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