10 benefits of Sprints

You have a business challenge that needs to be addressed quickly. From experience you know that it will take weeks- if not months- to mobilise the business into action. But instead of creating a massive programme and stretching out the work, you launch a proposition in days. You adopt a mission mindset, make decisions quickly and within ten days, you move from idea to prototype. From a prototype you find rapid ways to go live and experiment. You learn from real customers, with real data. This saves your business time and unnecessary cost. And it gives much needed confidence to invest before you scale. What’s more this new way of working starts to change the way you do ‘business-as-usual’ (BAU).

Welcome to the world of sprints, a concept that is gaining traction in both the UK and US since three partners from Google Ventures published, “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days”.

We've been using the sprint technique with some of our clients over the last year and these approaches to business challenges have transformed the way we deliver projects and launch new propositions for our clients. For big businesses, sprints bring together the best of both worlds; the tools and ways of working that digital pioneers such Spotify and Google Ventures apply with the scale and deep domain expertise of big companies.


10 benefits of Sprints:

1. Reduced costs
Small teams working to tight deadlines minimises investment cost. They simplify decision making and are more likely to deliver real impact versus large big project teams that generate lots of process, governance and PowerPoint presentations.

2. Rapid growth
Organising sprints and small teams around growth opportunities as they present themselves allows businesses to quickly go after new opportunities.

3. Improved team morale
Removing hierarchy and empowering people to get things done creates a feeling that they can affect change in their company, despite how big it is.

4. High productivity
Time boxing responses to business challenges simplifies decision making and focuses the team on an outcome, not a process.

5. High energy levels
As team morale improves, adrenalin kicks in and everybody focuses on getting the job done within the timeframe.

6. Less risk
By creating a culture and environment that enables teams to experiment before- and as they scale- ensures that decision making is informed at all stages by real customer data, not hypothesis.

7. Competitive advantage
As business environments become faster and more uncertain, the ability to mobilise teams of talented people to start and deliver projects quickly is critical. This helps organisations become more resilient.

8. Better outcomes from diversity
The most successful sprint teams embrace diversity. Diversity of culture, experience and expertise. This helps them solve modern, complex challenges.

9. Seed cultural change through delivery
Sprint teams are empowered to define their own working practices and make their own decisions, stripping out layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and reporting that can slow progress down.

10. More agility
Being able to pivot quickly to the challenges of our rapidly changing world is vital. Sprints bring talented and diverse people together to solve problems. Once the challenge has been met, they disperse or kick off the next challenge.


Sprints focus on real business challenges- not blue sky thinking- which means that new opportunities and innovations are delivered quickly, refined, validated and tested before they are scaled. We've used sprints to transform ideas into breakthrough propositions at speed whilst unleashing entrepreneurial talent that exists in big companies.

We recently worked with Standard Life on 20-day mission-based sprints which explored ways to increase the retention of one of Standard Life’s customer segments.

Stephen Ingledew from Standard Life said, “We wanted to launch a disruptive solution quickly, but one that would have minimal impact on our core technology systems. By using the sprint method introduced to us and run by the team at Market Gravity, we are able to find one. A small empowered team, or squad as a sprint team is called, was brought together to respond to the challenge we’d set, with a constraint that was time boxed. The result of the experiment was the development of “The Butler”, a new smart chat interface which we were able to get in the hands of a small number of customers, in a real environment with real data before scaling it.”


Get in touch if you'd like to talk about how Sprints can work for you!


NEWS: Exploring AI innovations in finance

A workshop aimed at financial services organisations is taking place in London to help business leaders understand and explore opportunities within artificial intelligence.

The session, ‘AI in finance: exploring innovations in machine learning and automation for financial services’, will be held at Atlantic House, on Wednesday 9th November and will see 15 speakers deliver practical and educational presentations and facilitated discussions.

Expert speakers include Peter Sayburn, co-founder and CEO of proposition design consultancy, Market Gravity, who will deliver a facilitated discussion on robotics for manual process automation. He will lead debates on where the human touch is and isn’t needed, outlining potential cost-savings associated with robotics and how it can improve service quality, accuracy and scalability. He will also consider how it can become an alternative to standardising business processes and facilitate integration among disparate systems.

Peter is an entrepreneur, investor and author who has worked with some of the world’s foremost financial services businesses. He is passionate in the belief that if large companies are to live and grow in the digital age they must create a culture of innovation and embrace new technologies, such as AI, to stay ahead in the competitive marketplace.

