The Powerful Link between Strategic Innovation and User Experience

Summary

  • Innovation is strategic.
  • User experience is intimately connected to strategic innovation.
  • This has been proven by businesses like Amazon, Uber, AirBnB and the trend continues to develop with “transactional super apps” like Meituan and Grab.
  • Enterprise innovation professionals need a way to prototype user experiences.

Why is innovation linked to strategy?

Innovation is a necessarily strategic topic. Innovation creates disruption and strategic challenges for a market’s established businesses. Those enterprises innovate to respond to the challenge.

Why is user experience connected to strategic innovation?

In a passing remark about balancing the concerns of different people within a business, a Product Manager who had worked on Gmail and Facebook’s News Feed summarised the two things that “founders like Larry Page and Zuck want to know.”

A Meituan delivery worker in Shenzen

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

A Meituan delivery worker in Shenzen

Larry Page, Google

Heads of business functions like development, sales and customer support had predictable questions, all variants on “how will this affect us?” The founders asked: “why is this important strategically?” and “what is the user experience?”

The focus on strategy is natural but that both choose to ask about the user experience above anything else is informative. The two questions are like bookends, existing at either extremity of the business. The core, long-term business goals discussed in board rooms sit opposite the immediate experience of individual users where the product meets the market. When your job is to be in charge of everything, you need a bird’s eye view of trends as well as a close-up of the customer, the big picture and the small screen.

It is no surprise then, as we recently argued in Figaro Digital, that the user experience is so often the site of innovation.

Which businesses show the connection between strategy, innovation and user experience?

Meituan Dianping was named by Fast Company the most innovative business in the world in 2019. In second place was Grab, Singapore’s ride-hailing app that beat Uber in Southeast Asia. Both are so-called “transactional super apps.” They distribute services on a digital platform that offers customers a much better user experience. Think Deliveroo or Treatwell but for a much broader range of services.

These businesses are growing quickly because they have the most powerful differentiator, a new and better user experience. In fact, as a third-party platform for facilitating transactions, user experience is their core product.

A Meituan delivery worker in Shenzen

A Meituan delivery worker in Shenzen. Source

While the transactional super apps are the purest examples of the intimate link between user experience and strategic innovation, the argument that a better experience is the key to rapid growth holds across other markets.

We mentioned consumer FinTech in our Figaro Digital article. In education, Google went from 0 to 58% share of the education software market by focussing on a much better user experience for teachers and students.

How should enterprise innovation professionals think about new user experiences?

Innovation should always be derived from strategy. The “Zuck and Larry” questions suggest that innovation should start with a focus on the user experience. This ensures some degree of customer orientation and enables a product or service innovation to succeed.

It is hardest to move straight from strategy to innovation to the user experience in large and complicated organisations. Innovation in the enterprise is often siloed off in labs and does not touch the core business. The user experience provided to real customers is defined more by the needs of the business and the critical legacy technologies already in place. To unlock enterprise innovation, this needs to change.

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