Many CIOs and IT leaders are feeling the pressure to build the innovative projects and ideas using emerging technology like chatbots, virtual assistants, AI and more, but they’re at a loss on how to get started and how to use search as a secret weapon to build a foundation for innovation.

Project managers and IT leaders who are having to sunset their Google Search Appliance can see it as an opportunity to build that foundation. Those who are still debating if a like-for-like replacement of GSA that will get the job done will want to evaluate how this fits in with their innovation priorities and strategic goals. 

So how do you build a foundation for innovation and innovate with search? You’ll need what we call an “innovation playbook” and to confront the myths that are holding you back from innovation.

Habit #1: Bust the Myth of the Lone Genius Directing How to Innovate. Build a Team.

When asked, many business stakeholders talk about the difficulties implementing any new initiative.  Their organization ‘lacks vision’ or is ‘too stagnant’ not implementing any exciting new ideas. Many subscribe to the myth that they lack the singular genius to ‘make it happen.’  This myth is counterproductive and almost entirely inaccurate. Innovation is a verb; it is action-based. With any process, you can follow a playbook to get you up to speed.

Build a team that understands the technology and the business outcomes you need to achieve.  This team will focus on translating what users say they want and what the actual outcomes should be, rather than just relying on one person for your complete vision and strategy.

Habit #2 Use an Innovation Playbook.

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

Successful teams follow a simple formula:

  • They define desired outcomes that want to implement.
  • They plan effort that focuses on delivering key measurable results that prove the successful outcome they target.  
  • This process can be standardized and followed

Habits are simple, repeatable actions and your playbook’s primary focus is to outline the habits of your team.  Along with these habits, your playbook should provide the foundation for how your team will approach innovation, including your various roles, communication structure and the scope of your project.

Be deliberate about the habits that you want to foster on your team with your playbook. Every innovation playbook may be different from organization to organization depending on your culture and they will change as you get more projects under your belt. Focus on best practices first, and then tweak.

Rely on Best Practices Initially

The last thing any organization should do when faced with a challenging decision or task is to attempt to invent something from scratch.  Following an innovation playbook allows for streamlining the onboarding of new habits.

A couple of examples of successful innovation habits include:

  • Don’t repeat yourself! Reduce user missteps and rework.
  • Define what you want to accomplish (business outcomes), and what success looks like (metrics) before deciding on what to implement (“We need chatbots!”).
  • Don’t get lost in the hype cycle. Make sure you have a process and foundation in place to evaluate new opportunities.
  • Be open and honest about limitations and risks. No one wants to be the “no” person, but every successful project needs it.
  • Create a culture where failures are acceptable, and you learn from them. Innovation requires failure, not perfection.

Habit #3 Commit to Quick Wins

Understanding how to innovate starts with defining it as an active verb. You cannot just sit around and hope for innovative projects; you’ll want to put them in place with a roadmap and have this habit be part of your playbook.

Very few large ‘big bang’ projects are 100% successful or deliver on their promises. It is just a fact of the messy business of systems integration. A better approach is to change your thinking from ‘big bang’ projects to a longer roadmap with quick wins built into it. Deliver small roadmap milestones focused on business impact and user experience. Make sure that you are providing business value at every step of the way. Walk before you run.

Now that you have your team and innovation habits in place, it’s time to test your playbook.

Habit #4 Test the Innovation Playbook

A great place to test your innovation playbook is with your search innovation, especially for those clients who are upgrading from Google Search Appliance. Corporate culture issues aside the most common problem we encountered in clients is an acute deficiency in organizational information retrieval.  It is pervasive and debilitating to an organization’s bottom line.

Most organizations already value search. Big Data is search. Log analysis is search.  Your marketing or support chatbot? Yep, that is search too. Search in most organizations is primarily siloed and laser-focused on a specific use case.  We believe search should be a universal platform that allows both internal and external users find the right information that lets them take the next best action. What do they need to make a purchase, close a case or complete a business task faster?

How to Get Started with Your Search Innovation

How do you get started with innovation through your search solution? What needs to be in your playbook for search innovation? We’ve put together a sample action plan to get you started. Here are the tenets and innovation tasks we recommend completing:

#1 Search should be where users are.
Making users go to a specific website or page to search for an answer, unrelated to where they do their work, is a recipe for a search system that is doomed to fail. Users very commonly develop their own ‘processes’ for finding the information they need where they are working.  

Put a search solution in place that can access all of the information your users need to complete their tasks. This search should be both an active search for queries and passive suggestions based on context within a workflow.  

Innovation Task for Your Playbook: Talk to users. Understand how they do their work. Identify places in their process where better information would facilitate better outcomes, and put a search solution in place. Put all these items in a backlog, roadmap the releases and start delivering high-value features first.

#2 Search is about interfaces.
Presenting information that is relevant and actionable is challenging. Not too long ago, users were satisfied by a simple list of results from an intranet search. Showing a location-based cafeteria lunch menu was fancy and life-changing for users.

Designing and building search interfaces is less about fancy graphic design and more about data normalization and interfacing of systems.

Innovation Task for Your Playbook: Building off the previous task, understand where the data exists that users need. Work with the teams within your organization to bring this data into search.

#3 Search is relevance. It’s personal.
When you hear “I can’t find anything” from a user,  they are expressing a personal frustration that means “I can’t find what I need to finish MY task.”  General relevance is less critical than relevance of information to a specific user, at one particular time, within a particular context.  Search needs to be personalized.

Innovation Task for Your Playbook: Review your business processes with high-performance users to model their workflow and habits. This modeling allows for suggestions to users what the next best action is, given their context.  

Deliver innovation in small, meaningful bits to your users. This delivery method facilitates adoption and reduces friction. Get your organization into the business of delivering exceptional features the larger innovation issue takes care of itself.

As the leading independent search consultancy, we offer a free initial assessment to review your initiative and can help you align your strategic innovation goals to your project. Let’s get started. Take advantage of this opportunity now by visiting our website.

About John Cizmar

John Cizmar is a Director at MC+A, a Coveo Partner and leading search, data analytics, and big-data consultancy. At MC+A, John works with clients to understand the underlying business problems and deliver a solution that simplifies and improves interactions between organizational data and people. He is also obsessed with Sous Vide cooking. Follow him on Twitter @johncizmar.

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