The Killer Tweak

I’ve been trying to work an idea I’ve had for a while now into a blog post, and James Gardner’s post When Small Innovations Are Good finally gave me the launching pad. According to James, not all innovations must be game-changing and industry-disruptive:

Do lots of incremental innovation, and you have a large portfolio of returns. Do lots of ground breaking, and you may have a hit product/service/process which pays off big time, but the probability is that you won’t.”

I couldn’t agree more.

It seems, however, like too many financial firms are looking for a killer app — whether it’s to drive online banking adoption higher (see my comments on why PFM will not accomplish this), spur the use of online bill pay, or create that one great product or service that will make customers fall in love with them, give them all their money, and never leave.

What might they be missing? The Killer Tweak. It’s that one little service enhancement, one simple application functionality addition, one new product feature, etc. that just makes a disproportionate impact on the customer experience by adding convenience, improving quality, or reducing cycle time.

Based on his comments, I’m not sure that James would consider a killer tweak an “innovation” because it’s too close to “business as usual.”

Focusing on that distinction is potentially harmful. It’s great that there are a growing number of firms creating teams focused on innovation. But I can’t help but wonder if, by focusing on innovation versus optimization (or process improvement), opportunities to find the killer tweak are being overlooked.

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