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Innovator's new dilemma

I have lately been busy with a new focus on innovations. We now have more ingredients for doing more new things and old things differently with technology than ever before. Recessions are often the time for better reflection and new approaches. This recession may even form the base for a mental shift - away from mindless consumerism, blind quarterly capitalism, sensation-searching media and stupid political populism  - to quality thinking, reflecting and questioning critical media, brave not-media-led politicians and enterprises driving co-regulation with democratic institions. Tall order to say the least - but do we want to be critized for not having tried?

Then we come to the innovator's new dilemma: too many options - in relation to trying-out and implementation resources and end-users capability (time really). It is striking to meet the mass of good sense-making ideas that new technology allow. Many of these have actually been implemented and work quite well - but have not been taken up by a critical mass of potential users. The sheer multitude of options actually prevents take-up - because it fragements time into so small units that nothing but the perfect (or fashion) finds the way forward. And forward today means fast-forward. The normal slow-forward is far too often discarded as a failure - instead of being put on a near-shelf as the first valuable attempt that soon enough should be re-tested.

So what should we do? Accept the fragmentation-fact to begin with - and always ask questions like:

1. is this often needed by many? Not seldom by few..

2. is it building on existing experience and habits - economy of repetition - or starting from nowhere?

3. has it been refined to the clinically simple - or as far too often understood only by those creating it?

4. is it an isolated "product" - or a concept adressing the user's holistic every-day needs

5. has it been created by the several partners needed - building on experience and ingenuity of many - or far too typical silo-work?

And many more. By re-thinking innovation work we will  surely be able to create new dimensions of value for all involved.


Comments: (4)

Nick Collin
Nick Collin - Collin Consulting Ltd - London 07 April, 2009, 11:26Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Wise words Bo!  I'd add one more question:

- Can we ride on the back of some sort of "free" infrastructure?

Historically, much innovation has followed this pattern.  For example, rail networks spawn freight transport, passenger transport, tourism, new towns ....  the electric grid spawns lamp bulbs, refrigerators, consumer electronics ...  the internet spawns ... too soon to say!

I'm particularly interested in leveraging the emerging EMV chip payment infrastructure with added value applications such as remote chip authentication, contactless payments, community cards and so on.  Huge scope for profitable innovation here, provided we follow your rules!

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 07 April, 2009, 18:35Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Good thoughts. The possibilities are indeed endless for building cool stuff with tech.

To your list I would add: does the new thing support the core brand values, and even brand personality? And the overall goals for the customer experience. Even if some set of customers want something, this isn't necessarily a good argument to build it.

So think about the customer holistically - yes. But also think about the brand holistically.


Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 07 April, 2009, 21:06Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thank you Nick. I do see Internet as a "free" infrastructure - much as I see e-banking codes for e-id in society at large, the payment system for transporting e-invoices and e-orders etc. Internet has for sure spawn Google advertising and transferred e-banking into internet-banking. The multifunctional chipcard has been a promise for some time and in the meantime the mobile devices have come closer to provide the same functions and more by having a big screen and being connected to the Internet - good to have options and open competition.

Thank you Susan. I do think that brand value can be supported and having its personality enhanced when the service it represents build on users trust and habit by adding logical additional features - like using e-banking id for third party needs. I agree that "some set of customers" often can be the wrong way - first do things many sets of customers will appreciate and need often. 

A holistic approach is needed - to address often mundane every day needs. The brand should also benefit from teaming up with other brands who can add their part of the holistic solution needed. One service provider can only do so much alone.




Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 15 April, 2009, 09:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi Matthew,

Thank you for your good input.

I do think that it is time for a proper rethink of the big picture - for many reasons: co-regulation instead of blind regulation - for financial stability, sustainable development - for our kids, deeper democracy - instead of sensationalism. The Net is the tool for making all this evident to the so much wider and now also even globally interactive audience. I admit that I am greatly inspired by Yochai Benkler's "The Wealth of Networks".

I certainly agree with:

"It’s time to take a hard look at the way the banking industry thinks about itself and its relationship with customers. Only by doing this can we create services and experiences that are engaging and valued for what they really are."


"Earning business by understanding what people value, having empathy and improving lives through financial services is key to unlocking the paradigm shift of ‘flattened hierarchies of control’ we’re experiencing as a society right now. "

What do people value in banks? My list: trust - not only in the traditional soliditity sense but also by not blindly pushed profitcenter driven "products", simplicity-simplicity-simplicity, reachability - and increasingly holistic solutions: your bank promoting reuse of tools and presence in everday contexts in netservices at large. A combination of truly putting the customer first and understanding that there is less space for complexity than before.

Customers do not ask for innovations - it is the service providers who have to think ahead - see that only technology and rethinking enable innovations. I think this is what the Googles, Nokias and Apples have done.

I have to agree also to this:

"I’d therefore argue that it’s not a matter of too many options – it’s a matter of too many superficial, facile – wrong - options, brought about as a result of the unequal balance between the banking mindset (“we are in control – you will therefore value the things we give you”) and what people see as creating value in their lives."

 It is unfortunate - but now is the time to take corrective action.

Bo Harald

Bo Harald

Chairman/Founding member, board member

Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData

Member since

04 Nov 2008


Helsinki Region

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.

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