Innovation Series Part 1 - Desirability


The most accurate way to find what you want is to define what you don’t want.

The first step of driving innovation is desirability, according to Kurt Baumberger, EVP, Strategy & Innovation at Shadow Soft. The blueprint to innovation can be achieved leveraging a logical framework for moving fast and delivering a minimum viable product to test in the market.

This is Part 1 of 3 with Kurt discussing how innovation can be developed in your company strategy.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Using an ethnography to identify pain points
  • Steal like an artist
  • Selecting a group of innovators

Reference material: Innovation Navigation: How To Get From Idea To Reality In 90 Days 

You're listening to application modernization, a show that spotlights the forward thinking leaders of high gro software companies. From scaling applications and accelerating time to market to avoiding expensive license and costs, we discuss how you can innovate with new technology and forward thinking processes and save some cash in the process. Let's get into it. Welcome in. We're starting our three part podcast series on innovation with my good friend Kirk, who is an innovation Guru. Some of you may know him, some of if you may not, but we're gonna let him explain that and give a little little background on him and then we're gonna jump into the topic about how we lead the innovation process through projects and customers and all that fun stuff. Kurt, well, there's no guru and me, but I'll try to do the best I can. Um, I've actually been involved in innovation throughout my career. Um, started out working in Madison Avenue with all the Madmen, um coming up with new things, new new ways to communicate. Um. Then I went and worked for this small marketing company here in town in Atlanta, Georgia, called the Coca Cola Company, and launched a couple of products for them. And then Um became a serial entrepreneur, which is another way of saying that Um I couldn't do anything successfully. So I just did it over and over and over again, but it was coming up with new and different things. And then finally I M I put it all down in a book called Innovation Ninety, how to get from idea to reality in ninety days, because I've learned a lot about what it takes and and subsequently I've just been doing a lot of innovation coaching, Um, for different organizations. And one area that really needs to rethink innovation is in the I t world. I think we're thinking about it too incrementally and there's a there's a really big challenge out there to break out of the incremental mode and to do something that's more transformational. So that's what I'm hoping we'll talk about here in this podcast. No, that's great and thanks. Thanks for that background. I think I think your point around I t looks at things too incrementally. There's I think there's lots of reasons for that, one of those being twenty years ago I t wasn't the the product of the service that was reaching the consumer. It was just a thing that held a database, and databases didn't matter necessarily for the consumption. We were still very inttangible things and our whole life is a digital experience. So it's it's interesting that I t... going through these little journeys to try to adopt Um new fast ways to do things, but we usually end up screwing it up. Well, I think the challenge for anybody in any organization is Um to make that quantum leap. And by you know, quantum I'm talking about ten X. and if we learned anything over the last few moments about the supply chain, Um, you just realize how integral technology is to everything that we do. Um, you know, people want to know like where's my stuff, and they that trickles all the way down from the consumer to the retailer, to the distribution center, to the shipper to the manufacturer. So everybody along that whole supply chain has to know, by skew, by individual product skew, where everything is and when it's gonna get there. So if you think about it that way and you think about it looking at it as a full Um supply chain, then that's transformational. But that's not just in manufacturing. It happens in finance, it happens in healthcare. Everything is is really changing and technology is driving all of the change. And so your organization has to be equipped to know how to innovate, how to go from where you are today to where you need to be. And it's not going to be incremental. It's that's not going to be enough. So you've got to figure out how do I get budget, how do I get the resources? How do I tap the right subject matter experts to make sure I don't screw things up, because you know you will screw things up. That's part of the nature of innovation. It's a contact sport and sometimes you contact failure on a day to day basis, but that's how you make the quantum leaps that you need to make. So what you've outlined in in your book Um is a sprint, I guess we say around innovation. Right, idea too, MVP concept. Is that kind of a good way to describe that? Yeah, it's. But what's interesting about it is that all projects fail after their day of life. I mean that was a shocking thing that I read in Harvard Business Review and if you think about it and just think about your own experiences. All priorities change, budgets change, people change, teams get disrupted. So, Um, it's really hard to get anything to go more than ninety days, and so I like to do it in two weeks sprints and then have us very specific deliverable at the end of every two weeks. But in the end, if you don't get it done in ninety days, it's not going to get done.