Peter says: "Artificial intelligence represents a huge opportunity for the finance sector and it’s important for organisations to get involved and embrace the technology. It can improve the efficiency of their processes, meet consumer demand for speed, personalisation and convenience, and allows businesses to launch innovative new products and services to compete with new challengers and entrants to the financial services sector.

“This event brings together experts to share knowledge, experience and predictions on what’s coming up in the near future for AI and where the market is going. I’m delighted to be presenting alongside leading innovators from the financial services and tech sectors and look forward to some lively discussions.”

Marie Walker, director and co-founder of Event Creation Network, designed and organised the AI in Finance event. She says: “London is a hub of fintech innovation with hundreds of organisations developing exciting new products and services and AI is one of the technologies driving these innovations forward. Research from TABB Group Services highlighted that over two thirds of financial service firms believe AI will become hugely important in the coming years and around 34 per cent of businesses are carrying out proof concepts in the space. The event promises to be informative and compelling, giving attendees practical steps to explore regulatory compliance, customer service, financial forecasting and manual process automation.”

The workshop will feature an impressive line-up of additional speakers including Devika Thapar from IBM Watson, Hamish Leiper from Standard Life, Guillaume Vidal from Walnut Algorithms and Clara Durodie from Cognitive Finance.

The AI in Finance workshop takes place on Wednesday 9th November at Hogan Lovells, Atlantic House, London EC1A 2FG. For a list of sessions and workshops and to book your ticket, visit http://ai-finance.com.

NEWS: Europe’s top innovators celebrated at the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards

Virgin Money, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group, HomeServe Labs
and Close Brothers Retail Finance scoop awards in what has been an extraordinary year of innovation.

Market Gravity has announced the winners of the seventh annual Corporate Entrepreneur Awards – celebrating big business innovation and the individuals and teams behind these exciting new projects, with organisers remarking that 2016 had been “an extraordinary year of big business innovation”.

The proposition design consultancy opened the nominations and voting out to the UK corporate entrepreneur community with shortlisted entries from big businesses in sectors such as fintech and banking, retail, utilities, automotive, media and wider technology.

Virgin Money scooped the award for Innovation Culture for The Mortgage Lab. This award recognises strong innovation culture and leadership from a big business and Virgin Money overhauled its intermediary mortgage proposition, creating a manifesto for its brokers to deliver on a series of commitments and enhance the mortgage experience for intermediaries.

Iain Gibbons and Dan Ilet from Virgin Money collect the Innovation Culture award
Iain Gibbons and Dan Ilet from Virgin Money collect the Innovation Culture award

The award for New Challenger was presented to Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group (CYBG) for the launch of B – a new digital banking app that uses artificial intelligence to help customers manage their finances. With the rise of challenger banks disrupting the financial sector, CYBG demonstrated how an established player can become a challenger, attract a new audience, while still keeping its heritage and loyal customer following.

Laura Davidson, David Judic and Emma Ramsay from CYBG pick up the New Challenger award
Laura Davidson, David Judic and Emma Ramsay from CYBG pick up the New Challenger award

HomeServe Labs, one of the UK’s leading home assistance providers, secured the award for best new product or service with Leakbot – a smart water leak detector that detects leaks in the home using intelligent technology without the need for professional installation. Part of HomeServe, HomeServe Labs is a smart home technology developer that designs products and services which makes consumers’ lives easier, and is currently working on more exiting new products for connected homes.

Kerry Horton, Greg Reed, Mo Mahmood and team collect the award for best New Product or Service for HomeServe Labs Leakbot
Kerry Horton, Greg Reed, Mo Mahmood and team collect the award for best New Product or Service for HomeServe Labs Leakbot

The new business launch award went to Close Brothers Retail Finance, a new business that helps retailers of all sizes to grow through an exceptional new finance offering that allows their customers to easily spread the cost of their purchase over time. It aims to help drive innovation in the retail sector to make retailers of all sizes more competitive and to help them grow and adapt in an increasingly digital world.

Arline Sperryn-Jones, Charlie Gibson, KevinWard, Michael Aydeniz, Nick Harkin, Paul Barclay, Samantha Mc Carthy and Simon Hayter from Close Brothers pick up the best New Business Award
Arline Sperryn-Jones, Charlie Gibson, Kevin Ward, Michael Aydeniz, Nick Harkin, Samantha McCarthy and Simon Hayter from Close Brothers pick up the best New Business Award

Innovation has been the buzzword of 2016 with the launch of hundreds of exciting new products and services from big businesses around the UK. With the rise of the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, omnichannel retail, challenger banks and Pokemon Go, technology is advancing the way businesses and consumers interact, operate, and live their lives.

