Innovation goes beyond technology to the human touch

Tuesday November 13 2018

By Dr Lucy Kiruthu

Throughout my career life, I have been keen on innovation. Having started off in the field of product research and development, I believed in the need for creativity and coming up with novel products and improvement of existing ones.

I, thereafter, headed customer experience in a number of corporates and once again, there was room for creativity. I had to come up innovative ways to drive the client experience excellence organisational-wide. I recall one campaign where every staff appreciated that “our customers pay our salaries”.

Further, I have witnessed many organisations drive innovation without necessarily having to invest in a new technology. As I reflect on these personal experiences, I am convinced that innovation goes beyond technology.

In the last two decades, it is true to say that technology has been at the centre of creativity in business. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have been introduced, simple and complex processes have been automated, tech-enabled digital platforms have been unveiled and much more.

In addition, a majority of innovation conferences have focused largely on new technologies. As such, in many organisations, innovation is seen as synonymous with technology. On the contrary, other innovations require no technology.

We do not necessarily need any of this to build customer trust or to make our customers and employees happy. We can be more innovative in how we relate with them one on one.

For example being kind to our customers and considerate to our employees requires no high-tech gadget. In addition, we can run a successful one on one marketing campaign without relying heavily on any type of technology. It is for this reason that I believe that innovation conversations need to go beyond technology.

At the centre of innovation is the creation of new products, services and processes. For this to happen we must have people with the right talent thinking creatively about our products, services and processes.

I believe that people come before technology in the innovative space. Without a focus on them, even the most magnificent technology might not succeed.

Companies aspiring to innovate must, therefore, first invest in their people before technology. How employees feel has the potential to make or break a major investment in technology.

In a recent article in the Forbes, Daniel Newman author of Futureproof: 7 key pillars for digital transformation success indicated that he quite often receives the question “What technology (ies) should we invest in first in order to speed up our digital transformation effort?”

His answer that they should start with “Culture,” often surprises many of his audience.

Without the right business culture, it is unlikely that any innovation will reach its full potential or even survive into the future. Unfortunately, I am yet to attend an innovation conference where the focus is on culture or on creating the right environment for the people and identifying talent. When the environment is right, employees think more creatively.

Innovation must not start and stop with technology! Smart companies must constantly look out for opportunities to improve their products, services and processes as well as the overall employee and customer experience with or without additional investment in technology.

Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy