Customer-centric innovation and digital transformation

For the past 25 years I have had the privilege and honor of managing and advising at the intersection of destructive technology, digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I’ve done this both at new ventures in major global Fortune 100 companies and at smaller, more entrepreneurial Silicon Valley startups. Throughout this experience, I have developed unique ideas and insights on how companies can adopt new disruptive technologies to transform their business to improve operational efficiency, provide exceptional experiences for customers and, most importantly, create new business models to drive growth.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there really isn’t a single scenario why a company would want to adopt new technology. Different companies are beginning their path of digital transformation at different stages of maturity. Some had no experience with new technologies, others may have experimented with small pilot projects to prove certain business cases, and still others, usually the most complex, were able to fully adopt new technologies to really change the way we do business. and create new business models and new revenue streams that would otherwise be impossible.

Successful innovation and digital transformation are truly journeys and unique to every campaign challenges and opportunities. Although there is no template for encouraging innovation and creativity in the workplace, I felt that the following guidelines could be helpful in developing a culture more open to innovation and creativity.

• Make innovation fun. Create a safe and fun environment where people with different experiences and perspectives can come together, have fun and come up with transformative ideas. For example, every quarter you can hold a Shark Tank-style meeting where people go to different groups to express an idea and come back to present an innovative idea they have developed. It’s a fun team-building event that gives teams the opportunity to think outside the box, present and compete in innovative ways.

• Make innovation a part of your daily life. Sometimes I think companies mistakenly think that innovation is a big magic thing that separates them from their day-to-day operations. Experience has taught me that this is the furthest from the truth. Time and time again I have witnessed how people come up with different creative and innovative ideas when trying to solve everyday problems or when a crisis arises.

• Bring together people with different backgrounds and views. To truly foster innovation and creativity, bring together people from different backgrounds, with different perspectives, perspectives and experiences. For example, mix people who come not only from business, but also with engineering experience and creative advertising. Mix people who come from startups and from new businesses in large companies, including in different fields such as hardware, software and services. If you can mix people from different disciplines, you will be able to form and use what I call “value networks” in which the interconnectedness and interdependence between different network members can evolve and benefit the network as a whole, not just individual members. This is when you realize that the whole is more than the sum of the parts

In addition to creating an environment that fosters innovation and creativity, I have found that there are also factors that distinguish companies that succeed in their digital transformation. Here are additional guidelines that can be useful for the digital transformation of your company:

• Promote customer-centric transformation. Companies that succeed in transformation usually start with what they really understand the needs of dissatisfied customers. They then work back on creating solutions that they can uniquely present to address these unmet customer needs. Unfortunately, some companies are missing out on this simple concept, and many are starting to innovate or create new technologies without truly understanding customer needs. The first practical piece of advice I could give to someone is to go to the market and talk to their customers about unmet needs in their areas. Only if you can truly understand the needs of dissatisfied customers will you be able to create significant innovation.

• Make transformation a part of your company’s culture. Digital transformation is not just about technological transformation. More importantly, it is a cultural transformation that requires a company to transform its thinking, musculature, processes, and way of doing business. Digital transformation requires the destruction of the closed mode to enable cross-functional teams across the company to use the same datasets for better customer service and the introduction of new business models.

• Radically change the way you do business. Finally, transformation requires the company to create a culture that allows people to experiment, fail quickly, learn and be agile.

Digital transformation is a journey. This is not the only and done activity. To succeed, companies must create the right mindset, culture and muscles to be able to realize all the benefits of digital transformation – not only for business but also for their customers and, most importantly, for society.


Sonita Lonto is an award-winning executive and independent board of directors on the Fortune 100 list.

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