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Why managers without user interaction risk determining solutions and thus messing up innovations

Wichtigkeit des Innovationsmanagement

The danger of decisions made in an ivory tower: Those who do not put on the users' shoes and walk in them stand alone with their decisions.

In the user discovery phase, where users and the challenges they face in achieving their goals are explored without preconceived solutions, there is a risk that managers, isolated in their ivory towers, may dictate terms to innovation teams without any user interaction. In this phase, the groundwork for the success of a project is laid early, and ideas without value for users and the company may be pursued further or inflated into grand ideas that then cannot be stopped due to fear of loss of face. This article examines the risks and consequences of this approach and why dialogue with the users of tomorrow is indispensable.

The temptation of isolated decision making

In the discovery phase, managers are often tempted to make decisions about problems or solutions alone, without considering external influences, for various reasons (ignorance, pressure to succeed, ego, etc.). This leads to isolated decisions being made in their ivory towers, based on their own assumptions, prioritizing their proposed solutions, or simply being unable to address the facts created by the innovation team, instead of focusing on actual user needs.

Risk of bias

Without direct user interaction, there is a risk that managers may consider their own perspective as significant and ignore the actual needs of users (Building solutions nobody wants). This can lead to significant biases throughout the innovation process and ultimately result in poor decisions and project failure. It is therefore crucial for managers to either continuously interact with users themselves to gain valuable insights or to trust their innovation teams as the experts. A user-centered approach is the only key to successful innovation and long-term business success.

Once an innovation waterfall starts, it's nearly impossible to stop it.

Misplaced priorities

Misplaced and short-term priorities can also lead to a discrepancy between corporate goals and actual market needs, ultimately resulting in a loss of competitiveness. A misguided short-term innovation strategy can also undermine stakeholder confidence and have long-term effects on the company's image. Therefore, it is crucial for managers to conduct comprehensive analyses and ensure that their decisions are based on a sound understanding of market needs to promote successful and sustainable innovation and prioritize the right projects in the innovation portfolio.

Lack of user interaction

To counteract this problem, it is advisable to build an advisory board consisting of representatives from various target groups who are regularly involved in the innovation process. These advisors can provide valuable insights and ensure that the developed solutions meet the needs of a broad user base. In addition, it is important for the innovation team to interact with users multiple times a week, whether through interviews, surveys, or tests, to receive continuous feedback and align development with user needs.

Before, during, and after innovation processes, there can never be enough user interactions established and conducted. Those who fail to build a network of people and interact with users at least once a week are operating blindly. And where that leads is evident.

The need for user dialogue

To avoid the risks mentioned above, dialogue with users during the discovery phase is essential [6]. Through observations, interviews, surveys, prototyping, and other methods, managers can collect valuable firsthand feedback alongside the innovation team, changing their perspective from the user's point of view. To ensure that this feedback is efficiently utilized, interviews should be systematically summarized and synthesized so that even managers with limited time for innovation can extract the essence from them to make more informed decisions and ensure that the costly investments in the solutions being developed actually meet user needs.

Conclusion - Manager without user interaction

Decision-making in ivory towers poses significant risks to project success and user satisfaction. Managers of innovation teams should recognize the importance of user dialogue in the discovery phase and ensure that teams have enough time for it. Their decisions must be collective within the innovation team, based on solid insights and genuine user feedback. Only then can successful and innovative solutions be developed that truly add value for everyone.

Yetvart Artinyan

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