Three must-ask innovation questions for business

Modern corporate innovation is about delivering new and unique solutions people love, improving customer lives and creating lasting value. It's about applying new ideas and technology to increase quality, value, wealth and standards for customers.

It can take many forms: a new service or product development or a reinvented business processes.

" With more than 1.5 million apps on the App Store today, people expect a lot from mobile – and when a device is their hands, it's very personal."
Peter Dalton, General Manager Digital Solutions, Global Wealth & Group General Manager Innovation at ANZ

But while innovation can be a brand new idea or technology, it is often just as likely to be an incremental change or existing technology applied in a new way.

Innovation builds on ways to use existing products or services, to change how people interact, or to increase productivity. And it is the key to sustained high performance and competitiveness for all organisations.

For an innovation process to be successful, it needs to be highly disciplined. This begins with a clear focus on two things – what customers really need and a company's strategic priorities. Once this is in place, any proposed innovation or idea can be approached in the same manner.

At ANZ we start by asking three very important questions:

  • Will customers really love it and use it?
  • Will it make money or save money? (Businesses need to be sustainable, so if you're not reducing costs or delivering solutions customers value enough to pay for, why are you here?)
  • Is it feasible? Does the technology, regulation and capability mean you can actually deliver it, either yourself or with partners?

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If the idea or innovation gets a yes to these three questions, then it makes it to the shortlist. If you get a no to any questions then the answer is to drop it right then and there.


From the shortlist, filter down to the ideas most exciting to your business. Just because you can do it (or someone else is doing it) doesn't mean you should pursue every idea. No business has enough resources to pursue every idea at the same time. It's often beneficial to let ideas incubate and pick up again when the timing is right.

At ANZ we prototype ideas from an early stage. Firstly very rough on paper, which we discuss with customers. We run them through the main points of the concept, finding out what they like and dislike. A lot of work goes into the idea before we even actually test the solution with anyone.

You have to choose which ideas to progress and find the courage to 'fail fast' when you know it's not working. As a leader ask yourself: do you believe in the idea? We're all customers. If it doesn't pass, if you're not passionate about it, then it won't get very far.

Once you have chosen an innovative idea to pursue – that's when the hard work starts!

We set design principles on innovations and do a lot of research. Rather than a lot of marketing messages and stock pictures of the bank, we want customer content, banking and investments to be the 'hero', to push the bank to the background and only be there when customers need assistance or want to do things.

These design principles can help refine concepts to keep clutter out and hide things customers don't need to see. Ironically, a lot of work can go in to keeping complexity out of an app. Maintaining simplicity is often critical to innovative success.

Every single iteration of an idea should come with a set of questions. Why are we doing it that way? Can we do it simpler? This is a challenge for traditional marketers and others because while brand and experience are privileged, as a user you just want it to disappear. When looking at banking, I just want to see my content. It's similar with a lot of other apps.


It's true mobile applications are a highly active area for innovation. With more than 1.5 million apps on the App Store today, people expect a lot from mobile – and when a device is in their hands, it's very personal. Keeping things simple is really tough.

Sometimes people ask me 'is it all just about apps now?' The answer is no. The pendulum has swung, maybe too far. Once upon a time we asked why anyone would want to bank on their phone. In some instances you can see businesses have, rather than thinking through the right solution, simply said “we need to do this on a phone or tablet or in digital".

I think Apple have captured people's imagination so much that some companies immediately jump to that solution. But innovation is not just all about apps.

There's a lot of other ways you can express innovation. It's about great solutions that are valuable to customers really easy to use and create lasting value.

Peter Dalton is General Manager Digital Solutions, Global Wealth & Group General Manager Innovation at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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