Innovation is not delivered by a genius working alone in a dimly lit room. Innovation can originate anywhere – and it’s often not a magical unicorn, world-changing idea or one that requires a certain level of genius to create. As we often say at Intuit®, “Innovation is everyone’s job.” An innovative mindset can make a big difference for your clients and customers. Chances are, your business is ready for innovative change that you can achieve with a few quick steps.
At Intuit, we have a unique Design for Delight (D4D) philosophy that prioritizes deep customer empathy and rapid experimentation. Here are the principles behind our D4D philosophy that you can use for your tax practice:
Deep Customer Empathy
Understand your customers’ world as much as possible. Do whatever it takes to see through their eyes and feel through their hearts. Knowing what keeps your customers up at night will enable you to focus on what truly matters most. There are many ways to connect with, and learn from, your customers. Conversations are always a great first step. Taking the time to ask your customers questions about the struggles they are experiencing, problems they are actively trying to solve or the things that “keep them up at night” gives you insight into the areas that matter most to them. The ability to listen and learn takes some practice. Push yourself to let go of what you believe or think you know, and focus on what your customers are telling you.
Go Broad to Narrow
Many of us fall in love with our first idea and will fight to the end for its survival. Greatness never floats on the surface, simply waiting to be scooped up by any random passerby.
When brainstorming, get your initial ideas on paper as fast as possible. I mean every idea you can think of. Grab a team member or two, a stack of sticky notes, pens, and a timer. For seven minutes, write down as many ideas as you can. Keep one idea per sticky note. You will quickly cover the surface in front of you with obvious ideas. Now, inspire yourself: begin to manipulate and evolve these initial ideas.
There is an infinite number of methods to help you stretch your ideas and thinking. One personal favorite is coming up with the worst idea possible to solve a problem. Go to the extreme. As humans, we are well-suited for identifying why things will not work, so start there. It lays a great foundation for an idea where the simple inverse of that “worst idea ever” becomes the best idea you would have never thought of.
With all those sticky notes, you will need to narrow your ideas down to one. I find one of the best ways to narrow is to map out a two-by-two grid and pick one criteria for each axis. The criteria should be important to your decision making, such as “easy vs. difficult” to build. Once each axis is labeled, begin assessing your ideas against the criteria. Your best idea will be in the top right corner.
Rapid Experimentation With Customers
After you narrowed your ideas down to one, find a way to put it in the hands of your customers. The trick here is speed. The faster you receive feedback from your customers, the faster you can grow your idea.
Rapid experimentation is the toughest part of innovation for two main reasons:
- You just invested time and mental energy into an idea, and you naturally want to see it succeed. It is your brainchild, after all. You need to eliminate your personal bias; no idea is sacred.
- Finding ways to put your idea in your customers’ hands quickly takes a lot of creativity and willingness to not have every detail perfect. This is hard! It’s okay to have a few ugly experiences in the beginning.
You need to uncover a way to bring a lightweight version of your idea to life for your customers so that you can learn the good and the bad. You need to create some “thing” that conveys the value, experience and the essence of your idea so your customers can interact with it. Then, measure their reactions and behaviors. Not their words – their actual behaviors and interactions. Measuring behaviors lets you capture your customers’ honest feedback on your idea.
When designing your experiment, make sure to ask your customers for something they value as currency. It can be an email and password to sign up to use your idea, phone number and time commitment, for example. You simply need to measure if your customers are willing to trade something they value in exchange for your idea. This “currency exchange” is a key behavior you need to observe.
Next, make sure to understand why they did, or did not, exchange that currency for your idea. Success isn’t getting 20 customers to sign up for your idea; success is when you identify the one reason why all 20 signed up. This is the insight you will build from as you continue to experiement and scale your idea.
Innovations come in big and small changes. All good innovations improve the experiences we deliver for our customers. At the heart of innovation is solving problems to make life a little easier, a little better and a little more delightful.
Editor’s note: Want to read more about innovation? Find out how four tax pros stay on the cutting edge.