Designing the Future: Three Ways to Create What’s Next

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Author: Val Vacante, vice president, solutions innovation at dentsu

Author: Val Vacante, vice president, solutions innovation at dentsu

In an age of uncertainty, brands are looking to create what’s next, compete on innovation, and imagine the future they want to achieve with true differentiation and by redefining what success means in their category.

One of the biggest challenges brands face is designing the right experience for consumers at the right time on the right platform. Sixty-two percent of high-growth companies plan to invest in technologies that lead to higher rates of innovation, compared to 54% of other companies. Additionally, according to Gartner, top drivers for innovation today include enhancing customer experience (53%), driving revenue growth (53%), and developing new products and services (45%). Broader strategic issues such as talent retention, understanding consumer behavior, and supply chain issues remain CMOs’ top concerns.

Whether it is the future of shopping, gaming, health and wellness, sustainability, and beyond –or – exploring emerging technologies like generative AI, augmented reality, virtual reality, live shopping platforms, gesture technologies, synthetic humans, location-based technology platforms, predictive tools, and more – it is important to create an ongoing pipeline of purposeful experiments that solve real consumer problems to test, learn, and grow the business.

For brands looking to test and learn before making big investments, here are three ways to design for the future.

Bring an outside-in perspective and explore the unknown

Many organizations want to explore the unknown, uncover new trends, or design new ways to drive innovation in their organization. Common questions are, “How do you navigate all this change? What’s the right technology to drive your company forward? How can you prepare for constantly evolving competition?” Consider bringing an outside-in perspective through innovation accelerator platforms, such as NXT Intelligence™ or id8, to rapidly explore, evaluate, and evolve ideas and business growth opportunities to aid in this discovery. Support nonprofit accelerators, such as MassChallenge, to team up with early-stage startups rallied around a specific technology or sector that aligns with your business innovation growth plans. Additionally, work collaboratively with partners to curate specific opportunities. For example, innovative brands like Hasbro scout the globe to uncover new technologies, and innovators for potential collaboration to expand growth. Without an outside-in perspective, these opportunities would have not otherwise been realized.

Embrace creativity, curiosity, communication, and collaboration

Ask yourself, your team, clients, and partners what’s working, what’s not working, and how you can be better together. Asking questions will help identify opportunities to drive innovative solutions for growth in revenue, skillset, and team culture. For example, host a workshop with all key stakeholders to identify and align perspectives. Then, conduct a lean evaluation across categories, competitors, and current customer experience to identify actionable insights and map and prioritize growth opportunities​.

Create a purposeful problem-solving pipeline

Design innovation “programs not projects” create an ongoing pipeline of purposeful experiments that solve real consumer problems to test, learn, and grow the business. When designing a business solution or innovation, ensure there is always room for ongoing testing and learning across all aspects of the business to continuously improve what’s working and getting rid of what’s not as swiftly as possible.

Future-focused brands, like Mattel, uncover key pain points and what’s most useful by co-creating new ways to improve product experiences with consumers. Then, rapidly prototype, product, and marketing ideas with consumer feedback loops along the way​.

As experiences evolve into virtual worlds, technology leaders like Microsoft, LinkedIn, and HeadOffice.Space are helping brands prepare for what’s next by providing the ability to experiment and rapidly evolve ideas through Dentsu NXT Space. Real-world use cases have been re-imagined in a virtual setting - brands can test, learn and explore opportunities presented by Web3, the metaverse, generative AI, XR, everyday web tools and more rapidly prototype concepts, create virtual test labs, and conduct training in digital twins of places and spaces to accelerate innovation efforts.

The common thread is conducting an iterative test before investing big no matter what areas of the business.

Bring it all together

Brands are doing quite a bit of experimentation and exploration with new technologies and experiences.

Bring an outside-in perspective, explore the unknown, new technologies, partners, and experiences to expand growth and discover the unknown.

Embrace creativity, curiosity, communication, and collaboration to identify actionable insights and map and prioritize growth opportunities​.

Ensure there is always room for ongoing testing and learning across all aspects of the business to continuously improve, optimize what’s working, and get rid of what’s not.

As physical and digital worlds continue to blur, it will be important for brands to allow for space and the opportunity to test, learn, and explore what’s next.