By: Heidi Hattendorf
Technological and industry shifts are important drivers of innovation. Look no further than the advent of the mobile broadband Internet and the shift to the era of intelligent, connected devices. Even though shifts are difficult to anticipate, they often lead to fundamental business changes. Staying up to date with these changes is vital.
Let’s explore the three steps companies can take – with real-life examples – to be successful when industry shifts are taking place:
- Understand the market and your customers’ aspirations
- Build external partnerships and bridges
- Establish a strategic model to innovation
Understand the market and your customers’ aspirations
Critical to building a better future is having a deep understanding of your industry and anticipate the challenges that will impact your current and prospective customers. It is also important to know their aspirations and how they plan to grow their business.
At Motorola Solutions, we provide mission-critical communication solutions and services to public safety and commercial customers. In the mission-critical space, we are seeing a shift from real-time voice communications to a larger combination of mission-critical voice and data communications, which provides a foundation for mission-critical intelligence.
Mission-critical intelligence is about smarter use of technology and data to get the right information to the right person at the right time. For example, how can you keep traffic away from trouble spots such as a high-profile event, downed power lines from natural disasters or even potential crime areas? Another example is when social media is combined with a live camera view of an event and indicates that an incident is starting to escalate. The information can immediately be sent to inform and mobilize local response teams.
We’re looking at the revolutionary changes necessary to solve their toughest problems going forward.
The aspiration of our government customers is to build safer and smarter cities. In addition to police, fire and emergency medical services, this includes public transportation, electricity, clean drinking water, safe parks and more.
Let’s first look at the needs of police officers. We focus on more than perfecting the solutions they use today. We’re looking at the revolutionary changes necessary to solve their toughest problems going forward. For example, we are working with the latest in wearable technology that will help provide a police officer with important context by collecting and communicating mission-critical information in continuous and automated ways. Smart glasses, paired with a radio or mission-critical handheld device, will provide officers with critical information, such as emergency alerts, photos of a suspect and text messages, in an unobtrusive, natural manner that won’t require them to look away from a suspect. Wearable cameras will be integrated with other technologies to help protect first responders and provide valuable documentation of operations. And deploying a weapon will cause an immediate automatic capture of an image or video, with information sent to dispatchers in real-time.
We’re also working on the data analytics front to turn a world of abundant data into actionable intelligence. To build a safer city, government agencies need to be able to capture, analyze and utilize all of the data that surrounds them. Rather than relying on paper reports and dispersed databases, real-time technology is helping law enforcement examine a wealth of integrated information with just a few clicks. Instead of spending days or weeks combing through files, police can instantly access the information they need.
They also expect to communicate more than ever with other agencies and through different forms of data. For example, 55 percent of agencies in the U.S. use mobile, in-vehicle camera systems. U.S. agencies are shifting from reviewing data after the fact, to using the information for real-time decision-making. New solutions will increasingly bring together information from different sources including computer aided dispatch (CAD), video, sensors, alarms and social media. Looking at the future, 72 percent of agencies said they will need to easily communicate with surrounding areas and federal agencies¹.
Build external partnerships and bridges
No single company will have all of the answers or capabilities needed to solve global, complex issues.
The complexity of today’s problems requires strong partnerships and collaboration between companies to a greater degree than ever before. No single company will have all of the answers or capabilities needed to solve these global, complex issues which require scale, depth and expertise. There are several ways to build and foster this type of innovation and join forces with partners who have the appropriate skill sets.
The first is to partner with your customers. Understanding their needs is vital to validate new ideas and gain subtle insights that can separate failures from runaway successes. It’s important to approach customers who can show you their core problems and give you valuable feedback throughout the creation process.
A second way to build external partnerships is via venture capital investments. Investments made by venture capitalists serve as a catalyst and strategic play for companies. Motorola Solutions Venture Capital invests in startups that have a common purpose and business alignment to our offering. For example, we invested in Recon Instruments, a well-known pioneer in the smart glasses market. Our customers need to have instant, hands-free access to situation-specific information, and that is enabled by Recon’s modular, ruggedized hardware, innovative user interface and flexible software.
Establish a strategic innovation model
Once you have a good understanding of your customers and their aspirations, and have cultivated strong external partnerships, it’s essential to build a strategic model for innovation. In order to build out an idea, these four steps are critical when innovative ideas come from different sources:
- Let customers show you what they want – Our design team, comprised of technology and ethnography experts, is very active in strategic customer research and they immerse themselves in our customers’ world. For example, they ride along in police cars and train alongside firefighters to experience their communication needs firsthand, participate in active shooter drills to understand the flow of information and communication exchanges, and team up with city workers to understand their day-to-day field challenges. The insights they gain from these experiences are powerful and can lead to new solutions to meet customers’ needs.
- Cross-industry connections – Bringing together people with diverse perspectives from across industries is an important part of establishing your strategic innovation model, and leveraging your connections in different industries can be a great way to do that. Innovation can be sparked by different ideas coming together from different areas. Often the big breakthroughs transcend businesses when a new concept is applied in a different way. Jeff Dyer refers to this as “association” in his book “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators” and cites this as one of the key traits in sparking new innovation.
- Crowdsourcing – Your company’s employees are a great resource for innovative ideas. Crowdsourcing can be used for more than generating new ideas in one area. It can also be used to build on ideas generated by other teams. At Motorola Solutions, we built an effective innovation framework model leveraging our 15,000 global employees, which has driven the successful adoption of new ideas. The same concept can also be applied externally to bring customers into the conversation.
- Experimentation and hypothesis – New technology and radically different concepts can be difficult to visualize, and it’s especially challenging to get funding outside of known problems and product lines. The market and the savviest customers may also be skeptical of whether new concepts will succeed. In his book “The Lean Startup,” Eric Ries recommends testing new concepts as minimum viable products, or “the version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” This approach allows the customer to provide feedback in order to iterate and further develop. Jeff Dyer takes this concept a step further in his book, “The Innovator’s Method: Bringing the Lean Startup Into Your Organization” by then experimenting to transform the minimal viable product into the minimum awesome product – one that remains narrow in feature set but is awesome at what it does.
In doing so, companies have the opportunity to gain early insight from their customers and make changes early in the innovation process. This model is especially effective for software and data analytics. At Motorola Solutions, we have used this approach on a number of new programs, most recently with the development of our next generation police officer communications. This solution connects technology with an officer’s other equipment to create a timeline of events. For example, a body-worn video camera will begin recording automatically after specific actions, such as an officer pulling his gun out of the holster.
The accelerated rate of changes in technology and adoption in today’s fast-paced business environment make it essential to be ready to innovate and create solutions that keep customers on the leading edge. By understanding your customers and their aspirations, building external partnerships and establishing a strategic innovation model, your company and customers can be successful by staying ahead of market changes.
Learn more about the next generation police officer communications, fireground communications and emergency medical services communications.
¹ Motorola Solutions Public Safety 2019: The Migration to More Connected Communications
About the Author:
Heidi Hattendorf is director of innovation development at Motorola Solutions. She heads an innovation program focused on identifying and creating new opportunities in adjacent markets, and technologies to drive growth. She has extensive telecommunication experience in areas including public safety, two-way radios, consumer mobile phones/devices, network solutions and applications. She has experience in the US and abroad, previously working in Europe for over 10 years.
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