In the new book, IGNITE: Setting Your Organization’s Culture on Fire with Innovation, co-authors Randal C. Moss and David J. Neff explore the roots of innovation and how to change an organization’s culture to embrace it, define what innovation is (and isn’t), share examples of innovation’s true value inside an organization and deliver an explicit framework for making meaningful innovation happen in companies and nonprofits of all sizes.

What’s more, the book, due out Aug. 15, focuses on customer experience and customer loyalty. Loyalty360 caught up with Moss to talk about this very insightful new book.

How can companies change their internal cultures to ones that promote customer loyalty, customer engagement, and a memorable customer experience?

Moss: Great customer experiences begin with the Voice of the Customer. Loyal customers want more than just being listened to or being heard. Loyal customers at the highest levels will want to take a participatory role in creating meaningful innovations that serve their needs. Customer panels are a great start, but open innovation centers can be designed to actually fund customer-based innovations. We discuss it in IGNITE as CoCreation.

When organizations undertake the investment to create internal innovation centers that can act on customer and employee ideas, they gain a cultural advantage. Innovation centers, as we describe them in IGNITE, bring in ideas from all across an organization and that openness to new ideas can fundamentally impact perspectives. Through this whole transformation to being more innovative, organizations become externally focused eventually — shifting to be more receptive to ideas that originate outside of their walls. They embrace the idea that the best solutions may not come from their product teams, but from accounting, operations, or even a customer.

There are great examples of platforms looking to engage their most loyal and engaged consumers for ideas to improve their experience. Initiatives like MyStarbucks Idea, Dell’s IdeaStorm, BMW’s co-creation lab, and GE’s First Lab are all examples of embracing consumer input and welcoming them into the creations space.
Companies looking to embrace the customer as a co-creation partner should begin by embracing the idea that every employee can have a valuable idea and should be given the chance to validate it through a process. Then open up the space to your customers, suppliers, and other partners.

What factors prompted you to write this book and what are your goals for it from a customer engagement perspective?

Moss: First of all, I am very fortunate to have an exceptional co-author in David J. Neff from Austin, TX. After David and I completed our first book, The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age, we received a lot of positive feedback and requests for a guide on how to build an internal innovation center. Since we had an extraordinary experience building and growing an innovation accelerator within a large corporation, we felt compelled to write a second book so that others could replicate our success. Hearing all of those requests confirmed what we believed – that there was a lot of interest in the key messages we put into IGNITE.

Our goal in writing the book was to develop a field guide so that others could build internal innovation structures where they work. Innovation, if you put into play as a top level business strategy, can be a real economic engine. The hard part is that innovation takes a lot of work, work that is inherently different than what is taking place every day in most companies and organizations. IGNITE is laid out to define innovation, inspire the reader, and lay out a road map to build that structure a company needs to fire up their own internal innovation factory.

How crucial is innovation today as opposed to years ago when technology wasn’t changing, seemingly, at the speed of light?

Moss: Consumers are looking for newer, better, faster, more relevant products and experiences. In the drive to satiate those needs organizations are under ever increasing pressure to move faster and deliver better.  Innovation in and of itself is not a point of differentiation to the consumer, but it is the ability to consistently deliver those experiences that is the point of differentiation. We don’t love a company because it is ‘innovative’. We love the company because it delivers great products and experiences that we value.

Technology and innovation are tightly linked together. Innovation work (product and process development) leads to the development of new technologies which in turn set the bar for consumer delight higher. So we have to out develop our old (new) technology to surprise and delight our consumers tomorrow.

What does CX mean to you?

Moss: Great customer experience is delivering surprise and delight without the customer having to ask. Many of us have experienced extraordinary customer experiences but maybe overlooked them. Some examples are Four Seasons Hotel knowing pillow preferences, Delta airline automatically assigning an exit row seat, and Spotify curating a discovery list. The best part about extraordinary customer service is that you have millions of opportunities to learn and apply it every day. The challenge is identifying which consumers find what surprises delightful, and then scaling those.

A really robust innovation structure, as we define it in IGNITE, can help an organization rapidly filter through all of the potential initiatives, prototype them, and get them to market faster.

How can companies set up innovation centers and what is involved?

Moss: Setting up an innovation center is the core of our latest book IGNITE; Setting Your Organization’s Culture on Fire With Innovation. Creating and managing an internal innovation engine takes executive commitment, a tolerance for risk, and a willingness to embrace cultural change.

In the cases we examine, we consistently see executive leadership initiating the efforts. Typically, the leadership team identifies a well-respected internal leader and then empowers them to build the framework for collecting, evaluating, funding, and piloting new ideas. The key here is empowering the innovation leader to create a well-balanced innovation team that can work outside of the bounds of the existing organization. A well balanced team is more than people from different functional areas of the company. So in IGNITE we define the Personalities of Innovation and explain each one, why you need them on your team, and how they work together to support and drive the innovation process.

Innovation centers provide organization structure to do fast-paced and risky work. We lay out a multi-step process based on stage-gate project management called The Ignite Framework. The framework is a set of steps that every idea that comes into the innovation development funnel must go through. Steps include Idea Capture, Evaluation, Business Plan development, Prototyping, and then Launch. 

While not necessarily a massive financial investment, an innovation center requires a tolerance for risk. Every organization must be open to trying new things both in terms of what they develop and how they develop new products and services. Rapid prototyping is inherently risky and even with the best evaluation and business plans innovations fail. We talk about the need to be culturally open to innovation, but innovation centers have an uncanny impact on organizations. The make them more externally focused and receptive to inputs and trends happening outside of their own walls. This is how internal innovation centers deliver cultural change to the entire enterprise.

What do you think loyalty marketers are doing well and where do the challenges lie?

Moss: Loyalty marketers are doing well in terms of acknowledging the needs and wants of their customers. In recent years, we are seeing loyalty programs evolving to offer more variety in rewards and the beginnings of cross-platform integration, particularly in the travel industry. It appears that they are acknowledging the limitations of their own companies to offer compelling rewards. The effort to branch out and give what consumers want is commendable.

Challenges come in two key arenas. First is the fast-paced evolution of technology. Not hardware, but software and applications. Being able to hook into the app-sphere to capture consumer information and drive behavior change will be requisite for scaled success. The app-sphere is a fragmented space, and loyalty marketing companies generating technology may be secondary to generating partnerships and relationships. Second is that consumers are generating more and more data as they move through the ever connected world. How loyalty programs collect and protect this data may be a deciding factor in whether consumers agree to participate in loyalty programs or not.

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