Human Innovation is the British company using unconventional data to uncover your desires
Once Human Innovation has gathered the contextualised feedback it needs, it then draws out the path that it sees the industry taking in the future and compares it to the core desires of its key market. Think of it as a mixture of pure data-driven analytics and a bit of creative alchemy to bring innovation into the 21st century.
It’s this process that helps companies redefine their problems. Rather than the company trying to identify its own issues, Human Innnovation’s data can reveal what the issues are for the customer and, consequently, the company can deliver the solution that customers actually want.
“A bank might say ‘the current problem we’ve identified is that customers are unsatisfied with their current account’,” explains Powney. “That’s probably what a customer could articulate. What a customer can’t articulate is ‘I’d like instantaneous access to my personal spend management, and forecasting alerts for when I’m going to go overdrawn.’”
It’s here that Human Innovation can step in and say to the banks that, if you look at all the adjacent technologies out there right now, everything is pointing in the same direction. Instead of starting in the bank’s comfort zone, it should be starting where all those points converge. “Can we empower people with their own spend data, and give them better forecasting capabilities? That’s the reframed innovation problem.”
As Powney points out: “Coming up with ideas is what most people think innovation is, but coming up with ideas without any research just isn’t valid. It could be anything; it’s not a magic show.” And it’s true, without first generating a platform from which to innovate, you’ll just be shooting ideas into the abyss and wondering why they continually fail.
The market challenge
Still, a data-led process isn’t infallible. While there’s always a risk of unexpected market movements dictated by sudden cultural or environmental shifts, one of the biggest barriers to innovation is actually something simple – budget. Sometimes a company simply can’t afford it, other times there’s just too much work that needs to be done.
“You can look at a market, brand [or] technology and have an amazing product concept, but know that the amount of money required to change people’s behaviours is just too much. You’d have to launch a series of other innovations to change their behaviour before they’d even adopt such a piece of technology.”
“Part of the art is the instinct to understand these data points and to know when to kill your baby.”
One example Powney gives is of Apple and its Siri virtual assistant. Tim Cook and co poured a lot of money into making Siri work, but when the technology launched back in 2011, it was rudimentary and went largely unused by many iOS users. Now, though, Siri has paid off. People are now ready to use the technology and Apple was lucky enough to be able to fund a long-term project like Siri. Most companies can’t take a risk like that.
Thankfully, Human Innovation can call duff ideas a mile off. “Part of the art, if you like, is the instinct to understand these data points and to know when to kill your baby. You get so invested in an idea, your team has to be mature enough to just back and know when to kill.”
It’s crucial that Powney’s company can think like this, because it doesn’t have the capacity to change how an entire business thinks and runs.
“As a small agency – a small, brilliantly staffed, fast-growing agency – it’s difficult to get to the top decision makers. We only ever really nibble at the edges of a business, rather than perform the entire transformation of a global business’ ethos. We operate in the world of improving brands, concepts, services. We’ll improve internal process so they aren’t making classic mistakes, but we’re only going to work with ambitious clients.”