Innovate or Optimize

December 5, 2014a 2 mins read, written by marcel jansens

It is a big thing to know what our customers actually do, want and expect. Because when we know what they do, we know how to get to them. Get their attention … right?! Actually that is the funny thing. When you think you know, it always turns out differently. So, do you optimize or innovate based on what you think you know.

What is the difference between optimization and innovation. Optimization is aimed at changing something which already exists. Making things ‘better’ based on information from your customers. This could mean that you change the entrance of your store or the flow of making payments on your website. It always has to do quick wins. This sounds a bit condescending towards people whom are involved in optimization projects, but it surely isn’t.

On the other hand, an innovation is focused at creating something new. Aiming at the bigger picture. More long term thoughts. It could have bigger impact on your business and therefore on the number of people involved and thus more time consuming. So, knowing this. Now what?

Why do you want to innovate or optimize?
Do you know what your customers actions are? Or do you act based on your gut feeling? There is nothing wrong with making decisions on your gut feeling but you could face difficulties translating your gut feeling to more rational people. People whom in reality can be your customer or even (business) partner. So, we advise you to talk to them and create customer journeys. Get insights from and with them and learn.

Looking at the customer journey it is important to have identified the pain points and moment of truth of each journey. After you have mapped the journeys and analyzed the major issues with your service, you take a look at what you can do now or later. Those are answers to why you need to make changes. You are defining your challenge. You can decide whether to optimize or innovate.

But, how do you decide?
Is it necessary to get closer to your customer now? Or can it wait? That should be your first question. A quick win sounds good. Especially when you’re aiming for more. Please stay sharp when you’re talking about a short term solution, because nothing is more permanent than a quick win. More than once we have seen that real solutions never see the day of light because the quick win is an ok solution. The sense of urgency to actually get better disappears.

Is it possible to get closer to your customer now? Or do we need more time? This has got to do with a number of factors like resourcing, budget and knowledge. Yes, it of course it is very important to know how much it all costs and what the impact on your current business is. The questions about the necessity and your own capabilities gives you insights in whether you should optimize or innovate.

So, what do you do now?
Based on the answers to the why’s and knowing your priorities you can start with briefing the UX designer. You have translated insights into opportunities and you’re now able to brainstorm and experiment towards solutions.

Please be gentle...
Most of you do not have the ability - or luxury - to choose between a team which is working on current issues and a team which can think of future green fields. But the truth is that every customer needs to reflect on its business and services through the lens of a Service Designer. This will learn you to talk and truly connect with your customers and have a proper definition of the real challenge. Then the terms innovation or optimization do not matter. You’re always doing it right!