Achievable innovation - a small steps approach to improving services.

The need for innovation is more urgent now than ever. Yet the appetite for change is at a very low ebb. Why is this?

Those of us in working at the nexus of digital strategy/innovation/service design find it hard to accept that maintaining systems that deliver poor value and substandard experience for all that use them should prevail. We see opportunity in change. We see a better way where service providers and users both gain from the value they create together. But mention service innovation or user experience in most board rooms, marketing departments and brand communications teams and you'll probably get a slightly bemused look.

Despite this, many conversations we have had with businesses and public organisations in recent months centre around doing more for less. It is clear that prolonged under investment and a squeeze on spending is driving many businesses into a make do and mend way of working. This cannot be sustained over the medium term, and most know it.

These dynamics present a frustrating reality. There is a clear need for service innovation in the market and a willing, talented network of design thinkers ready to help. And yet the supply side and the demand side seem unable to find each other.

People are hard wired for consistency

Radical innovation is taking place, mostly at the margins, and gently creeping into the mainstream. Social innovation and web based services are leading the way. But for existing and established businesses and brands, radical innovation, be it in service design, business technology or communication, is hard to do. It takes effort. It is made harder by the fact that people, by and large, don't like change. And if the people aren't with you, disproportionate responsibility for driving change falls on just a few.

To make this a less onerous prospect, we have focused more recent conversations on achievable innovation. This makes it easier on teams who are under a lot of pressure to really do more with less and not be paralysed by the true scale of change required.

'The only thing harder than starting something new, is stopping something old' - Russell Ackoff

Change - in bite size chunks

Achievable innovation is a small steps approach that enables people to make smaller changes that lead to new understanding. The comfort and confidence gained from this approach leads, in turn, to a readiness to tackle the next issue in another small step. Seeing value being created in manageable phases provides assurance and a transfer of knowledge that enables them to do more for themselves.

This may seem very Big Society. Whatever your view on that might be, some of it's tenets do seem to create the space for social innovators, digital mavericks and service designers to be heard. Public and corporate sector businesses would do well to tune in to what's being achieved by this burgeoning community of change agents. Some feel there is only a 6 month window for real change to begin. Beyond which the window will close, business as usual will limp on and the opportunity will have been missed.

Despite this urgent need, many leaders are retrenching rather than engaging. They are choosing to persevere with broken, outmoded and inappropriate systems and processes in the hope that they can hang on long enough to reach a point where investing in innovation seems like a good idea. The thing is, customers and staff don't stand still, so by the time that day comes, it is likely too be to late.