Robin Scarborough, Partner and Managing Director of Market Gravity in London, says: “These awards recognise game-changing products and services delivered by large organisations. It’s been another impressive year for big business innovation and great to see how they’re using the latest developments in technology in their new ventures and propositions. It’s really exciting to see so many New Challengers coming through and stepping up to the mark, in areas such as fintech, connected homes, and retail.

“The finalists in each category demonstrated creative thinking in response to them identifying a gap in their market to meet their customers’ needs. The level of innovation was so impressive and showed a real commitment to evolving existing business models to better cater to the needs of their customers.”

“Corporate entrepreneurs, or intrapreneurs, are bringing new concepts and ideas to large organisations, injecting a startup mentality, and introducing agile working methods to design and launch new products and services to allow them to maintain a competitive edge. We work alongside some brilliant teams across a range of sectors, helping big companies to create and launch new products and services for commercial growth and it's always great to get together with these innovators at the awards. Our congratulations go to all the winners and their fantastic projects as well as to all the shortlisted companies.”

The award ceremony took place on 20th October at Kings Place, London, and around 200 of the UK’s most creative, disruptive and entrepreneurial business leaders attended the unique event. Checkout the two minute highlights video below!


For more information about the awards - visit the website corporateentrepreneurawards.com


NEWS: Showcasing big business innovation at the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards 2016

Innovation has been the buzzword of 2016 with the launch of hundreds of exciting new products and services from big businesses around the UK. With the rise of the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, omnichannel retail, challenger banks and Pokemon Go, technology is advancing the way businesses and consumers interact, operate, and live their lives. Big businesses are starting to behave in new ways, pushing boundaries even harder to get new propositions launched in market and are challenging the status quo.

To celebrate big business innovation and recognise the individuals and teams behind these exciting new developments, we are preparing for our seventh annual Corporate Entrepreneur Awards. Entries are now open for the awards from multiple sectors including fintech and banking, retail, utilities, automotive and wider technology. Categories include: New Product or Service, New Business Launch, Innovation Culture, and New Challenger.

KLM, Virgin Money, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group, RBS and o2 have already entered and past winners include Dyson, Castrol, Barclaycard, Pearson and LEGO.

The Corporate Entrepreneur Awards recognise ground-breaking ideas and game-changing products and services delivered by large organisations. The standard of big business innovation and new developments in technology is outstanding and often goes unrecognised. It’s really exciting to see New Challengers coming through and stepping up to the mark, in sectors such as fintech, connected homes and cars, and retail.

Corporate entrepreneurs, or intrapreneurs, are bringing new concepts and ideas to large organisations, injecting a startup mentality, adopting agile working methods to design and launch new products and services to allow them to maintain a competitive edge.

The awards event takes place from 6pm on Thursday 20th October at Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, and we will announce and celebrate the winners in each of the four categories. During the evening, around 200 of the Europe's most creative, disruptive and entrepreneurial business leaders will enjoy an informal party offering a great networking opportunity and the chance to learn from other innovation experts as well as see some of the propositions showcased by the nominees.

To enter the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards, or to vote for your favourite nominee, visit corporateentrepreneurawards.com

The deadline for entries is 19th October 2016.

We wish all entrants the very best of luck and we look forward to seeing you there!


Women in Innovation - driving growth through gender diversity

JOIN US: Women in Innovation networking event on Thursday 15th September.

Innovation is a hot topic. Industries are being disrupted, start-ups are eating away at your business model and the average company these days lasts about a third of the lifespan of 50 years ago. Consequently, there is plenty of thinking and advice out there around different methods and approaches to drive innovation; from design-led thinking to co-creation and agile development.

But how important is diversity in driving innovation, and specifically gender diversity? What can women bring to the table and why are they still under-represented in this space? Should companies do more to attract, develop and retain female innovation talent, and if so, how?

We will be exploring and debating these questions at our Women in Innovation networking event on Thursday 15th September, being held in our central London office, from 5-7pm.

