New and rapidly developing ways of working look set to transform businesses, both big and small. As technology continues to disrupt and advance, businesses must react to these challenges with both speed and agility and adopt the latest thinking and working practices if they are to survive.
Sprints as a concept has gained fast traction in both the UK and US since three partners from Google Ventures published ‘Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days’ last year.
Design sprints enable companies to go from an idea to a launch that’s live in customers’ hands in days and weeks, rather than months. Let’s say you have a business challenge that needs to be addressed. From experience you know that it will take weeks, if not months, to mobilise the business into action. But instead of creating a massive programme and stretching out the work, you launch a proposition in days. You make decisions quickly and within ten days, you move from idea to prototype. From a prototype you find rapid ways to go live and experiment. You learn from real customers, with real data. This saves your business time and unnecessary cost. And it gives much-needed confidence to invest before you scale.
Market Gravity recently worked with Standard Life on 20-day mission-based design sprints which explored ways to increase the retention of one of Standard Life’s customer segments.
Mission culture and mindsets
Alongside the sprint technique, organisations need to pursue a mission, not simply set a scope. They need to adopt a ‘mission culture’, which focuses on empowering people to make decisions and organises people around a business challenge, with a constraint that’s time-boxed.
This group of people takes on the ‘mission mindset’. The mission mindset enables expedited decisions, not long committee-led debates. Culture should be at the heart of any company’s transformational change. It is people who deliver change, not processes.
Mission culture is already driving change and real innovation within the new breed of challenger brands in the financial services market such as Clydesdale Yorkshire Banking Group with their digital banking platform B, which launched earlier this year.
Simply forming working teams is old hat. The new approach for choosing an effective group that will be charged with achieving a mission within a certain timeframe is ‘squad’. They aren’t just a team, they’re a squad whose mission it is to deliver the sprint and build a new proposition, without being distracted by their day-to-day job roles.
Ideally, the squad will be built from a diverse group of people of differing skillsets, genders and diversity. The more diverse the group are, the more likely they are to bring about positive innovation outcomes for the business.
A squad has a high degree of freedom (agility) with the choices they make within the mission. They can make quick decisions and flex the process as much as they need to in order to achieve it and they aren’t constrained by the normal rules of the business.
Customer co-development means involving customers at every stage of the journey when creating new propositions. It’s not enough to just generate one set of customer data at the outset for research and insight purposes. We’ve identified that constant communication and partnership with customers brings better results for businesses in the long run.
It’s about creating the right culture where consumers are at the heart of propositions. The more exposed your customers are to every aspect of the design stage and prototyping, the more likely the project is to succeed when it goes live.
For example, at our company we did this successfully with AA recently when we asked a selection of customers to keep diaries on behalf of their cars throughout the year. This enabled them us to help their team design a new service informed by a steady stream of live customer data related to their vehicles.
Sandboxing is about creating a safe place where you can innovate and create new ideas for your business, without consequences. It gives you the space and environment to create something and experiment. Creating ‘a sandbox environment’ often means physically removing businesses from their office environment or HQ in order to achieve success.
But why sandbox part of your business? Businesses are not always set up to allow for innovation. Or they have the ideas but lack the mindset, speed, skills and environment required to get them out of the door quickly. In addition, there’s an ongoing business to run which can mean there isn’t always internal resource available to work on these types of ideas. That’s where companies like ours come in; we effectively create start-ups within their companies. Sandbox environments that allow us to play, reinvent and reimagine projects.
Sandboxes are becoming increasingly important in the financial sector as it is subject to frequent regulatory changes. Sandboxing creates am environment for financial services firms in which to play and develop their proposition using customer data safely.
Pete Sayburn is co-founder and CEO of Market Gravity.