Message from Mike Bennetts, CEO


Message from Mike Bennetts, CEO

In January this year Z appointed its first ever Chief Innovation Officer.  This was more than just giving an external recruit a fancy title.  Instead it represented an important shift in how Z relates to innovation and how we go about doing it. 

Some people, ourselves included, would consider that Z has been relatively innovative over the past seven years.  We certainly have evidence for that claim through a variety of new customer offers, our brand activity and various internal ways of working.  That said, our view is that whatever we have achieved to date with innovation, it is insufficient for us to be winning in the future.

At Z we define innovation as doing things differently and doing different things.  Our approach to innovation is more than just projects, as we are primarily building the capability across Z to be innovative, and innovation projects are just one of the manifestations of doing that well.

It all starts with a focus on the Customer Journey, and we have mapped that experience for all of our customer types and are getting much clearer on the pain points.  From there our Innovation Team develop a portfolio of ideas that surface through one of five areas of focus.  Ideally our portfolio of projects should cover this spectrum rather than being too concentrated in just one or two focus areas:

  1. Fix – surfacing continuous improvement opportunities through identifying broken links in the customer experience.
  2. Accelerate – partnering with customer facing teams to speed up near term opportunities for new products and services, primarily to remain competitive.
  3. Incubate – we experiment and bring new concepts to life, then test and iterate with customers.
  4. Investigate – we do analysis on new opportunities for new and emerging technologies.
  5. Challenge – we challenge the status quo by sharing long term provocations from our Foresight Program.

In our recently renovated Auckland office we have established the “Innovation Refinery” which has three separate physical spaces:

  • The Workshop is our centre of design.  Innovation portfolio projects are housed here, actively refined with direct customer involvement and managed through a stage gate review.
  • The Ideation Centre is our hub of inspiration.  Teams come together here to deep dive into our customer journey models and ideate using human centred design to flesh out new opportunities to delight our customers.
  • The Library is our quiet area for personal reflection, concentration and strategy development.  We believe that everyone should take dedicated time out from their traditional responsibilities to reflect on how to improve the Customer Experience.

There are lots of ways for companies to innovate and I’ve just shared our current approach.  I’m sure it will evolve as we go forward and learn a few lessons.  To date it has been informed by some outside in thinking as well as some selective external recruitment of diverse skills and experiences. 

Recognising that leaders have a critical role in managing and leading change, we are also undertaking executive education so that the most senior leaders in Z are more capable of working this way.  That means we have to reconsider how we relate to failure, how confident we need to be before putting something new in front of a customer, how to invent and then simplify, how to learn by being curious, and being customer obsessed.

I’m doing my bit by learning more about innovation in general, and some things in particular.  I’ve recently returned from a six day executive program at Singularity University in Silicon Valley.  I also got a lot of value from reading The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries.  In the past six weeks I have completed a design sprint on our new Z App.  I didn’t need to do this but it gave me valuable experience about the innovation process and human centred design.

So as we close out another calendar year I wish you all of the very best for an innovative new year!

Mike Bennetts, CEO