Modern Marketing

Planning to innovate in 2024? Here’s what you should be thinking about

  • In a world punctuated by the challenges and opportunities of disruption, every company should be thinking about transformation.
  • Daniel Gomez Seidel, managing director for the New York-based transformation firm, inplural, shares 5 best practices to embrace transformation this year.

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Planning to innovate in 2024? Here’s what you should be thinking about

By Daniel Gomez Seidel, managing director for the New York-based transformation firm, inplural, and former innovation leader at Capital One Bank.

Whether you have been at the helm of a well-funded fintech startup, working inside an established bank, or part of a global conglomerate, you probably have felt that the times we are living in are disruptive, exciting, and perhaps also a bit scary. In this article, I will share 5 tested best practices to help you and your teams overcome analysis paralysis, and embrace innovative transformation in 2024.

We are living through a pivotal time. The new dominant generation, Gen Z’s, are becoming the main consumer’s market. Their lived experience, needs and priorities, exacerbated by the pandemic, are uniquely different and highly confusing. Millennials on the other hand, are entering leadership positions, and being made responsible for “being the change they want to see in the world”. This is, of course, easier said than done. Many struggle to affect change in large organizations beholden to legacy cultures and outdated business processes, while keeping themselves from burning out, or losing their mental health.

Generative AI, and other advancements in technology, are turning up the revolutions in the obsolescence cycle, threatening the lifespan of almost all products, services, processes and even professional occupations at the rate of a software update. Organizations and their leaders are having to grapple with these issues on a daily basis, and at an exponential rate. 

In 2024, the environment is so defined by new constraints and opportunities, that one thing is clear: Every company, and every person, of every industry should be thinking about transformation.

Understandably, this can be an overwhelming and daunting proposition for leaders. It would be easier to sweep the worries under the rug, keep betting on what is working today, and hope that at some point the ferry’s wheel will pause so that all of us can take a break. The bad news is that change won’t wait for you, but the good news is that there can be a process to make sense of the disruptions and get ahead of them, not only surviving, but also leading in 2024 and beyond. 

As an innovation professional, I’ve grappled with change and uncertainty for the last 15 years. Our role is to be guides during seasons of change, sifting through the noise and focusing efforts into affecting the variables that will be most conducive to resilience and continued growth. In 2024, the winds are high and a storm is brewing. To help you on your journey of transformation, here are four tried and tested strategies that will help your organization meet the moment and enter a state of growth for 2024 and beyond. 

Lesson 1: Be vulnerable. 

In a recent project, our team at inplural, the unconventional transformation firm that I manage, was tasked with advising a new CEO to lay out their transformation vision for one the the largest banks in the US. They had been hired because of their impeccable trajectory, successful track record, and leadership charisma. Imagine the pressure.

With that said, the thousands of employees reporting to his organization were reasonably nervous. The bank’s financial markers were on the decline, the macroeconomic context was highly volatile, and the rumors of layoffs echoed throughout the halls. Our advice: Be real, acknowledge the difficulties, and remind people that we are all in this together.

Transformation will only happen if your people are bought in for the journey. The crucial step to begin this process is for leaders to understand, label, and openly talk about the problems that besiege them. It isn’t enough to chart a visionary future, if you don’t acknowledge the present first. People need to feel seen, their anxieties named and accepted, so they may begin marching together from a place of trust. 

Lesson 2: Focus on purpose.

Inplural is the innovation and transformation partner to StrawberryFrog, a company that has been helping organizations discover and activate their purpose for over 25 years. Throughout their tenure, working with dozens of executives across the global stage, our partners have discovered that one of the keys to innovate through seasons of change is to have a clear sense of purpose. In other words, if you ask your employees why they come to work, their honest  answer should be more than “because that’s how I earn my paycheck”

Last year, we did a project for a major digital bank. Their goal was to increase deposits and new account openings in their expansion markets. Their main financial product wasn’t too different from their competitors’ in terms of rates or hard benefits, so they needed a different edge. Speaking to the CEO, we learned that their “secret sauce” was care. They actually cared for their employees and customers and were invested in doing right by them.

Together, we decided to elevate this statement of purpose as the guiding principle for all innovation and transformation efforts. By staying true to “care” the bank redefined its hiring criteria, re-engineered their customer experience practices, re-imagined their digital banking products, and even their brick and mortar retail experience journey. At the end of the day, their customers and employees found a real source of loyalty. Something that shined beyond the functional differentiators, and marketing promises, a real anchor of purpose: a bank that cares. 

As you embrace transformation in 2024, ask yourself: do your customers, employees, and the general public perceive you as having a living, breathing, clear purpose? Are your products and services a demonstration of your stated purpose? If not – this is the place to start. 

Lesson 3: Be pluralistic and diverse

When I worked as an innovation leader for a major US bank, my team’s role was to develop new financial products and services to help the bank increase its market share and service the needs of its customers in ever more sophisticated ways. 

One trademark aspect of our innovation process was to bring in voices to the table that, in today’s dominant culture, are typically left out. When conducting research, we would make sure to talk to intersectional minorities struggling to make ends meet. Learning about the  experience of marginalized groups not only anchored our team in empathy for the underserved, but also opened up new ideas on how to innovate in such a way that we could serve them, as well as the general public. 

Similarly, when holding ideation sessions, we made sure to bring people representing different disciplines, lived realities, and backgrounds. Having an artificial intelligence expert in the same room as a environmental and civil rights activist, a product manager, a branch employee, and a ux designer can result in well-rounded product concepts, reducing the incidence of blind-spots and augmenting the opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas, and conceptual leaps. 

In fact, the guiding principle of inplural is precisely to operate from a place of diversity, infusing every project with a prism of perspectives that will result in never-before seen solutions. 

Lesson 4: Adopt a mindset of experimentation

You’re not always going to get it right, and that’s ok. If reading this sentence causes you discomfort, please read along as I make my case. 

When working as an in-house innovation strategist, one of our assignments was to develop a strategy for entering new regional markets with a suite of digital banking products. The expansion strategy had to be standardized enough that we didn’t have to reinvent it for every new market, but flexible enough to consider the cultural nuance of each new location.

To solve the puzzle, our team devised a series of “learning cycles” or short prototyping sprints where we would test an approach with a sample population from each market, refining and iterating based on the feedback we received. Because we championed an experimentation mindset – each sprint took risks. We tried ideas that were a bit “out there”:  the kind that would get dismissed in a meeting room. Sure enough, in one of these cycles, we landed on an insight that became a central differentiator to our expansion strategy – giving our organization the culturally appropriate edge that we were after. 

Today, experimentation can be streamlined exponentially using artificial intelligence. An “iteration machine”, this technology can help teams come up with infinite variations to an idea, shortening the time between ideation and testing. With that said, if these technological possibilities are not met with a mindset of experimentation, a healthy relationship to failure, and an appetite for creative, culturally nuanced output – the tendency will be to end with something average, safe and mainstream. The latter not being a viable option to thrive in 2024 and beyond. 

In sum, we all need to confront these changing times and grapple with the need for transformation. Leaders in the financial industry will be met with the effects of rapidly shifting cultural, behavioral and technological forces, compelling them to innovate at a pace faster than ever before. To navigate and thrive in this journey, it will be greatly important to be vulnerable, focus on purpose, embrace diversity, and adopt an experimentation mindset.

As stewards to this process, our purpose-centered innovation and transformation specialists at inplural, and our communication partners at StrawberryFrog, will be important partners in making the timely and important decisions that are coming on the road ahead. In so doing, we will be able to breach through the strong winds, and walk together in the direction of purpose, progress and growth.

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