To experience sustainable growth, companies must be designed to nurture long-term customer relationships, be free to seize new opportunities, and to respond with speed and a sense of urgency. Mileage uses design to uncover the organizational, operational, and cultural barriers to success—and ways to solve them.
Some clients prefer a client-tailored plan and our help implementing, while others prefer the client-tailored blueprint.
The most challenging part about being a truly innovative organization is figuring out how to create and nurture an environment that allows ideas to grow—then figuring out which ones are worth additional thought and investment. It’s not a small responsibility. Many promising ideas hit deadends or spur questions from management teams before there are answers. Success in bringing a new idea through an organization is many things, but it’s definitely not a straightforward process, and two ideas rarely follow the same path twice.
A few years ago, our founder decided to leverage his experience in organizational activation to start Mileage and address these challenges.
To start, he spoke to dozens of executives, creatives, developers, and engineers —people who work at small startups and large conglomerates in several different industries. He was particularly interested in learning more about the ways organizations come up with ideas, how those ideas are vetted, and how they collaborate within teams and across departments to bring those ideas to the marketplace.
Here are the highlights of what was discovered, plus some useful tips for nurturing an environment and culture that can foster innovation again and again.
Management teams are attracted to analytical and objective approaches to evaluating ideas, but very few organizations actually practice it.
Most of the companies we spoke with grappled with deciding which ideas they should move forward with and which should be shelved. It’s not because they didn’t have the internal capabilities or innovative ideas, but because they didn’t have an established, repeatable approach to help them evaluate and prioritize. That’s a problem that not only disrupts momentum but can also lead to great ideas, never getting the attention and resources they need to grow.
Having clarity around metrics means that employees are better engaged, ideas get a fair look, and individuals can’t blame the organization when ideas are cut.
So how can Mileage help you establish a repeatable approach within your organization?
We work alongside you to choose the most important key performance indicators and help you stay consistent. This positions stakeholders on your team to make evidence-based decisions, giving every idea a chance based on a deliberately designed method.
We empower leaders to say no. Once they have the complete thought in front of them, it’s time to test the idea in the wild. A test could be a survey, customer interviews, a simple prototype, but either way, leadership will be positioned to make decisions based on customer feedback—not internal bias.
We make sure our client-partners have a diverse group evaluating ideas. We help bring together people from inside and outside your organization to help you discover blind spots. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand meetings.
Internal teams can benefit from applying the right design method at the right time—but can’t be forced into a linear process.
Tools, direction, and structure are an important part of any good company, but overly prescribed processes restrict creativity and momentum. Being too inflexible about the order or timing of certain phases can quickly create a disconnect within your team—if phases have to be sprints, people may contribute too carelessly; too long and teams lose force.
So how does Mileage help clients walk that line between too rigid and maniacally scatterbrained?
Don’t focus on a single, sequential, linear process. We encourage and teach our client-partners to use the right approach and tool at the right time, passing back and forth through the framework, while documenting and prioritizing along the way.
We encourage and empower our client-partners to re-evaluate their method to stay at the cutting edge of design, research, and technology.
Companies struggle to harness the value of customer feedback because it’s easier to make the decision internally and move on. Did we also mention that it requires a lot of resources, time, and know-how?
Tapping into customer feedback early and often is an integral part of shifting from biased to evidence-based decisions, but it can also slow momentum if not managed properly.
It rarely happens frequently or efficiently enough: Insight gathering tools often are difficult to use and over-engineered, and sourcing the right audience can be costly.
Here are a few ways that Mileage can make gathering feedback easier:
Mileage designs communication workflows to enable qualitative and quantitative research. We provide guidance and design services for creating customer-centric discussion guides and blueprints for selecting which customers spend time with.
We empower our client-partners and their teams to speak with clients directly. We go beyond methods; we help establish a culture where individual employees are encouraged to speak with customers on their own to improve the position of the company.
Ideas originating from across the company often lose steam because internal obstacles impede the pathway to realization.
A number of individuals attempt to gamify idea gathering in the form of a competition of sorts to uncover ideas from different parts of the organization. Still, the transition from idea inception to implementation is a delicate one.
Innovation challenges usually start with some framing and end once that one idea is chosen. Often, ideas with potential lose steam because teams aren’t selected, nor able to reach a level where the idea could benefit the business due to a finite challenge timeline. Mileage aims to help client-partners transform idea competitions into a daily way of life.
So how can Mileage help your organization turn develop a bias towards action?
Mileage helps client-partners cluster ideas based on the problems they solve. This collaborative method emphasizes the business value, and from there, you can prioritize and roadmap based on the ideas’ true potential.
Don’t set finite deadlines on your long-term strategic goals, set stage-gates. Mileage helps client-partners learn to leave the door open for new ideas that align with your strategic priorities. We help shift mindsets towards supporting ideas that float to the top while avoiding finite, monthly, or annual events.
We help companies foster an environment where ideas continue to flow and flourish beyond the scope of an event. We help create cultures that encourage team members with promising ideas to keep getting iterating and gathering feedback. We foster a culture that creates clear and transparent opportunities for ideas to develop and benefit the company.