Innovation is about failing learning

Customer Innovation isn’t a hunt for silver bullets, and there are no perfect solutions. Your best laid plans aren’t enough to get you there, yet haphazard product development doesn’t work either—that’s expensive, and rarely delivers on desired outcomes.

You need clarity and high-conviction about what matters. Paired with an expectation to fail, the ability to move fast, and a mindset to learn your way forward.

Keep your learning cycles small and cheap. Test high-risk beliefs and assumptions before investing big. Use learning to drive smaller decisions more often, and build confidence for bigger bets.

Four steps for actionable innovation

Make it simple, Keep it simple.

Simple goals and metrics
Map risky assumptions to focus on first
Design experiments to learn the right things
Get the data, decide what to learn next

A case study: Enterprise Innovation in Retail Insurance.

The challenge

Customer innovation is a first-class priority for this leading insurer underwriting $12B in annual premiums. The company invested big to develop its digital innovation capabilities, to drive new product experiences that put customers first and achieved key business outcomes. Yet small innovations could take up to six months to develop and launch, at considerable cost, and frequently didn’t deliver the expected results. With dozens of customer initiatives, and limited investment and capability to achieve them, a faster, lower cost approach with better results was desperately needed.


What our teams can now achieve is extraordinary. We’ve supercharged the pace of learning and cut through the red tape that gets in the way of enterprise innovation, unblocking the path for other teams to follow.

—Principal Product Manager

90% reduction in cost of customer learning

Over 100 ideas explored

20 experiments involving 2,000+ customers

5 initiatives developed enough for go/no-go decision in 6 weeks

4 bad initiatives
killed early, saving months and millions of dollars

1 best initiative progressed for further investment

How it was achieved

One Innovation Advisor led a team of employees organised into 6 teams—working as a player-coach to facilitate, demonstrate, and advise on customer innovation. First identifying priority themes, and facilitating design thinking to generate and select winning ideas. Then exploring and developing possible solutions with a focus on validated learning using fast prototypes and many small experiments with customers.

Each team member brought their unique skills and expertise to the team, from commercial strategy, product design, customer research, data analysis, engineering, and marketing. These small cross-functional product teams combined the best of Design Thinking, Lean, and Agile approaches to accelerate customer development through rapid experimentation. Focussing on fast feedback and short learning cycles, the team used many methods of learning, like basic customer interviews with concept sketches, fake-door tests, and even machine learning prototypes using PaaS services.