In fact, at Google one of the things they do is they have a conference room and you'll be able to swipe in and swipe out using your key pass, but they also have a counter on the wall every time that you swipe in and it counts down the number of days you have left to get the project done, and so it's an instant reminder of Oh crap, we only have forty days left, now, now ten, you know, and it really galvanizes everybody. So it's a good little trick that they have. But yeah, going from idea to reality in ninety days is to get to that M v P point where you can start to get feedback from the end users or the customers question. So I just came up with this one on the fly, which is exciting. Have you in all the years you've spent helping organization is through this process. Have you seen a certain type of organization that succeeds more often with the innovation process, Um, or or, even even more interesting, a type of organization that fails more often? Yeah, well, the ones that fail Um tend to be the ones that lack the D Na to be innovators. So, Um, what I mean by that is being an innovator is about having a certain mentality. It's an open mindedness, it's a willing to try things, it's willing to accept failure and to pick up and go do it again. And so what I found is that the organizations that are best at innovating are the ones that have the core DNA in a small group of people, not everybody, just a small group. And where you see that is Um, for instance. There a hospital. It's in the middle of nowhere in Missouri and it's not a big hospital. They don't have a lot of resources, but from the top all the way down to their UM managers, they have the d n a and the stuff that they do is unbelievable. You know, virtual reality training of nurses. They recruited in a nursing shortage, people from Puerto Rico because they realized that they could get the people who were hurricane ravaged to come to Missouri and go work there. They developed a new product that workplace violence is a is a real thing Um, not only because sometimes the patients are not of sound mind, but sometimes there are family issues or other issues that come in there. Well, they developed this Geo centric locator and everybody has a button that they have on their badge and attracts where you are in the hospital. So you press it once, it means you need help, you press it twice... need urgent help, and so security is able to go exactly where the problem is right away and it saves so much time and Hassle Um and makes it a safer workplace. Well, this all came out of the middle of Missouri. They don't they're not affiliated with a teaching hospital, they're not affiliated with the university, they're just people that have the right DNA. So the organizations that don't do it tend to be things like government. So obviously in the D O d there they do have that innovation because they keep going on with new systems and new capabilities. But you're not going to see a lot of innovation at the I R S as an example. Um, you're gonna have to find people that have the right D NA and then they tend to gather together because they're all supportive of one another. They found the budget to hire eighty seven thousand I R S agents. They did finally find that budget to get those I R S agents, but they also have um paper files that are looted up in the cafeteria. So nobody solved that problem and it was a big problem. We just need more people to do the same thing over and over. It'll be great. Well, I'm hoping that some of that allocation will actually go to technology. You know, let's let's digitize things, let's make things more efficient and of course there's risks of Um, people's proprietary information and you know it's got to be encrypted. But you know, that's what innovation is in technology, is figuring out a way to go do it right. Yeah, it's interesting you point out, you know, the government, because it's funny there's portions of the government that are so far ahead from an innovation perspective we just don't know about it right. So there's specific obviously the intelligence agencies. I mean they're they're creating solutions for the field that would blow our minds, but that doesn't pass down to the traditional agencies where we get services from as as citizens. So when you look at a state, a state or a local municipality, the services that they can provide to you being can I pay this infraction on the Internet where I rolled through a stop sign, the answers no, you have to go to the little courthouse in the little town that you were driving through very fast, on a place that was more important, because they can't accept payments right over the Internet right. Well, it's interesting because this, I think, fits in, but it's a bit of a tangent. I heard a rear admiral speak once and he was in charge of all cybersecurity and he said there's five levels of security within um the world. said the fifth level, starting at the bottom,... where your consumer information is, and he said, yeah, anybody can get that anyway anyhow. The next level up is utilities, so power, water, those sorts of things. The next level up is inter governmental communications, so if the White House needs to speak to somebody in the state, they have those communications secured. The next level up is the military, and then he said, and then there's a course, the last level, and everybody waited with bated breath, saying, okay, well, what's that? And he said, well, I'm the Rear Admiral. I'm in charge of all security for four levels, but that fifth level, yeah, that's what the CIA and the spies use. I have no idea what they do, but I think your point is you know, there is a tremendous amount of innovation that happens in the government, but it doesn't always trickle down and that, to me, is the big crime. You don't have to create everything all by yourself, you just have to beg and borrow Um from other people. And there's a great book out there if anybody's interested. It's really kind of a fun read. It's called steal like an artist, and the whole concept is that it's really rare that you find anything that is truly unique. Even a musician, there's twelve notes that everybody plays, but how you play them and how you structure them and how you put them together is what creates the music and the entertainment in your mind. But it's really just twelve notes. And so you steal from somebody else and you tweak it a little bit and you've stolen from an artist and made it your old there's a lot of great innovation out there. Look for adjacencies, look for similarities and then you know, start there, you know, use that as your prototype one point, oh and say, okay, you know, what do we like about this and what don't we like about it? And then you can get into some specific techniques, which we'll talk about later, about you know, if you're getting started on your innovation journey, here are the things that you need to do. Makes Sense. So let's jump into the first topic that we are going to review today, which is desirability. Yeah, so we're gonna go through three topics in this little series and think of it as concentric circles. So the first one is desirability, and that's figuring out what do customers need or want Um and ultimately, you know, what do they need or want so badly that they're going to spend their hard ear in cash or their time to go absorb? So the threshold is pretty high and you know,...