During the evening, we will share our research findings on the topic, having interviewed a number of leading women and men working in innovation. This will be followed by a panel debate, facilitated by the writer and entrepreneur Polly Courtney with leading figures from the field of diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation, including:

  • Suzy Levy, Managing Director, The Red Plate
  • Moran Lerner, CEO, Chirp
  • Alison Hands, Director of New Customer Proposition Development, Boots
  • Jo Towers, Director of Strategy & Planning, Payments and Cash Mgmt, HSBC
  • Rakhi Rajani, Global Director, Customer Experience and Design, Travelex
  • Kaisie Rayner, Head of Strategy & Investment Development, Aegon UK

After this, you will have an opportunity to network with colleagues (men and women) from across sectors over nibbles and drinks, as well as explore a jewellery trunk show from Stella & Dot - an inc 500 fastest growing company based out of San Francisco and a social selling venture that creates flexible entrepreneurial opportunities for women.

For more information and to request your place at the event, please contact Heidi O'Leary - heidi.oleary@marketgravity.com

Header courtesy of wocintechchat.com.

NEWS: Market Gravity brings digital disruption to Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank with the launch of B

Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank have teamed up with proposition design consultancy Market Gravity to design and launch a pioneering new smart digital banking service – B.

Market Gravity worked collaboratively with the team at Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank to develop what is believed to be the UK’s first customer-design-driven banking service, specifically for mobile and tablet devices. Launching on 3rd May, the unique B app promises to bring in new users and create long-term value for the bank and its customers with the fastest account opening process in the UK and a host of features designed to enhance customer engagement and retention.

The Banks aim for the new technology to encourage existing customers to make the transition into mobile banking and bring in new younger, and tech-savvy users from other retail banks who will be attracted by the new experience. This investment in disruptive technology represents an opportunity for the Banks to appeal to customers across the UK and increase their reach beyond its traditional heartland.

Designed and developed following customer feedback, and in collaboration with Market Gravity, the B proposition is built around an app, available for free for the first 12 months, then for £2 a month. It features intuitive smart tools to help consumers take control and manage their money much more effectively. As well as allowing users to sweep cash between current and savings accounts and make payments at the touch of a button, B will offer multiple savings pots, tagging and tracking of spending and tailored messages, and hints and tips to help customers. Plus dedicated support is always on hand either at the touch of a button on the app, through the branch network and via a free UK-based dedicated call centre. The new technology brings cost-effective, instant digital and virtual support to customers and allows them to become their own money expert on their own devices - something the bank recognises as greatly appealing to the new tech-savvy generation of banking customers.

B aims to have a broad appeal to encourage new customers looking for a convenient way to bank, remotely, on the go, 24/7. It will be matched within branches with specially designed B branded areas that will support customers in exploring the new functionality B offers.

Peter Sayburn, CEO and founding partner at Market Gravity, says: “We were delighted to work with Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank on the development and launch of the new B platform and it’s exciting to see the concept come to life. It’s great to work with such a forward-thinking team looking to bring innovation and disruption to a traditional sector.

“We are seeing the emergence of new entrants to the sector and it’s great to see an established banking organisation become a New Challenger and bring their offering into the digital age. It’s important for businesses within the banking industry to stay one step ahead and transform themselves into digital banks.

“Today’s consumers want banking options that are built around the lives they lead now; convenient, easy to manage and use technology in an intelligent way to practically help them achieve the things they want in life. New technologies from apps and wearables, to Facebook messenger bots will change the way consumers bank, shop and manage their money. With new legislation, such as the Payment Services Directive 2, we expect to see even more developments in payments and finance as well as more challengers entering the marketplace. Established banks have to develop their products and services to meet the demands of the consumers of today and the future.”

The launch of B represents the first major initiative for the Banks since the company’s IPO in February this year and signals the importance of innovation in the company’s growth strategy. It forms part of the group’s wider omni-channel strategy across the business using digitisation to deliver better, sustainable services for customers.

Helen Page, Customer Experience Director at Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank, says: “We worked in collaboration with Market Gravity to devise a new banking experience for our customers and to disrupt the category. B represents a challenge to other banks and is based around an app that has been extensively tested and trialled - we know it’s what people want.

“As part of our background research, over 10,000 people told us what they wanted from a bank; to take the hassle out of money and make life a bit easier. We listened, learned and took their advice throughout the process to create B - a product designed by customers for customers.”


To find out more about B, visit www.youandb.co.uk.


See what the press are saying about B.

The FT - Clydesdale and Yorkshire develops artificial intelligence app

The Guardian - Bank accounts: to B, or not to B – that is the £2-a-month question

ThisisMONEY.co.uk - Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks take on Atom with launch new app-based challenger bank called... B

Scottish Business News - Market Gravity develops pioneering new app for Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank

Finextra.com - Yorkshire and Clydesdale Bank launch digital challenger bank B

bankingtech.com - UK's CYBG to launch-new-digital-banking-platform

Market Gravity can help you turn an idea into a breakthrough proposition.

