7 ways to fail in service innovation

Common pitfalls to avoid

In our work with service innovation, we often encounter the same problem: Excellent and necessary innovation projects that are going to waste in a desk drawer or a Dropbox folder. What will be left from it is only a memory of good intentions. Despite user insight work, development, and engagement, many innovations never get implemented. Why is that?

In this article, I’ll bring up some of the most common pitfalls you should avoid when it comes to service innovation. Successful implementation of an innovation project could be the difference between life and death for your business.

1: Believing you already have the answer

Once in a while, we start new processes with clients who already seem to hold the answer to their problem. Thus, they find it unnecessary to budget for the first phases of user insight and involvement of other stakeholders. But this is rarely the case. By excluding the users of the solution you’re trying to create, you run the risk of spending a lot of time and resources to build something that neither meets the users’ needs nor fits the ecosystem of services and touchpoints.

Assuming you know what the problem is and that you already have the answer for it is a big mistake. It may end up costing you both wasted resources and lost credibility within the organisation.

2: Stopping after the insight phase

The insight phase in a service design project is only one part of the process. It’s an essential part, no doubt. However, without the process of development, which should follow, its value is limited. One of the most valuable abilities of a designer is to transform insights into action and innovation. Despite this, many clients exclude the service designers from the project once the insights are mapped out and communicated. It's like having construction workers tear down the walls of your house to renovate, but not building new ones. The result can be draughty, to say the least…

Insights are a vital foundation for innovation - but it doesn't stop there. Moving forward requires development, as not to leave the users hanging in the air, left without a solution to their problem.

3: Ignoring implementation

The most successful projects that we do are those that are thoroughly anchored, from top to bottom. The whole organisation is then motivated to do what is necessary to implement the change that innovation requires. Innovating is not done by waving a magic wand. Most often, it requires changes in several or all parts of the organisation, as well as changes in both work processes and culture. That’s why it’s vital to involve people internally who have the drive to motivate others to join the movement. You cannot skip this stage – implementation requires ownership, training, involvement, and engagement. Someone needs to carry the flag of the new culture until it has become the norm.

If implementation is not intended from the start, or the mandate of your team is non-existent, you will not succeed with your innovation.
Åshild Drønen Herdlevær, Senior Designer, EGGS Design

4: Departmentalized thinking

Rarely, service innovation is independent of the ecosystem around it. So, you need to zoom out from your silo. It’s essential to identify what your department’s role is in relation to others. Also, consider what effects the changes may have on other stakeholders and prepare for changes or actions they may have to take. On some occasions, we encounter departments claiming that a part of the user journey is not their responsibility because "it’s with another department", or "because it's not part of their business unit’s budget."

Departmentalized thinking is a common issue in many organisations. But it's detrimental to innovation as it stops the necessary cooperation and co-creation that is needed to succeed.

If these are situations you can relate to, it can be a good idea to reflect together around the goal and purpose of the organisation and its services. What do you want your customers and users to experience? A company that has a clearly defined optimal user experience that is guiding their internal structure and work, is better prepared for change, than organisations doing the opposite: Allowing their internal processes to dictate the user experience.

5: Not aligning vision with KPIs

If your company believes that amazing user experience should guide your work - great! However, you won’t get far if the employees’ KPIs are not aligned with this vision. A sales consultant won’t be able to secure a positive user experience if her only KPI is sales volume. A better alternative could be measuring clients’ feedback and response. Aligning the KPIs with the intended user experience is a way for management to indicate that this is important for the business.

Employees need to have clear KPIs to strive for. These also need to be aligned with the company's vision - if not, they won't do the job of motivating the employee to work toward the common goal.
Goals and incentives for employees must be connected to the overall vision of the organisation or service.
Åshild Drønen Herdlevær, Senior Designer, EGGS Design

6: To finish

The project is implemented and measured? Awesome! But don’t stop now. Service innovation takes time. Actually, it never ends. Needs and expectations change constantly, and so does technology. For this reason, services also need to innovate continuously. It does take time and energy. However, building a culture of co-creation and continuous evaluation, where suggestions for change are always welcomed no matter where they come from, is one of the smartest things you can do.

You don't "finish" innovating. It's a continuous process that by definition is endless. Good services are constantly updated and upgraded.

7: Not taking the chance

This may be a cliché, but the biggest mistake of them all is indeed to stagnate. No matter if we’re calling it service design, service innovation, design thinking, UX design, or lean - the absolute most crucial thing is to believe that change can be good, trust the process and just do it.

I am curious about your take on service innovation. Drop me an e-mail!

Sounds interesting?

Åshild Drønen Herdlevær

Let's talk to Senior Designer
Åshild Drønen Herdlevær
+47 926 83 698

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