...what is it that they really really want, and we'll talk about that later. The second thing is Um what's feasible? And there you're focusing on. What can you actually build that makes something significantly cheaper, better, simpler, faster, more convenient or even healthier, you know, given the resources that you have. And so sometimes people think, well, I've got to get, you know, million dollar budgets and I gotta get all these people. No, you don't actually Um, you need a couple of post it notes and a sharpie and that's good enough. That's where you start, um. And then the last thing is viability, because ultimately you have to see, you know, what can your organization deliver and support and grow and be profitable in Um in order to be able to sustain your your idea Um, and it's got to pay off from multiple shareholders. So it could be a business unit, it could be your own I t department, but ultimately you've got to look at what can we actually make viable, and that's what we'll talk about in the third podcast. But the first one is really figuring out so what's desirable. And there's one technique I'd like to to introduce to everybody that I think is really helpful and I think it's really kind of kind of cool, Um, if you ever talk to somebody about their job and they're not happy in it. Um, you can ask him, wow, what do you want to do? And Nick? What? What do they typically tell you when you ask them that question? They avoid, they avoid answering the question because they probably haven't really thought about it. Or what else? Do they say something they're passionate about? Yeah, or they just say uh, I don't know. But if you flip the question and say okay, well, what don't you want, and then people can say, Oh, I don't want this, I don't want that, I really hate this, I really hate that. And it's an interesting psychological thing because your your fears and your dislikes tend to be on the surface, but your desires tend to be much deeper, and so by articulating all of them fears or concerns that you have, what you're doing is your unearthing what's the art of the possible. On the flip side, so you get this long list, and by long I mean like at least twenty items. Um, I think if you have an adult beverage you know you might end up with thirty items, but either way, you get this list and then, one by one, you just you just flip it to the opposite so if you don't want to be in...