Get in touch with Nick Sherrard to find out how.


How to turn on customers to connected homes

Despite the hype about connected homes, the market hasn’t taken off. Yet.

The focus to date has been on the basic, rational features – turning lights on. Turning the heating on. But what’s going to turn the customer on? Deutsche Telekom’s market analysis report, ‘How to create growth from the connected home’, states that connected entertainment, energy, appliance, security and healthcare systems were predicted to surpass 100 million in number worldwide by the end of 2015, and will triple in the next ten years’ time to over 300 million, more than breaking $100 billion in revenue on the way in 2020.

The opportunity is huge. But what’s key to connected homes success? We raised the challenge with industry experts as part of a series of roundtables events. We spoke with consumers. We bent our brains to the problem. And here are our three recommendations for success in the connected homes space.

#1: Solve a real problem in your customer’s life
Pick your target customer, and understand their needs. Customers are emotional about their home: the people, the design and the decoration. Their emotional needs must be addressed. Customers want to know their loved-ones, especially the elderly, are safe. This is a great example of a problem that can be solved with connected technology. And one for which customers are likely to pay a premium. Dolmio’s “Pepper Hacker” campaign aims to help improve interactions during family meal times. The wellbeing and safety of pets, plants, and family are all emotive.

Switching your lights on remotely and saving 10% on energy aren’t emotive. It’s not features or rational benefits that customers will buy into.

Design a simple and intuitive customer experience. Customers want instant gratification, not interference from technology. They want feedback from their devices. Consider how the experience can remove tasks and information. Consider how to ensure that the product or service can demonstrate that it is adding value, and has received a command, in an unobtrusive manner. The Nest thermostat does many of these things well (despite their recent promotional video focusing on saving money – a rational benefit).

Time it well. When designing your proposition, plan how and when a customer will be persuaded to buy your service. Are they more likely to purchase as part of a regular upgrade? When they move home? Or following a key event? Learn from the data you have at your disposal.

#2: Be brave with your business model
Be brave when designing and building your business. The connected homes market is still in its infancy, and the model that has worked in the past will not be that of the future. ADT took a bold step when they de-coupled their home monitoring service from their technical products to create their ADT Canopy subscription service, which supports smart devices that compete with their own.

Use data to drive benefits for your business. One example is to drive out cost through pro-actively identifying and resolving issues before they happen. Provide enhanced value to your customer, through understanding and serving them better. We see insurance companies providing bespoke policies based on customer data, and faster response times. Data will be a critical asset for any connected homes business. We’ll be watching to see how different organisations leverage that data to create unique and compelling business models.

Prepare for the next phase for the connected home, which we believe will be services. The media sector provides a good precedent in services such as Netflix or Spotify, which are product agnostic, and future home services will emerge to weave together the newly smart home devices.

#3: Build partnerships – you can’t do this on your own
Embrace collaboration. Combinations established to address customer needs will be stronger than the sum of their parts. No single organisation will be able to address customer problems in this space on their own. Companies will need to work together. We have seen Nest and Hue being co-promoted around solving customer problems. Audi and DHL have created a joint solution to allow parcels to be delivered to customers’ boots.

Inter-operability of the technology will be key to allow sought after services. Having just one or two common technology standards across the sector will allow different products and services to combine simply and easily. Standards are consolidating. The Allseen Alliance has driven one set of common standards, with Apple and Google driving their own ecosystems.

There are lots of tech savvy consumers who have combined devices to make their lives easier. We’re now ready for mainstream consumers, who will need simple, easy, and seamless solutions before they are persuaded to invest in the new technology. They will be impatient of barriers between products and services. As such collaboration and partnerships between businesses will be critical.

There's exciting opportunity in the connected homes space. The market will continue to transform and grow rapidly. We see the first wave of products such as Sonos, Nest and Roomba being swept forward by a tide of products and services. They’ll need to simplify customers’ lives. And respond to emotional needs. And have the wonderful design needed to embed themselves in our homes.

Do you like this article? Please share or let us know your thoughts on the subject.
If you’d like to chat through challenges you’re facing or understand more about connected homes opportunities, get in touch with me.

You can't innovate without insight

Last week I was at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in San Francisco with some of the Market Gravity team.

