Workshop group

Recognizing Adjacent Possibilities for Digital Innovation

James McQuivey led a thought-provoking, interactive workshop on the second day of Delight2014. Earlier in the day we’d heard from James that digital disruptors are better, stronger, and faster (yes, just like the 6 Million Dollar Man!) because they:

  • Build better product experiences
  • Create stronger customer relationships
  • Bring it all to market faster

James’ premise of successful disruption stems from the notion of starting with the customer and determining what they want next. Not what they will want in 5 years, but what they want next, whether that’s tomorrow, next quarter, or really even right now.

Do not build the future… Instead build the next thing that people really want and the future will find you.

Adjacent possibilities slide

Examples of Adjacent Possibilities

Kicking off the afternoon workshop, James shared a couple of case studies that illustrate the power of “the adjacent possible”: joining the customer in determining the next adjacent step by focusing on where the customer is now, and what they would want next. This strategy speaks directly to the speed by which a desired or needed product or experience can be brought to market. Remember: better, stronger, faster.

Example 1: Disney

Disney’s first major success in the world of mobile apps didn’t feature one of the scores of well-known, money-making Disney characters, living in its own storyline adapted to offer a gaming experience.

The starring role of this new Disney app in 2011 went to the science of physics.

“Angry Birds,” by Rovio, had been extremely successful for over a year, and the game’s physics was one of the keys to its popularity. So, looking at where the customer was at that point, how did Disney innovate on adjacent possibilities and capitalize on the unique and addictive game interaction of “Angry Birds?”

By designing their new game around the physics of fluid dynamics.

Physics was the star (supported by a brand new Disney alligator character) premiering in the “Where’s My Water?” app, which was an instant hit, rivaling Angry Birds for a short time after its release. By observing where its audience was, Disney accurately predicted where they’d want to be next.

Example 2: Jawbone

Jawbone was James’ second example of the “adjacent possibility” approach. Originally releasing a consumer line of Bluetooth headsets for mobile phones, Jawbone was seen in that niche for years. Smartly, Jawbone determined what else the mobile customer might want, and went to market with JamBox, a Bluetooth speaker. At that point they turned the corner from a headset manufacturer to a mobile lifestyle brand.

Since then, Jawbone has launched ancillary add-on software and accessories, including the hysterical JamChain, a plastic chain to carry your JamBox, “ready to be slung around your neck like Flava Flav’s clock” (best part: it’s free to JamBox owners – yep, that’s a little delight right there.) More seriously, they’ve also brought to market “what next” products for the mobile lifestyle, including the UP health-focused wristband wearable, and as of last month, the standalone UP app for smartphones.

Breakouts Brought Creative Collaboration

James then walked us through an innovation process in preparation for our team breakouts. The four-step process helps participants to define a product, service, or process that addresses a specific point in your customer’s experience. Forrester’s “CBSP” innovation process consists of the following four steps:

Step 1: Consumers Define and understand the consumer, and where they are today.

Step 2: Benefits Determine the benefits to the consumer by aiming to give people what they want next.

Step 3: Strategy Specify the strategic outcome to your company by defining you goals, i.e. revenue, marketshare, engagement, loyalty, etc .

Step 4: Product Propose a product experience to deliver the right (next) benefits to the right consumers.

Each table in the workshop went through the process after identifying the scenario we planned to address as a team. After an hour or so of collaboration using the CBSP innovation process, we shared our ideas with the rest of the group. It was interesting to see folks in the room tackling specific customer experience pain points in healthcare, banking, and eCommerce journeys. The product/experience ideas varied in industry as well as scope: some were relatively simple customer touchpoints that would strengthen the relationship with the brand, while others were full-on, start-up ideas.

Stuck? Think of Your Consumer’s Core Needs

When going through the CBSP innovation process, James noted that if you get into a situation where you don’t know where to go next, think back to our core needs as humans. As he explained with this chart below, needs are expressed consciously or subconsciously, and each of these expressions can prepare us for threats or opportunities.

anticipating needs chart

Like Genevieve Bell’s talk around  “Being Human in a Digital World,” James session emphasized the opportunities to innovate by understanding our customers better. By effectively leveraging adjacent possibilities and customer motivations, organizations can harness their own disruptive potential in any industry.