On a Sunday afternoon amidst the flurry of SXSW, Nicole Torres asked the audience gathered in frog’s Austin studio, “how many of you have heard the word ‘innovation’ in the last few days?” A clear majority of hands flew up. “How about in the last few hours?” Even more followed. It seems that businesses today can no longer hide from the wave of innovation sweeping the markets. But what does it all really mean? This was exactly what we dissected with our panel, “Beyond Innovation: Challenging Norms for Radical Change,” which included Karen Dolan, Head of Marketing, Dimensional; Vinoo Vijay, CMO, H&R Block; Will Coleman, CEO, Alto; and moderated by Nicole Torres, Senior Associate Editor, HBR and host of the podcast Women at Work.
Throughout the conversation, a few major themes emerged around how companies can start to break through the hype and jargon to start seeing the real impact in the market.
Coming from a company that elicits more anxiety than excitement, Vinoo Vijay of H&R Block was adamant that for incumbent players, ‘innovation’ cannot be isolated to small teams or specialized factions. In fact, these kinds of internal incubators often serve as an excuse for the company at large to relegate new systems to the ‘innovation people,’ without having to take accountability themselves. “You can’t be an effective business today without having innovation inextricably a part of everything you do,” Vinoo stressed to the audience, which means everyone needs to be on board to make change.
While many may see the real need for change, it can be a rocky road to get there. “In financial services, we are in the business of trust, which means there is always the healthy tension between pushing the boundaries and maintaining that trust,” said Karen Dolan, who spoke about how she is approaching innovation in an established investment firm like Dimensional. However, this tension exists for companies across the spectrum from legacy to disruptor. Whether it’s pushing the boundaries of where you have permission to play, or convincing consumers of an entirely new use case or idea, companies must walk that line between blowing people’s minds, and being familiar enough to use and trust.
This now seems like standard operation in the age of disruption, but it’s something we often forget in the moment. Making change means taking a chance—and taking a chance doesn’t always work out the way we planned. Whether it’s launching new product to market, or incorporating new processes internally, companies need to be comfortable all aspects of the evolution. And failure is sometimes a part of that evolution. Without that fearlessness, change can’t happen. “We had to be comfortable with failure,” said Will Coleman on starting up a ride hail app in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded market. But by ensuring that the company was aligned towards goals that mattered to them–putting their customer first and doubling down on experience and safety–they knew they’d be making the right choices, even if they hit bumps along the way.
What we found in speaking to change-makers across industries is that they all have more in common than they might think, and that partnering with an outside firm like frog can often facilitate an evolution of change to create real impact. From sparking necessary transformations in incumbent players, to helping startups get from napkin sketch to market in record time, our global team of strategists, technologists and designers are there every step of the way to realize ground breaking products in market and help transform organizations to be ready for the next wave of change.