Basically it’s a group of innovation officers, consultants and technology firms talking about all things ‘innovation’. I’m not entirely that term means much anymore. Process this, software that, talk of the ‘Uber for …’ and so on. It was pretty similar earlier this year at SXSW too.

Innovation is seen to be done by agile, tech savvy, nimble start ups who design something awesome and make corporates jealous. Well, kinda, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story. Not every start up is innovative, some are cool, some are awesome and life changing but many, and I mean a lot here, will fail.

So it’s weird then that corporate America has decided that the only way to be innovative is to try and act like a start-up. That’s great, have a hackathon, buy a start-up, get a ping pong table and tell your customers in your ads that ‘product x has a pedigree of innovation’ with Woodkid or Bastille as the soundtrack.

And while some of that is cool, and you might get a few quick wins, most of it is crap.

Example Time

Just take a minute to think why we all fall over in love with Uber or Airbnb.

Hailing a taxi in the rain or late at night sucks. Calling a minicab is annoying. Paying in cash or trying to swipe a card in the middle of the street while someone is honking behind is painful. Yellow cabs in NYC (and most other cities for that matter) are pretty grim.

Uber is great because it solves customer needs. It’s now easier to get a taxi to go where I want, for a good price and I don’t physically have to pay at the end. If there is an issue my driver, I can provide feedback and customer service immediately follow up on my issue.

All in all, a magical experience designed for people like me.

One more clichéd example. Chain hotels are boring and standards have slipped. Small hotels are often pretty budget. When I travel I want to stay somewhere cool and get a good idea of the local environment. Likewise, when I travel, it would be cool to offset my rent/mortgage.

Airbnb is great because I can stay in unique accommodation, often cheaper than a hotel and meet new people. Meanwhile I can rent my place out back home. Where else can you book a lighthouse, a treehouse, country home whether in Iceland, Paraguay or Russia all in one place?

How did they get this right? They understood the real customer need!

You (probably) don’t understand the customer

My issue with a lot of companies at the moment is many have never actually spoken to a customer. “Why speak to a customer when we can use surveys?”There’s a cool technology out there so they've decided to use it. Want an example here — see Oculus Rift. “Hey, wouldn't it be cool to do banking on this.”Erm, no, not really.

I read an article on just this yesterday by the wonderful FinTech guru, Liz Lumley — go read it!

If companies are trying to design for the customer then it’s often driven by some highly paid executive speculating what customers want. News flash, if you’re a 35 year veteran banker, engineer or marketer earning a 6 figure salary and a big bonus — you probably don’t understand the mass market, let alone a millennial, young family, single parent, OAP …. whatever. You also probably have a strong opinion that drowns out others in your company closer to these groups. It’s called HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion).

Conveniently, there’s a good book out there

Dan Taylor from Market Gravity has a few good stories on this topic. Conveniently, he just wrote a book (that’s a plug to win brownie points) called The Secrets of Big Business Innovation. Funnily enough — one of those is get out the office, or as the Japanese say Genshi Genbutsu.

I’d also like to point out, getting close to customers doesn't mean you can just run a focus group. You won’t get a deep or honest enough understanding of a customer this way. Focus groups can be a quick and dirty way to test and iterate a concept but not good for primary insight.

On that note, don’t get hung up on the term insight. There’s blogs out there, like thisfrom Fahrenheit 212 founder Mark Payne, it’s long and I don’t really get the point. The short answer is go out there, learn something and take home a ‘so what’.

Just do it.

How do I do this? Well I’m the sort of person who enjoys people watching over coffee. Get out the office and check out your own company, speak to a customer in your branch, on your plane, in your hotel. Check out the competition, call the competition — pretend you’re an MBA student doing research and see what they tell you. Pay someone to experience your brand, make a mini documentary and show it to your team, your boss, your CEO. I guarantee it will have an impact.

Can’t be bothered to get out the office? Too busy? Well if you don’t want to watch your business become obsolete — try VoxPopMe. It’s awesome — you give them a question, they ask their panel, you get video responses recorded on their smartphones within the hour. It’s eye opening.

And whatever you do, don’t go creating a giant PowerPoint deck or Word report of your findings. Make it actionable, share it with the team, let them have their ‘A-ha’ moment.

Interpret the customer

Some might counter this and say “Well customers don’t know what they actually want”. You need to ask yourself if you interpreted them right. When customers in the 90s said they wanted bigger TVs, many took this literally and made ridiculously sized screens. It took piece of real insight to say “hold on, do they want a bigger screen or a better picture?” Say hello to High Definition TV!

