Innovation is dead; long live innovation


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Presented at NFPtweetup 19: Innovation in income generation, by Anna Kuriakose, Chief Product Officer, JustGiving

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  • Good evening everyone.Thank you for the chance to speak to you. I have only been with JG for 8 months, and have never worked in the NFP sector before that. I am learning as fast I can, and admittedly, the charity sector is a lot more complex than it looks from the outside. This means that most days I come across something new that I need to learn. This is my first #nfptweetup. I was intrigued by the topic for today – “innovation in income generation” Rather than trying to talk about income generation – an are that many of you have worked in for longer than I have – I thought I will focus on the innovation side of the topic.
  • Obviously, the ‘innovation is dead’ statement is as much about attention grabbing as anything else! It doesn’t mean innovation is not needed or that we will never ever see something innovative again!A traditional approach of stage-managed and deliberate innovation has given way to something new. This is more about constant discovery and the coming together of people, ideas and conversations. I am sure all of you have heard words like ‘lean startup’ and Agile and Customder Development. Moreover, many of would actually be practicing these. A lot of people tend to dismiss these as ‘hype’ – and they couldn’t be more wrong. I believe that these are ways of describing & creating the new forms of innovation...
  • I am obviously riffing on the words of Harry Truman here: who said “you can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not care who gets the credit” I believe we can borrow that to the context of innovation well - no great innovation can be born in a culture of credit-games.
  • If it is one person’s duty to innovate, would that absolve others of the responsibility? So, what if you are an innovation manager? We don’t have to rush to re-title you!If you can meaningfully bring people, ideas and conversations together – you will be sparking more innovation than ever. You are fulfilling your role meaningfully. In a way, be proud of the ideas you come up with; but be prouder of the conversations it generated. A lot of the buzz around Agile the development methodology stems from its ability to help co-creation and thus counter credit-game cultures.
  • When you are a 13 yr-old company, there is an expectation to set up innovation as a separate stream. We resist it. It is shared. We also take great care in removing barriers to shared innovation. This means that we have to have an environment where no one person can obsess about taking credit for innovation. Just to illustrate the points: I am the CPO at JustGiving and we also have a CIO - Richard. Product development, as an activity, is the coming together of product managers, UX designers, Visual designers, Developers, Testers etc. Some of these teams sit with me while others sit with Richard. We have very little room to be possessive about who reports to who! The CIO once beautifully described it better than I could – “I own the tech team & resources; and Anna decides what to do with them”. Just to add in more room for innovation – we have a CTO, who works on our architectural principles, and a Head of data analytics who puts our data to good use! There is no room for individual credit taking or empire building in this scenario. And that is how we like it. Another example is our team of product managers. Like with any team of 5 PMs working together, they have areas of the each owns. In a lot of organisations, this would normally mean that they will studiously keep out each other’s areas – to avoid stepping on any toes. A few months ago, we started to meld and mashup the workstreams of the product managers. We believe we got some great new ideas and opportunities for innovation by doing so. One of the product managers described it well - he said “forget about keeping out; we are walking all over each other’s areas now, and no one seems to mind” Just to touch on the point of Agile and agile: Agile – big caps – and agile – small caps – are both important. One is the ability to co-create as a team without credit-games. The other is the ability to make room for genuine creativity – by not being locked into a rigid path to follow.
  • Purpose with a big P and purposes with a small P!
  • Atweetup without a # would be a bit pointless. Similarly, don’t set out to innovate. Set out to solve a problem. Again, going back to the point about how movements like Lean Startup are not just hype:- I believe lean startup is ground-breaking because it helps the relentless focus on purpose. When a team focuses on validating a hypothesis or iterate constantly – teams are driven to seek genuine purpose. Also, by avoiding vanity metrics – designed to make people look good – teams have to centre themselves on the real purpose, and learn to measure that.
  • We try to practice this constantly at JustGiving. Knowing why you want to do something is very important. Let me take the example of our recently launched one touch donation process. Over the last 2-3 years, we have been obsessively tracking the growth of mobile – both as a consumer trend and among JG users. We knew that sometime this year, our mobile to desktop traffic will cross-over, i.e. the proportion of visits from a mobile device would be higher than desktop on a given day. We knew that many thousands of charities we work with will not be able to invest resources into building mobile tools. So, we knew we had to be ready when this happened. Similarly, we also wanted to make sure that users had a very easy journey through donation – whether they are on mobile or the desktop. This would help reduce drop-offs from the donation path and help our charities raise awesome amounts of money. Once we knew our purposes, it gave us very clear ideas about how to innovate. It was clear that the best way to hit these goals was to adopt true ‘mobile first’ design. Work out what is important for the user when visiting us on a mobile, and work backwards to fit it to the desktop experience. And it is no surprise that the experience on both mobile and desktop ends up much better – and we gave our users a great experience. We are currently measuring the impact and it looks like we have really dialled up conversion in the donation path as well. If you haven’t used our mobile donation flow – let me suggest that you should! I am sure you all know which charities you want to donate to! Please let us know any comments you have.
  • Innovation is dead; long live innovation

    1. 1. Innovation is dead; long live innovation #nfptweetup 19 11 July 2013 Anna Kuriakose CPO, JustGiving @annanthem
    2. 2. Innovation is dead?... (Mostly in relation to „consumer web‟ products) More accurate to say - the „old kind of innovation‟ has been overtaken by events It has now mutated into a way & philosophy of building great products – „lean‟ / „Agile‟ / „CustDev‟ are all ways of describing this new innovation – Resist the temptation to dismiss these as hype! Quite apart from the merits of these approaches, are we able to see common patterns of the „new innovation‟?
    3. 3. Innovation is (often) born when no one obsesses about who is getting the credit #1
    4. 4. #1: detail Innovation manager? Head of innovation? Department of innovation? Be the catalyst; not the controller Lead co-creation Organising for co-creation is important. “Agile” as a way of product development, and „agile‟ as a philosophy, both help co-creation
    5. 5. @JustGiving : The responsibility of innovation is shared. We take great pleasure in systematically taking down any barriers to co-creation that we find. Two examples: The leadership team Product managers We organise and work in Agile teams. And we try to be agile.
    6. 6. Innovation thrives when it is driven by Purpose/purpose #2
    7. 7. #2: detail Innovation for innovation‟s sake is like a tweetup without a hashtag. Always seek the Purpose and purposes... A reason why „lean startup‟ is considered revolutionary is its great focus on Purpose and purposes: Its Principles of „validating a hypothesis‟ / iterating (the build, test, measure loop) / avoidance of vanity metrics – all help achieve this.
    8. 8. @JustGiving : We work out the „why‟ of everything. Then, obsessively measure, and measure again. We constantly try to improve our metrics – the more we measure, the more there is to do; The more we do, the more there is to measure! An example: The mobile opportunity and the one-click donation process Why? Mobile and web traffic crossed over. Value in offering „one touch donate‟ to our users. Check out:
    9. 9. Thank you Anna Kuriakose CPO, JustGiving @annanthem