which are true best practices. Labeling something as innovative, when it’s not, is careless, at best, and reckless when those hearing it blindly use it, thinking they’re about to reinvent the wheel.

Why does this happen? Innovation in staffing and recruiting isn’t easy, especially since everyone has access to the same product. The day we gain the ability to manufacture cyborg temps, contractors, and direct hire candidates will be the day when true ease of innovation begins.

So, do you just give up on innovation or just fake it by applying a bit more lipstick to the pig? Of course not. Innovation not only exists, it’s flourishing at companies that apply the Innovation Equation:

Good or Great
PLUS Irresistible Value
MINUS Labor and Complexity
EQUALS Sustainable Innovation

True innovation entails starting with an aspect of your business that customers see as good or great, not what is sub-par or out of your wheelhouse. Next, you find a way to add value they find irresistible while also reducing your labor intensity and process complexity. Do that, and you’ve transformed what many people see as a business that’s hard or even impossible to innovate.

What’s this look like on the street? Recent examples include a client I advised to add value that prompted procurement in three different companies to enthusiastically choose to spend lots more money. Another was a service innovation a global client that guarantees customers they’ll want to hire the first person presented every single time (I call this the One and Done Promise and it’s been kept 79 out of 80 times in just the past few months).

Reminders of sound business practices are great and should be talked about often. But these should never be treated as innovation. Doing so risks complacency and lulls people into be satisfied with kissing the pig.

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Scott WintripPutting Lipstick on a Pig and Calling It Innovation
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