You need to interpret the research to get to the right answer. Customers don’t know everything about the latest technology but will certainly point you in the right direction.

Insight doesn't stop there

Once you have understood the customer needs, you’re in prime position to be creative and come up with great ideas that customers might want.

Some ideas will be good, some bad. Got some ideas? Then go test them. Mock up an adcept and test it with customers through VoxPopMe, a web survey or in person with customers. Create a Lean Startup style landing page, tweet it, advertise it on Facebook etc. There is a great story in Dan’s book on how a team made one of these and pretended it was by a competitor to get attention in the boardroom.

You have to stay close to the customer throughout the innovation process — that means constantly testing and iterating. Techniques will vary depending on what you are testing but you can’t design around a survey or a focus group.

And if you’ve done it properly, you won’t end up with banking on an Oculus Rift, Pepsi AM, Google Wave or a newspaper app for Apple Watch.

And if that’s not enough — say hello to Market Gravity. It’s what we do — Discover the true customer need, Design a great customer led proposition and Deliver a fully tested and robust prototype.

Speed - the single most important factor to leverage in innovation

The best innovation comes from the fusion of three disciplines (insight, commerciality and design). While it doesn’t always make life easy, a team of people who bring these different skills can achieve amazing results – but the most important factor to leverage is speed. Here, Pete Sayburn talks to the organisers of the Intrapreneurship Conference, London and explains why innovation is a high paced endeavour and why it will most likely fail if it isn’t.

Pete, you are able to get companies to innovate faster. What is your magic trick?

The key to rapid innovation in big companies is confidence. Introducing new products or entering new markets feels pretty scary, so anything you can do to raise the level of confidence improves your chances of success. At Market Gravity, we do three things to give companies the confidence to launch new propositions:

First is prototyping – to demonstrate what it will be like to use the new product of service, and to show how potential customers react to the idea.

The second way is via the commercial case. The prototype and visualisation will provide the emotional rationale, but you still need to “show me the money!” Consumers in the early stage of innovation are not just valuable for testing; they can provide huge amounts of feedback – if they are engaged in the process.

The third element is engagement; you have to take the key people in the business with you. We keep the team size small, but we involve the managers who will ultimately own the new innovation throughout the design process, building ownership and incorporating their operational knowledge into the launch plan.

Why is it important to innovate faster in the first place?

Speed is the number one weapon in the innovator’s arsenal. It overcomes most of the causes of what we call “innovation death” in big companies. Without speed you risk missing the market opportunity and you can get stuck in that horrible cycle of corporate inertia, appearing at countless investment committees, but always coming away empty handed, promising to return next month with the answers to another round of pointless questions!

So it’s all about staying ahead of the masses?

Exactly! By moving fast, you have a chance to prove the market opportunity before everyone notices, you beat your competitors to the punch, and you learn so much more via iteration and market testing.

In your experience, what makes or breaks success of these innovation efforts?

There are several causes of innovation death in big companies and many are accidental. The single biggest cause in my experience is continuity of ownership. A great innovation is often reliant on a single sponsor or cheerleader and when these people change jobs or leave the company, great ideas are side-lined. Internalizing sponsorship within your company and getting an idea to gain traction fast are thus again highly important to successful intrapreneurial activities.

One success story is BTSport – the media offering from the UK’s largest telecoms company. It took almost 10 years from initial concept to full-scale market impact. But it had a consistent guardian in Gavin Patterson, initially head of the consumer division and now Group CEO. BT is now a credible competitor to Sky in the Pay-TV market.

Some companies try to copy startups and methods startups use to grow. What’s wise and what’s not that wise about that approach?

Big companies can gain a huge amount by adopting a more entrepreneurial mind-set and thinking like a startup. It makes them more customer-driven, with a single-minded and clear purpose. It also values action over strategy, getting into the market and learning from experience, rather than talking too much!

Finally, a focus on cost efficiency and how to make the best use of scarce resources keeps the team focused on what matters most. The other side of this is a risk of isolation. By standing apart from the core business, a new innovation might fail to take advantage of the wonderful assets and resources that a big company can provide.

Market Gravity organizes the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards. If you look to the past winners, what differentiates them from others?

Actually, the answer to that question is simpler than you would expect! It boils down to just one thing; the team. All the successful entries had wonderful team spirit, positive culture and shared enthusiasm to make the project succeed. It takes a huge amount of dedication, resilience, hard work and passion to be an Intrapreneur, so sharing this experience with a group of like-minded people seems to be the key to success.

