When you have the bold mission of being an innovator and disrupting industries, it could be easy to forget what your focus point is. Today’s innovators, regardless of what function they sit in, need to have to have the customer and their experience be the center of everything you do. It is easy to get off track…your conviction for an idea, the pace of technology, input from other functions or the changes in your competitors could take your focus off what really matters. Even more powerful is the gravitational pull of you own organization and hearing the statement of “this is how it has always been done” may also take you off center. Too many times though, there is a fundamental disconnect between what the company wishes to produce and what the customer experience and journey demands.
We are in a world where customer experience and human-centered design are the norm versus the exception. Technology has enabled an incredibly rapid pace of disruption and consumers now expect how they interact with companies, at home or at work, to be centered on the consumer and how they live and work. No industry, even the least sophisticated, is immune from this and you need to make sure that you and your company view the world from the customers eyes and not yours.
You need to study your customer like you are an anthropologist. This is more than just taking comments from a lost sale on face value or relying on anecdote. By being an anthropologist, you need to study the behavior of your customer and know their journey intimately. Go and see them in the environment where they interact with your products. Be disciplined and unbiased on your approach or else the gravitational pull of the company may mask the reality from the customer.
It is critically important to get unbiased feedback and create an environment where you are able to test, learn and adjust. As an innovator you may be “leading the witness” to a solution you love so having a process or environment where you are able to translate the perceived feedback to a real experience is critical. It is important to note that is not just applicable to tech based solutions but your company needs to have a real feedback loop for all solutions that allows you to fail fast and adjust to the real customer need.
As a growth leader you need to make sure that not just your products or services are human-centered but your companies metrics and processes are aligned as well. Nothing will derail the most elegant customer-centered design than a measurement system that works against it. If your sales and service teams are rewarded off of product centered instead of human-centered metrics, you will always lose no matter how good the innovation. If your business metrics don’t include some balanced customer-centered metrics, your leadership team will lose interest as well.
Likewise, the culture and capability of the organization needs to reflect your orientation towards being a company centered on the customer experience. The tone from leadership, the execution of your brand and the development of your talent need to reflect the desire to be an experience based company or else it will not be sustainable.
The steps above could be a major, systemic undertaking for any company but even if you as an innovator do not have the ear of the CEO you can help your company move to being human-centered. What do you control in your function or environment that you are able to reorient to the customer? Do you create the right amount of tension in your metrics or process to force the debate if your output serves the customer? What is your change plan to provide the proof points to help your leader be an innovation hero as they focus on the customer experience?
It is an incredible time of disruption in business and the customer experience is right at the center of shaping change. Are you ready to change?
This article was originally publish on Enterprise Innovation, a leading publication for corporate innovation, profiles and guidance.