"Forget everything." - Shinyverse

"Forget everything."

That was the advice we recently gave one of our clients who is looking to undertake a seismic re-imagining of their digital experience. An experience they’ve been improving in increments for several years, using a traditional test-and-learn approach both in lab and in the real world. An approach that got them to a point where they had a pinhole view of what they believe “works” and a number of ideas and approaches that they believe “don’t work.”

But as we told them, you can’t innovate in increments. To create a truly innovative experience you need to get out of a cadence of changing small parts of an experience to determine what is best, and be willing to blow it all up, including any pre-conceived notions of what the experience should be. And that’s because while data can be important, historical data is also only a truth at a distinct point in time and can shackle future thinking into a narrow space.

Which is one of the reasons true innovation is hard, and requires some leaps of faith for organizations that typically use hard data to drive decisions. We believe that input from customers can be very valuable in the process of creating new experiences but how you tap into that knowledge and how you leverage it is critical. Lab testing in particular runs the risk of ending in the world of discounting experiences that people said were unexpected. Those types of learnings reminded us of a quote that’s been attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Stop building faster horses. Start by forgetting everything you think you know. Your customers, and your business leaders, will thank you later.

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