...the office five days a week. You hate that. Okay, well, you can flip it and say I don't ever want to be in an office, or you can say I only want to have to go to the office one or two times a week. You know, it's not necessarily the polar opposite. You can you can hedge it and say I'll be there one or two times. And then if you say, well, I want to be paid for my contribution, and okay. So what does that mean? Um, it means that you probably don't like getting a two incremental raise every year and you probably want to be in a variable um payment structure. So all right, that's good. That also says you don't want to be in an office and you want to make a variable compensation. Keep going through all of these things and the next thing you know, you may find out, oh you know, what I'd really like to do is I'd really like to be an insurance agent. Why? Because it's variable compensation, because I'm out and I'm meeting people and I don't want to take all the risks of doing a startup on my own. I want to have like an umbrella that kind of protects me great. But the whole exercise of listening what you don't want is a great catapult to figure out what you do want, and that's how you figure out what's desirable. This is what you want. This is what's desirable, because you just flipped it. So that's one way to do it. If you wanted office autonomy and variable compensation, pay, pay for performance, and you want to want you want to wear jeans, you're in tach sales. That would be true. That would be true. It's funny how the world has changed over the last few years. Used to be suits everywhere. Now I see insurance broke your that are blending the line of I wore a ball cap to a meeting. Yes, yes, and that, and that's okay. I mean, you know, that's part of innovation and and the nature of innovation is that things change over time. There's this great quote that I love. It's like change is certain, but progress is not. So yeah, there's gonna be change, but is it going to be progress in the direction that we want to go? Well, it's only if you apply a discipline like we're talking about here today, about desirability, feasibility and viability Um will you get where you want to go. You might just get struck by lightning and come up with some incredible thing, but the probabilities of success are the same probabilities of getting struck by lightning. Right. Yeah, that's a good point. So when people go through this first phase, they identify...'s easier to identify negatives than positives. So you identify the negatives or the cons or the I guess, yeah, that's just what it is. Then you find you find the positives and it helps form the idea, forms the concept for what you're going to work towards. It establishes what the Needs State is. So this is what I need. Okay, it doesn't necessarily solve the problem. We were not at that point yet. That point comes in when we talk about what's feasible based on the resources that we have and what we can do. But in deciding what is really needed, that's where you're establishing your needs. Um, this is what I don't want, and so this is what I do want and I need to have happened. And so by defining that, you say, okay, these are our guiding principles or these are our guide posts that we have to make sure that whatever we come up with checks off these boxes. So it's very different than the traditional Um gathering of business requirements, because that is a broken process, process that belongs back in the sixties and seventies, where you go out and say, okay, what does everybody need, and then everybody's got a different point of view and what you end up having is analysis, analysis, paralysis, analysis, paralysis, my favorite, my favorite term. Yeah, there you go. But what's important is to figure out, like, what is the driving need, like what is pain? People making people very, very uncomfortable. Okay, because you need pain before you get anybody to buy. You know, pain is the number one driver. There's all these things that you know. Well, I'm looking for an opportunity to grow and to have growth. Well, you know what, growth doesn't sell. Growth will get you in there. We all know what we need to do. Two be healthier, to be fitter, to be you know, to lose the ten or twenty pounds that we want to lose. But we don't do it. Well, why not? There's not enough pain. And the flip of that is there's a lot of joy on the other side. Yes, so, given that situation, it's really difficult Um to come up with anything that's going to make a difference. But if you find an acute pain, then you can find something that people are willing to pay for it and they're willing to do so. Um. That's really what you're trying to do in the whole desirability Um part of your discovery is see where people are really in pain, and one of the core things that works well is um in design thinking is going out and doing an ethnography, and an ethnography really just means that you sit and observe...

...people interacting with the product. So, from an I t perspective, you know a lot of times it's helpful just to look at an end user and see when they're furrowing their brow like they don't get phase. Yeah, but it's it's even it's even more interesting when you look at you know what they're doing. So you want to look at it on three dimensions. You want to look at, Um what they're physically doing, you want to ask them questions and hear what they're saying, and then you also want to know, Um, how they're feeling. And of the three, the most important one is the last one, because people will act and make changes if they're feeling pain. So it's not just that it's a pain to do it. It's got to be a big pain and I feel it. So I dread doing this. So if you want to come up with a solution, you have to come up with something that makes it so, so much easier and more efficient than you're willing to go do it and change and adjust your behavior. So expense reports, right, huge pain in the ASS, awful. Everybody has always struggled with him. Right. But now, with the right software, you can take a picture of your sipt that automatically logs in and then you have everything compiled and if it's a recurring expense, you can even catalog it, so you don't have to go in and do anything. That solved a big problem. Nobody liked it, for for most of the population, for most of the because you've got to have some discipline to use the tool that makes it easy. And my wife, it's not happy about my inability to execute around expense reports when we have a tool. Yes, well, I'm not a good person to ask either because you know, I don't think the expense reports been filed in the last I don't know, four or five six months. So just having the tool um enough. Yeah, because, honestly, the pain isn't great enough. So you act when the pain is great enough. So if your wife is pestering you about it, she's bringing the pain, yes, and then you act. In my case, that's the same thing. I've hit my limit on my credit card. I'm like, okay, now I gotta go actually get reimbursed for all of these expenses. That makes sense. My Wife's gonna gonna turn up the frustration on me a little bit. She's trying real hard. She did today, so we'll see what happens. Well, I think that's I think that's a great analogy...