What's the difference between a corporate entrepreneur and an intrapreneur?

I see the terms as pretty interchangeable – the most important thing is to recognise that there are highly entrepreneurial people in big established companies as well as startups and high-growth ventures. They make a very positive contribution to the world and I am delighted to see their efforts recognised and celebrated. That’s one of the main reasons to go the Intrapreneurship Conference, by the way!

Shouldn’t all employees be intrapreneurial?

There are always better ways of doing things and innovation should be valued in all roles, but I see the role of the Intrapreneur as something different. This is more about doing better things, and doing things better. It involves a level of uncertainty and experimentation than most companies (and their customers for that matter) couldn’t handle in many core business functions.

Big companies are very good at applying a consistent process to a well understood task or challenge at huge scale. The Intrapreneur’s role is to take the company into new areas, less well understood – to be the pioneer.

Why should delegates join your workshop during the conference?

We usually take around 60 days to drive a new idea from concept to prototype within a big company. We use some pretty interesting methods, tools and approaches and we take dozens of people on the journey. But 60 days still feels fast…believe me! In this workshop, we will be taking that journey in 60 minutes! So fasten your seat belts and enjoy the experience…

Find out more and book your tickets to the Intrapreneurship Conference, London.

Innovation in the automotive sector - there's room for more.

Our very first Innovation Insiders Index rated UK big businesses on their effectiveness at innovation, as assessed by industry insiders. It also offered a snapshot of how different industries performed against our six principles of innovation, identifying distinctive sector approaches. Today, we’re taking a look at the automotive industry.

What’s driving automotive today?
The Index indicated that big automotive players are focusing their use of innovation on the pursuit of luxury. For companies like Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls Royce, the top priorities are customer experience and refining their expertise heritage, while they reinvent themselves as global luxury brands.

They’re relying heavily on internally-driven characteristics: in terms of our innovation principles, these are Capabilities and Competitive advantage. They’re successfully leveraging their huge experience and expertise as well as their companies’ scale. But the Index also highlighted the relatively low willingness of this sector to collaborate with other businesses and embrace cross-industry ideas.

What’s facing them on their journey?
Consumers no longer see cars merely as a mode of transport: they expect an entertainment and communication space that supports their busy lifestyles and keeps them connected. At the same time, both our demand for cars and the way we buy them is changing. With increased urban living (60% of us are expected to live in towns by 2030) the vehicle types wanted is evolving, while consumers expect a seamless experience through pre-sale, sale and post-sales via the channel they choose, rather than uniformly queuing up to be served at the showroom.

Challenges and opportunities
We believe that embracing collaboration with the technology sector – an industry that’s more than keeping up with changing trends – could hold the key for automotive. But will this relatively lumbering sector (cars can take years to reach the market) need to adapt its business model to accommodate the rapid and agile style of tech?

Automotive brands must get creative about incorporating tech into vehicles. Offering subscriptions, regular upgrades or in-car streaming systems could help cars keep up with the outside world. And allowing cars to become part of the growing Internet of Things could encourage consumer take-up of such paid services. Plus there’s the telematics factor: collecting and using data from in-car sensors and GPS systems. It’s already starting to take off, with EU regulations requiring new cars to have eCall technology by 2018 (which alerts emergency services to serious accidents) and BMW offering a similar private service. The RAC and some insurers are using telematics to encourage better driving behaviour…and there are plenty more potential applications.

We’ve already mentioned that this sector got low scores for collaboration in the Index: you can see this in how car brands are still developing bespoke systems in isolation, like SYNC, Ford’s communication and entertainment system. By the time such systems get out on the road, they’re already behind the times. And it swims against the current of the tech market, where smartphones are being used as connected displays, for services from home heating to security cameras.

Forming cross-industry partnerships could transform this approach: Apple are already working on a car iOS: Carplay offers seamless music, calls and navigation. Or in a more concrete example of customer service, dealerships could offer added value by teaming up with tech gurus and style consultants to fully integrate your car purchase into your lifestyle and allow you to fulfil all your related needs at one touchpoint.

Our take on automotive
We believe that any move the automotive industry makes towards its high-tech future should be directed at fulfilling consumer needs. And it’s more than likely that car brands will need a co-driver for this journey – most likely a mobile or tech company.

Download the full Index to see more of our commentary on how the automotive industry’s using innovation today. Tell us what you think – how else can automotive brands innovate and meet consumer demands? Join the conversation on Twitter: #innovatebig #6principles