Southwest Florida Title Insurance & Real Estate Blog -

Greetings from October Research’s 2014 National Settlement Services Summit 2014 in New Orleans! I just finished speaking about innovation on a panel devoted to partnership, coopetition and creative thinking and wanted to share my notes and references here.

The notion of innovating is pretty foreign to most title companies. As an industry, we gravitate to the status quo and allow the day to day to interfere with our ability to be creative. My goal today was to present a simple yet effective process for coming up with new ideas to grow existing revenue streams and to create new ones. Here’s the information in case you missed it.

We have had great success using the innovation process described in Business Model Generation, by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur. Today I walked attendees through this much skinnier version of their process:

  • Brainstorm to Identify Customers
    • Get your team together in a space that is conducive to creativity – no phones, email or interruptions!  Everyone gets a pad of stickies & and a marker and goes to town, writing down every person or profession you touch in your current operation and sticking them to a whiteboard or wall.
    • BRAINSTORMING DON’TS.  If you want to stifle creativity, do these things.  Don’t do these things!
  • Get to Know Your Customers Using XPLANE’s Empathy Map
    • The Empathy Map guides your team’s exploration of what your customer is thinking and feeling, seeing, hearing, saying and doing and what frustrates and motivates that customer.  You should use this tool on a few of the customers you identified.
    • Here is a great ONLINE EMPATHY MAP TOOL and a description of how to use it.
  • Generate Ideas that Appeal to the Customers You Have Identified and Their Wants/Needs – “Ideation”
    • Assemble the team again for more brainstorming.  You know who your customers are and you have a better understanding of what they want or need which you may be able to satisfy.  Osterwalder & Pigneur note that creating as much space between you and the status quo is crucial to successful ideation.  This is especially important for us in the title industry who often have a difficult time envisioning what a title company could be because of how we understand that it is.
  • Sift & Winnow
    • You have to filter your ideas to find the one that’s most suitable for your company’s implementation.  Do you want something that is simple to implement?  Are you looking for a brand new revenue stream?  These criteria will be personal to your company, but they are essential to finding the right innovative idea in which to invest.
  • Start Small to Implement
    • Implementation is tough!  We have all been to conferences like NS3 before and have left energized and with a headful of ideas which we intend to implement as soon as we get back to the office.  And then . . . the first day back happens.  The status quo and the day to day get in the way.  Osterwalder & Pigneur recommend starting small by creating a very crude outline or sketch of the idea.  Believe me, getting that done is a victory worth celebrating and a good morale booster for the team.  To that sketch, the authors recommend then to add the particular elements (people, systems, technology) that will be required to implement the idea.  Celebrate that step too!  From there, run a cost-benefit analysis for the third step.  And lastly, give your new idea a whirl in the real world.  Test it out on some of your customers and measure its performance.
  • Autonomy & A Stake in the Game
    • I am convinced that giving your team autonomy will improve your company’s creativity and will also assist in a more meaningful and thoughtful implementation of your new ideas.  This concept comes from Dan Pink’s book Drive, which I’ll discuss a bit more in a future post.
    • Similarly, giving your team “a stake in the game” will help to create a team that is more motivated because they are working with purpose.  The “stake in the game” concept comes from Jack Stack’s book The Great Game of Business, where Stack advocates teaching the entire company the basics of business – understanding financial statements, sharing the company’s financials with them, then making them accountable for certain portions of those statements.  I’ll talk about that a bit more in the future as well.

Now back to NS3.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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