Round Table – How to use creativity and unconventional thinking as growth drivers?

In today´s challenging world, Batenborch International organizes virtual round tables to connect professionals from multiple sectors and environments to learn with and from each other. In this format, we discuss actual topics and themes in either dealing with the Covid-19 impact or in preparing for a post-corona future.

Friday, December 18th, we connected a small committee of Innovation executives from different retail, banking and insurance environments around the question: “How to use creativity and unconventional thinking as growth drivers?” We have found that many brands (re-)allocate their resources, time and budget to innovation, due to business models and commercial operations facing pressure in times of the global pandemic.

However, innovation is not the point on the horizon to work to: it’s your customer audience and their shifting needs you should want to (re-)connect with to hold and grow position in the stirred up competitive landscape. Innovation is the tool, or the way to go, if done right. Although there is unfortunately no common one way to go, there are many best practices to learn from or books to read about corporate innovation, lean start up and agile methodologies. But one crucial yet often underestimated element of innovation is the creative, unconventional or sometimes even disruptive idea behind it.

Mathieu Veldhuijzen – Consumer Centricity Consultant at Bol.com, introduced the theme by sharing his journey of managing the Speelgoedboek concept from idea to launch. Together, we exchanged experiences on how to create a creative culture that dares to look beyond data and deepdived into how to inspire, motivate and engage internal stakeholders.

 

From “doing innovation” to being “customer centric”.

While performing in highly data-driven and data-oriented cultures, one may sometimes forget that behind leads, click-through or buying customers there simply sits a human being behind the screen. A human being living its busy live and doing many other things than shopping, and if shopping, interacts with (many) other brands besides yours too. Mathieu shared how the best opportunities are found by zooming out of business models, sales- and service propositions and into the key motivational drivers of your target audience.

For distinctive customer value to be created, a brand should tap into beliefs, values and needs of their customer. Data brings great insights in who a customer is, what he or she buys and how – but not in why. Using behavioral data to create customer value brings great opportunities for faster, easier, better and more convenient customer journeys and shopping experiences. Adding motivational data is te key to really bring customer centricity into concepts, propositions and go-to-market approaches.

While presenting the Speelgoedboek case, Mathieu gave us an insight in how a digital marketplace like Bol.com generated additional revenue and data value through the rebirth of something nostalgic as a paper catalogue send to peoples homes. The concept was designed to tap into a wide range of needs, wishes and hurdles of both kids and parents as target audience and successfully brought fun, inspiration and convenience in both the customer journeys. Through qualitative research and continuous testing in the concept design phase, the problem solution and product market fit where defined and constantly improved. Yet, the ideas and hypothesis formed up front where grounded in creativity and unconventional thinking.

 

Data: a blessing or a curse?

We started an interesting discussion whether data is a blessing, or a curse. The opportunities unlocked by data generation and analysis are, without a doubt, a blessing. We do not have to kick in open doors and elaborate more on that statement we believe. However, in the highly data-driven and data-oriented business culture we referred to earlier, creativity and unconventional minds often experience push-backs due the lack of facts, figures, evidence and proof for their ideas. We agreed that companies can be blinded by their internal data derived from customer behavior and therefore miss out on the great insights motivational data could add to the concept design.

“Motivational data, which gives an insight in the why behind customer behavior, is the key for bringing more consumer centricity into new concepts or propositions. Deriving insights and generating ideas based on motivational data, however, deserves a more creative mind.”

Mathieu Veldhuijzen – Customer CX Consultant at Bol.com

Creativity and unconventional thinking. 

The concept of innovation is there to align with or even accelerate (future) business objectives – not to finance an experimental playing garden. It requires more than putting smart, creative brains together in an open, creative space with fancy coffee machines and ping-pong tables. As obvious as that may sound, we have seen many innovation labs or start up initiatives fail due to misalignment with corporate strategies or insufficient attention to building a solid business case.

We all emphasized how innovation set-ups need structure, processes and a forward-thinking leadership team, with an open mind to creativity and managed expectations towards short term profitability. It requires them to delegate and decentralize, allowing for entrepreneurial spirits to flourish (creativity) and for time and resources to be invested under different ROI settings (profitability). It requires guts, alongside with patience, to do so.

Great opportunities were shared on how creative ideas became solid propositions after being pushed through an iterative innovation funnel and on how great ideas sometimes just need a little faith and eagerness to make them work. Together we collected insights on competences that complement creativity. Whereas creativity can be defined as generating imaginative, innovative and new ideas, pursuing new business opportunities, perspectives or break-troughs, value can already be created if one challenges the status quo a bit more often or changes the perspective while brainstorming. Why do we do what we do, what else could be do and how could we make that work? What can we learn from other sectors, market, companies or disciplines? Creativity is in all of us, if we just dare to look.

 

We had a great, inspiring session thanks to the attendees sharing their insights and ideas, and bringing in some vibrant energy! Read their comments below. 

Ralph Saul – Manager Propositie & Klantbeleving at A.S.R.
“I thought it was an educational and enriching session in which a number of professionals from different industries exchanged ideas and thoughts about themes that affect us all. A nicely composed group of innovators and well moderated by Stephanie and Mathieu.”

Max Kranendijk – Lead Open Innovation at Rabobank
“It’s always fun and valuable to hear how other innovators approach their work.”

Lot van Rij – Head of Innovation Operations at Rituals
“I thought it was a nice session, especially to exchange experiences. Good to see and learn how other companies deal with the current situation.”

Marco Smit – Sr. PO / Manager Digital Innovation Lab at HEMA
“Joining this Digital Round Table was an interesting opportunity to broaden my network and to take a look behind the scenes of other organizations. The level of participants was good.”

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