The Medallia Team

When it comes to innovation, we tend to devote a lot of attention to great ideas that emerged from unexpected places.
Post-it Notes are one such idea. The product emerged from spare-time projects by two 3M engineers — one of whom developed a reusable adhesive, and another who applied it to note paper. Play-Doh offers another example: it was initially marketed as a wallpaper cleaner, until manufacturer Kutol Products realized that schoolchildren were using it in arts-and-crafts products.
These stories, and others like them, are often used to make a popular point about innovation: good ideas can come from anywhere. But they also offer a separate, equally important lesson: that a good idea is only the beginning of a successful innovation process.
Consider again the Post-it Note. It took six years of internal discussion at 3M for someone to develop a use case for reusable adhesive — and another six of market testing before the product hit the market.
This is not to criticize 3M, which has won praise for how it manages its innovation portfolio. Rather, the story shows that the best way to use an innovative idea isn’t always apparent at the start. To find the best use cases, companies need a process for testing and refining innovative ideas — so good ones don’t get lost in the shuffle, and half-baked ones don’t hit the market before they’re ready.
In recent years, digital-native companies like Facebook, Uber, and Amazon have pioneered a new solution for this challenge. Using their digital platforms as networks of innovation labs, they test ideas of all kinds — from the placement of a button to new features — with small groups of customers. By running many small experiments at once, digital companies are able to identify and improve winning ideas quickly and cheaply — a valuable competitive advantage.
This approach often worries leaders at large, established companies, who fear being overtaken by young, nimble digital-first competitors. But this doesn’t have to be the case. There’s a way for large companies to use their size to their advantage and gain the benefits of digital innovation in the physical world.
This Tuesday, December 15th, at 10 am PT, we’re hosting a webinar about this very strategy. Peter Kriss, Medallia’s Senior Research Scientist, and James Allworth, New York Times bestselling author and Medallia’s Director of Strategy, will share research and stories about how large companies are turning their organizations into labs for customer experience innovation. You can sign up using the form to the right!

Photo Credit: Michael Arrighi