BANKING EXPERTS ARE NEVER GOING TO LEAD A FINTECH PROJECT, SAYS CREATIVE DOCK’S HEAD OF INNOVATION
The innovation team is where future products and services come to life. “Our daily work involves tracking trends across industries and continents, getting customer insights, testing, assessing ideas, and drawing initial business cases,” explains Ines Bamburac who has been leading international innovation at Creative Dock for two years.
Corporate innovation seems to be trending these days…
It has been a buzzword at all the big corporations. More and more startups across the globe have been threatening the established players in different industries. Corporations understood they needed to reinvent their own products, business models, and work processes. Many of them have been shifting towards more agile practices and either opening their own innovation departments or labs, or fostering innovation across their teams.
What does the innovation process look like at Creative Dock?
More than anything, innovation is about understanding the customer pain points as well as the emotions around certain areas of life, and building products out of that. The process always takes exactly 18 weeks – nine weeks for proposition design, nine weeks for testing.
Everything is clearly set out and the structure resembles a funnel. We start with a wide inquiry of the market, then funnel down to customer problems and brainstorm ideas to resolve them. We cut these ideas down to the most meaningful ones, and test two or three of them on the market to see which one might work the best. We have a set of various methods combined into our own methodology for testing with end users.
We also need to test the products in terms of legal, financial, and technical feasibility. We need to work closely with Creative Dock’s lawyers, tech people, financial experts, as well as the digital and data teams. After all that, we come up with the final idea for a product.
Can you illustrate this on the journey of a specific product?
Mutumutu, the smart life insurance, was one of my favourite projects. The initial idea came from a group of people within Creative Dock; we tried to understand what was sort of broken about insurance as a product, and how we could make it better.
We started with doing a lot of interviews with people throughout the Czech Republic. Again and again, we kept hearing: “I don’t understand what it is. I don’t see what benefits it brings. I don’t understand my contract, I’m not able to read it, I need other people to help me conclude any sort of life insurance.”
We knew we had to get rid of the usual many exclusions, to make the terms and conditions understandable – to simplify something really complex into a friendly, fair product. We also did a big analysis of the market and the feasibility of life insurance products. We tested different versions of the product on microsites. Then based on all that, we built our own framework to deliver the MVP to the market.
And that’s when another team took over…
At that time, the Mutumutu team was established for initial proposition design and testing, then to prepare and launch the product on the market. Hiring for the project teams is also an important part when transferring an idea to a product. You need to find all kinds of people who are passionate, ready to share their ideas. Developers, product specialists, marketing and customer care specialists…
What kind of people do you hire for the innovation team itself?
There are innovation analysts, who focus mainly on market and customer research; innovation specialists, who focus on product development and business modelling; and project managers to keep everyone else in line. The roles aren’t very strict, though, and the work within the team is usually defined in a very agile manner.
In general, the one rule at Creative Dock is that product leads never build and run projects in the industry they came from. Which means that the most experienced banking experts are never going to lead a fintech project, for example.
The same kind of principle is present with the innovation team. We’ve had a great experience with hiring people from many different backgrounds, from legal, marketing, business or pharmaceuticals to art and architecture. The diversity helps us build products that are different, out-of-the-box, and which can challenge the status quo on the market.
What can people with artistic background bring to the team?
For one – they can draw the wireframes better! [laughs] But seriously: they usually have a higher level of empathy. They tend to be good listeners. That’s why they prove to be the best researchers you can have on your team, the best at conducting interviews and getting customer insights. Another thing I learned over the time is that these people are able to understand the basic logic of UX and UI pretty well, as well as the complete branding story around the products which inspire us, and to transfer it into our practices.
What makes a great innovator in general?
Apart from the obvious attributes like logical thinking, you need to be able to question yourself every day. To ask yourself whether what you’re doing makes sense, to prove yourself wrong, and be proved wrong by others. To kill ideas fast and move on to something better. For all that, you need to be a really humble person.
There’s always going to be a certain amount of self-reflection.
Definitely. I think people tend to misunderstand innovations, thinking you just wake up one morning with this breakthrough idea. That’s not how it works! There’s actually a lot of hard, long-term work which goes into bringing new products to the market.
It takes a lot of trials and fails. Every day, you need to ask yourself: How can it be done differently? What am I doing wrong? What am I just assuming instead of understanding the customer needs? Typically, we bring an idea to testing, launch a microsite, and it doesn’t work. After a few days, we understand that there has been a huge bounce-rate from the site, no one was converting, so we immediately start fixing the testing microsite, and try again.
It is literally a day in, day out process: in the morning we conclude something is wrong, by night it has been changed and -we’re trying the second option. The tempo is pretty fast.
Before Creative Dock, you worked at Mediacentar, an NGO in Bosnia. How would you compare the two types of work?
It’s very different. The business and NGO sectors aren’t very comparable in any sense. At NGO, your whole work lies in advocating for the changes people actually don’t want you to do. You’re going against governments, businesses, a lot of different layers. In business, you work with the clients, not against them.
But there’s also a similarity in terms of company culture. For me, the very informal culture and structure at Creative Dock, along with a lot of creativity, is similar to how my team worked in Sarajevo. You get people in the NGO sector who are hard-working, motivated, and passionate about delivering something; it’s the same at Creative Dock.