Product & Process Innovation

In the Thunderbird Innovation Challenge, over 300 teams from over 100 of the top MBA programs in over 20 countries compete for the right to travel to Thunderbird in sunny Arizona for the face-to-face final round. Having judged 15 proposals, I must say... I'm not impressed. Is this the best the business schools around the world can do? These are old-fashioned awareness and branding campaigns. I fear it shows that the MBA teaches one to think IN the box. The ideas were boring! Where is the innovation?

I was thinking about "out of the box thinking" while stuck in the TSA line at Dulles this week. What if TSA cared about the customer? What could they do to make it a more satisfying experience? We in the USA are quite willing to be searched and scanned but does it have to be so annoying? My personal peccadillo is the incredible number of people who don't seem to know what metal is. "Oh, this huge belt buckle? How about this handful of change? What? My cell phone is metal?" Yeesh.

Many airports offer a frequent flyer line which alleviates some of the problem people (Thank you, Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta!) but Dulles, serving politically-correct DC, doesn't offer such a line. How could the TSA move people through security without being annoying? My ideas are: 1) speed it up for frequent flyers and 2) assist the infrequent flyers. In addition to a frequent flyer line for those who know the ropes, how about guides--sherpas, if you will--for infrequent flyers? A nice lady asks, "Do you fly frequently?" If the passenger doesn't, she walks with him and describes what's happening, what he needs to remove from his bag and his person, reminds him to hold on to his boarding pass, and just generally expedites the flow of people.

Like most businesses, TSA just posts a sign and relies on the employees to scream out instructions to the people in line. Instead of posting signs and yelling, "hold on to your boarding pass!" they need to focus on solving the customer problem in innovative ways.

What about you? Have you looked at your product and company operations from the customers' view? What process innovations would ensure a better customer experience?

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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