If you're sick of innovation speak, you're not alone. Some of the leading minds in innovation are encouraging a move away from buzzwords and towards more meaningful, practical and deliverable change.
Speaking at the Passenger Experience Conference in Hamburg, experts shared their views on the gap between thinking and doing, between talking about the future and creating it.
Dick Powell, co-founder and chairman of branding and design specialist Seymourpowell, believes innovation is essential, giving businesses an edge which can be translated into material benefits such as improved sales, greater margins and larger market share.
But he thinks companies either avoid change because it costs money, or they dance around the buzzword of innovation without delivering something substantial; which ultimately costs them money. Either way, it's a losing proposition.
"Another reason for innovation failure is that people get distracted by theory. These days there's a much deeper penetration of innovation theory within business, and a dangerous level of management gobbledygook and voodoo.
"I'm sure we've all sat in meetings and played 'buzzword bingo.' Buried in there are some things which are actually quite useful, but the problem is a disconnect between theory and practice.
We've all heard of design thinking but there's a gap between thinking and actually getting to it and then getting it down the line. Getting it done falls outside the remit of the theorists."
Powell advises focusing on the relationship between the product and the consumer.
"Touch points are so important. Consumer interactions with the brand tell them something about the brand. The physicality of your product actually says everything about your product.
"If your products give a bad experience, then people think badly of your business. It's that simple.
"In terms of how you get the brains of your people to go further into the future, you do that by talking to early adopters of technology. That's a great way to move forward. You talk a lot to experts, who know about specific things. You focus on small things, like interactions, and you pursue that direction into the future.
"[Then] you pull back, and you pull all of these individual strands together, and put together a bigger picture: a vision of what that future might be like."
Victoria Loomes, senior trends analyst at Trendwatching also suggests keeping the consumer's relationship to the product and service under development front and center throughout the innovations process. You have to understand people before you can please them.
"Asking customers what they want doesn't always work so well because sometimes customers don't know what they want. Ford is quoted as saying that if you asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.
"Big Data does have a role to play but it doesn't always understand the nuances of consumer behavior."
But, as consumer expectations change, companies have no choice but to learn to innovate, or be left behind.
Loomes suggests finding a sweet spot between the imagination and basic human nature.
"You have a set of basic human needs that don't change at all: the desire for security, the desire for community, the desire for communication. These aren't going to go anywhere.
"Innovation taps into these needs in new ways. When innovations work, they create new customer expectations.
"People expect these new things from a brand and businesses, based on how other brands are changing and innovating in the market.
"The thing to keep in mind about expectations is that they spread. People take the expectations that are cultivated in one industry and bring it into every interaction that they have with a brand, in any industry.
"You are always being compared with the best-in-class drivers of change; maybe it's Apple or Netflix or Spotify. People bring their understanding of these brands and apply it to your brand. Those expectations make it all the way to your door.
"The sweet spot is if you merge those basic needs with the drivers of change, and understand the expectation gaps those drivers of change are creating. That's where you can really understand what customers expect from your brands and your service, and how you can surpass those expectations."
Another mistake companies make is thinking that they need to tackle innovation all on their own, when outside experts can speed up the process.
Representatives from Silicon Valley start-up accelerator Plug and Play and Carlson Wagonlit Travel explained the benefits of their collaboration.
Plug and Play is itself an example of an innovation which grew out of identifying, filling and profiting from an expectations gap.
The firm started with a need to lease spare real estate, and stumbled into the idea of becoming a collaborative work center for startups. Plug and Play's founders also wanted to speculate in the start-up market, but with security.
They developed a start-up matchmaker business model, with rooms attached. The firm brings together promising startups with companies that could benefit from their technologies, and invests in those startups who fill a niche and can deliver a viable solution.
As, Amir Amidi, managing partner, travel and hospitality center of innovation at Plug and Play, explains, the firm saw room for growth in the travel industry.
"We looked at the airline industry, the GDS, rental car companies, cruise lines, and realized that innovation has had minimal impact across the industry as a whole."
Paul Taylor, senior director strategy and new product development, Carlson Wagonlit, says that working with Plug and Play is part of the company's strategy to speed up innovation by working with third parties.
"We decided that we didn't want to develop everything. This gives us the opportunity to look at several thousands of startups and focus on the right ones for us. We talk about vision, but we bring that down to the strategy level.
"As a company we tend to work with several accelerators. Plug and Play gives us a great opportunity to look at the needs in the system, and identify the right startups to fill those gaps.
"I think the key advantage is speed to market. Often, when we do things internally it tends to take time. We can find startups—very small ones—which fill a technology need that we have. We can bring in more and more technology, and very quickly."
Latest graduates of the Travelport Labs Accelerator take to the stage for Demo Day
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