...for it right, because we buy tools, we we buy platforms, we buy extensions, we build widgets to solve problems, but they're not thought of as in scale or inclusive of other team members. Um, and you know, tools don't transform an organization. Decisions Do, and that is I think what we spend a lot of our time in the field is helping organizations realize that just because you made an investment in this thing doesn't mean you're going to see transformation on the other side. And there was a little bit of a time period for five, six years where the the framework of fail fast, do things that speed be very reckless because it creates possibilities that are endless. Really failed a lot of people absolutely. And then that gets back to the whole discipline. I mean you have to have a framework, Um, and there's a lot of things that just become trite things like, you know, fail fast. Well, no, you don't want to fail. What you want to do is you want to learn quickly right, and that's different. You know, you want to learn what's right and what's wrong on the idea, because the data shows that whatever you've come up with is going to be wrong and is going to be right. The problem is you don't know which is which until you go back and talk to the people who are going to use the product, and then you'll figure out what's right and what's wrong. But figuring out what's desirable, there's so we talked a little bit about you know what it is, you know here's here's what's desirable, Um. But then you also have to understand, well, why is this problem existing? You know what's the root cause of the problem that's going on, and that again and in the ethnography, that's where you ask questions about why are you feeling this way. Why are you doing this? Do not, do not go with your assumptions, because your assumptions are going to be wrong the time. Let the end user tell you. You know why they're stressed out. Why is this a problem? And then the third element is figuring out, okay, how much of a problem is this? Because again, you have to get on focused on the really big problems and don't try to solve every problem because you won't solve the big problems. If you want to see adoption, solve the big problems. You know, I um will take our listeners back in time and maybe some of them will be even too young to remember this, but when the ipod came out with apple, you know they didn't try to solve every problem. You didn't have a calendar on there, you...

...didn't have contacts on there. Now there are other music players that were out there that did all of that, but what apple decided was, we're going to solve the one big problem, and that is to have all your music consolidated in one place and be able to download that music safely Um, and also um being a paid ecosystem, so the artists would get compensated. That's all they did. Now they obviously have evolved from that into the phone, which does have all of your contacts and does have your calendar and it has become the mini computer that we carry in our pockets every day. But initially the pain was just around the music and so they didn't branch off in other areas. Microsoft did and Microft. Microsoft had their product, I don't even what it was called. That was started with a disease. Zoom, I think it was zoom. Okay, I'll give you, maybe zoom, I'll give you. I'll give you points for that. But it failed miserably. Yeah, because Microsoft tends to over engineer. They tend to throw everything out there and put everything on. In fact, if anybody wants to get a good laugh, go out to youtube and look at the difference between a package done by apple and a package done by by Microsoft. They start out with this very clear package from apple and then all of a sudden they start sticking different stickers on it to turn it into Microsoft. And that was actually done by the Microsoft design team to show they knew what the problem was and they knew it was a pain. They just didn't know how to solve for it. Yeah, and you know I think it's interesting because you know Apple's got you've obviously got some unique experiences with apple and they're or go to market in the ecosystem. Um. But Microsoft has been good at lots of things and dominated in lots of industries. But, UM, they also go after a wide men. They're not I would say they're less focused from from a product design perspective, because they make some great products, like the Xbox, is a very popular product. Um, but apple would go. Well, we don't do gaming and if we do gaming it's on our iphone and we have the apple arcade. We're not going to get into the platform wars. We're gonna let you and Sony work that out in Nintendo. I guess they're coming back to popularity at this point. So it's you know, it's interesting to see how different organizations take take on challenges and you know Microsoft has done a great job from a broad perspective. But how many of their products wing truth?...

You know, for thirty years? Well, you know some of them. Do you know word, Um, Xcel? You know, don't compare those to the google products, because Google can't hold a candle to them. I mean, if you want to do something and you want to do a macro on an excel program Um, it's only on Xcel. That's the only way you can do it. So that's gotten better and better over time, and that's the other thing about innovation is that, Um, you can't just launch it and leave it. One of the things that a lot of people don't understand is that it takes three years, and this is true for every innovation. Anything that's new coming to market takes three years from the time you launch it to the time it's accepted. You cannot make that any faster. It just doesn't work. So you have to continuously improve and invest on the innovation to make it truly desirable. And once it's truly understand what is desired, then it's easier to build the product and then take it to market. But this First Section of figuring out what's desirable, you know, I can't emphasize it enough. People tend to skip and go right to the product build and if you do that you're destined to fail. You have to start with what's desirable, got it, and then once we get there, we have to go to what's feasible. What's feasible, which we'll do in our next section, come back and listen. Application modernization is sponsored by Red Hat, the world's leading provider of enterprise open source solutions, including high performing Linux, cloud, container and kubernetes technologies. Thanks really listening to application modernization, a podcast for high growth software companies. Don't forget to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player so you never miss an episode, and if you use apple podcasts, do us a favor and leave a quick rating by tapping the stars. Join US on the next episode to learn more about modernizing your infrastructure and applications for growth. Until next time,.

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