I took a Human Centered Design workshop a year ago to learn more about the innovation process. My big epiphany from that workshop was that alignment is not achieved by convincing others, it’s an outcome of true collaboration…. Obvious, right? But how many people/companies really, truly, authentically do this?
Those organizations who adopt a truly collaborative culture will be able to stay ahead in the age of digital disruption because the nature of digital innovation pushes people, organizations, and industries into reinventing themselves to the core: their value propositions, their business models, and their competencies. This process of reinvention is difficult (an understatement) because, by its very nature, the outcomes are controversial.
Eight years ago, when I was heading up PayPal Mobile’s Business Development efforts for North America, mobile payments was still in its infancy. Our small team recognized that mobile payments had the power to disrupt the incumbent players in the industry. We saw, even back in 2007 (pre-iPhone), that it could be PayPal’s foray into retail, remittances, and other new areas. While we were able to put into place many of the fundamental building blocks that later led to today’s most strategic growth business for PayPal, we failed to gain senior executive alignment on our vision back in 2007. It is true that there were many unknowns in the industry back then, but I would suggest that the failure was due, in large part, to lack of collaboration with the stakeholders across the firm. We were a new business area that was isolated. We were nimble and fast-moving, but we failed to bring in other key stakeholders (outside of our team) to create a unified vision together.
Many companies have innovation labs or new business groups and could fall into the same trap. Seven years later I have worked with startups and large organizations alike, all seeking to ride the digital financial services wave or defend themselves against it. I look forward to the next interesting challenge – to work with organizations who either embrace HCD methods already, or who are struggling, or believe they will soon struggle, with issues of alignment around innovation and to help them overcome these challenges by introducing collaboration methods and helping to drive cultural change.
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