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Digital Transformation

Don’t Think, Do

Successfully executing ideas through action

By Neil Sholay, Vice President of Innovation for Oracle NEXT

Spring 2019

The products and services we’ll love tomorrow will spring from the ideas we imagine today. Well, some of them will. Research by leading business schools tells us that nearly 97% of ideas from corporate innovation labs never see the light of day, often because they don’t actually address a pressing business need.

Many of those insights result from design thinking, a popular framework for cultivating customer-focused innovations. But I prefer a different approach: Instead of design thinking, focus on design doing, which determines how to successfully execute new ideas.

I manage a group of creative thinkers and doers within the Oracle NEXT innovation team, and we applied this concept to a coinnovation project with Meliá, the global hotel chain. We not only brainstormed 23 exciting ideas in a little more than a day, but, more importantly, we also tested and implemented one that is now reducing check-in times and boosting sales, among other business benefits.

Instead of design thinking, focus on design doing, which determines how to successfully execute new ideas.”

Instead of design thinking, focus on design doing, which determines how to successfully execute new ideas."

The COO of Meliá Hotels International, headquartered in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, came to us with an idea: Use wearables to enhance the guest experience. We evolved this connected-experience concept with people from the hotel’s marketing, customer experience, and IT staff. We applied human-centered design principles to focus our discussions on solutions that would directly impact guest experiences. This led us to an exciting concept: Give guests a thin Bluetooth- and NFC-enabled bracelet at check-in that would open their hotel room and charge meals and amenities to their tab. The digital jewelry even works in select retail stores and cafés outside the hotel, but with goods being charged to the guests’ hotel bill, not their credit card.

But as I said earlier, great ideas don’t necessary lead to business success. Over a summer, we tested the devices at a hotel in the Spanish Balearic Islands, and that’s when we realized we were onto something important. The initiative was so successful that it’s now rolling out to other destinations. The project is on track to increase up-selling revenues by 20% as it speeds up check-ins. Just as significantly, the devices are collecting a wealth of data about guest behavior that will guide the enhancement of the guest experience and development of new products and services.

We call our coinnovation method IDEA, for “innovation design engine applied.” That’s shorthand for five steps that take innovation initiatives from framing a challenge or need to ideating solutions, sharing those solutions, and live-testing the idea and scaling it out across the business. We open-source our methodology: Look for details and templates at designingcx.com.

Nearly 97% of ideas from corporate innovation labs never see the light of day, often because they don’t actually address a pressing business need.”

In the meantime, here are three additional considerations for those who have a passion for imagining their tomorrow today.

Don’t isolate innovation. Innovation labs and “skunkworks” aren’t enough—create organizations and teams where people integrate innovation and creative problem-solving into every business activity. Innovation must be intrinsic and instinctive.

Follow a formal innovation process. Innovation can be learned, and a disciplined process such as Oracle NEXT’s methodology will help people generate exciting ideas and bring the best ones to life.

Create a culture of innovation. One of our airline clients ensures this by telling department heads to spend 30% of their budget on projects for developing new business models, products, or services. Those that don’t hit that spending target quota lose a percentage of their bonus, based on how far they are below the quota. That’s definitely changing behavior.

To quote Steve Jobs, “Ideas are worth nothing unless executed”—which is why now’s the time for design doing.

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Photography by John Blythe