In-House Innovation Capability and Empathy – it’s closer than you think

Creating Value through Innovation

So often, people think innovation only applies to products, but there’s a lot of other things that you can innovate. Research from Doblin shows us that other types of innovations are often a better return on investment measured as value creation. This includes such things as new business models, customer experience and processes. There are many ways of creating value through newness or modifying the existing within your business and day-to-day activities.

Design Led Innovation and the Customer Conversation

One area that we don’t often think about is the sales conversation. How could that be done differently and lead to greater understanding of the customer experience?

Design Led Innovation is a process that includes the use of tools to build skills around empathy, observation and a human centred perspective. By using some of these tools you can help your sales team to prototype and have different and valuable conversations with their customer. And it’s a great feedback circle too, by giving them the tools to understand the customer a little bit more deeply they are also equipped to observe more and gather deep insights into the people that they’re talking to every day.  The rest of company can use this information. So essentially you’ve got that deep customer insight mechanism happening day to day potentially leading to new product and service innovation.

It’s certainly worthwhile thinking about your sales team, those people that are on the front line, and how you can help them to look at the customer in a different way, help them to ask different questions, observe and gather information that drives innovation.

Supporting from the top

Expand the sales role to include updating the organisation on the needs they see every day – encourage the use of various tools to visualize the problems they uncover that need to be solved and differentiate your organisation.

Allow the team time to observe and learn from customers with empathy – perhaps adjust your team’s KPIs to encourage regular updates about customer problems, rather than focusing on the number of calls made per day

Allocate a central place in the organisation where the sales team can leave images, diagrams, stories and narratives, videos, audio files of the rich information and observations they are exposed to everyday.

The Impact

This approach has a wide spectrum of impact.

More engaged customers – through greater understanding of their needs – conversations with more meaning and focus.

Increased employee engagement – the sales person, the people talking to the customers, will feel more personal and professional value, an essential part of a healthy business culture. They interact with the rest of company with real life information on the customer.

Thirdly, great insights for the rest of the organisation to ponder reflect and all to use to generate future innovations based on deep customer insights and the creation of value.

Spend time training your sales team and building capability in Design Led Innovation. Create and support, from the top, ways to share this knowledge throughout the company as a catalyst to innovation.

Combining this new type of sales engagement with a day-to-day, design-led innovation culture – that’s a recipe for quick and sustainable success.

Jane Cockburn has experience in the healthcare industry in a range of roles and different company structures. This has included healthcare providers and start-up companies, SME and large global corporations including Kodak, Johnson and Johnson Medical and Cochlear. Jane focuses on building design-thinking capability within organisations – coaching and training them on the use of tools to reframe problems and strategic questions, identify opportunities and embed innovation practices throughout.


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