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Innovate or Die is a new series that focuses on generating ideas to create new markets, products or services that will drive new waves of growth.

His Master's Voice, more famously known as HMV, was sold by the British-based parent to private equity firm Hilco. The company operates a different business model than its U.K. counterparts but still face the challenge of staying ahead of a fast-paced market that is changing drastically.

The company sells music, movies, apparel and other related things. As the company adds products like coffee mugs and blankets, it's giving customers more options, but isn't introducing the kind of innovation that will drive the next wave of growth.

HMV needs to figure out how to innovate or it's at risk of being left behind.

Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail

The starting point

The first step in driving any new innovation begins with the leadership team. Leadership sets the direction by suggesting areas they would like to explore, providing constraints and explaining why innovation is important.

But coming up with answers to the areas listed above is often easier said than done. To get over this hurdle, leaders need to leverage stimulus to drive new ways of thinking about their business. Such stimulus could come from studying competitors, looking into industry trends, asking customers what problems they are experiencing or even searching through different technology patents. All of these techniques can be used to drive clarity into the chosen direction they want to take.

Let’s imagine that HMV leadership decides they want to reinvent themselves by entering new markets and aren’t interested in ideas related to movies, music or technology. By going into more detail and providing this high-level direction, they can provide their innovation team with a focus for where they want their energies to be spent and the types of innovations that will be engineered.

Sarah Dea for The Globe and Mail

Driving innovation for HMV

While the leadership team defines the what and the why, it’s ultimately up to the innovation team to figure out the how.

Normally teams would begin by pulling out a flip chart and brainstorming to generate ideas - but these more traditional methods are no longer effective because they don’t generate great ideas. Only through leveraging stimulus from different techniques can your ideas truly become meaningfully unique.

Let’s say HMV leverages a tool called ‘Don’t Sell Me’ based on the idea that people hate to buy things. What people really want is to have their basic needs and desires satisfied. This method is great at pulling out the higher-order benefits a product or service produces for the consumer.

Because HMV sells music to their customers, let’s look at music in relations to the Don’t Sell Me method.

Don’t sell me music.

  • Sell me something to change how I feel.
  • Sell me motivation to get through the day.
  • Sell me relaxation so I can escape reality.
  • Sell me energy to get a better workout.
  • Sell me confidence that I didn’t know I had.

The next step is to take those initial ideas like motivation, relaxation, and energy and create a bold promise for customers that addresses what they really want – in other words, HMV will now have to come up with ways to ensure their customers receive these benefits and prove they can deliver on it.

Unlike traditional brainstorming, by using the Don’t Sell Me method as a source of stimulus, a team should be able to generate a lot of ideas for potential innovations. The goal with this method and all others like it is to generate as many concrete ideas as possible. Some will be high quality, others may not be, what matters is that there are a lot of ideas generated so that leadership has a lot of options to review and decide to drive forward.

Paul Hackett for Reuters

An innovation engineered for HMV

As a way to drive the point home, I will use this method and others just like to generate an idea for HMV to explore as a potential innovation. Keeping in mind the focus IS set by leadership, let’s use Hallmark as a source of stimulus in combination with the Don’t Sell Me method. Hallmark diversified ITS business by doing two things – they purchased Crayola and entered into the television space by creating their own television channel.

What if HMV were to follow in their footsteps and enter into a new space and create an innovation called The HMV Workout Experience? The HMV Workout Experience will have HMV explore purchasing a small chain of gyms focused solely on making sure their customers are motivated and energized to have their best workout every time they step into an HMV gym.

The HMV Workout Experience solves the problem of gym-goers not having the motivation or energy to exercise consistently or experience the best workout every time they go to the gym. The HMV Workout Experience ensures that anyone who goes to an HMV gym will not only have a more consistent, high-quality workout but they will achieve their desired results at least three times as fast as the average gym-goer because the experience and resources available are beyond that of the competition.

To deliver on that promise, HMV will have to offer gym-goers more meaningfully unique benefits that are built into the price of the membership. For example, they could offer wireless headphones featuring a playlist of music that the gym-goer selects as they walk in.

But let’s not stop there, let’s take it a step further. What if they were to provide pre- and post-workout supplements, personal trainers, and even an on on-site kitchen that will prepare your post workout meal while you exercise?

Sarah Dea for The Globe and Mail

In a nutshell

There’s more to the innovation process than just coming up with great ideas – you have to also demonstrate the sales and revenue potential behind the innovation, identify the barriers to success, and determine how to eliminate those barriers before taking another step forward. This ensures that HMV doesn’t spend too much time and money exploring a particular idea.

Truthfully I don’t know HMV’s business all that well or its strategic direction, this is only one idea from an outsider who comes to the table with one worldview.

HMV could continue to ride it out selling music, movies, and related things as the market changes faster than they do, or they can take control of their company’s future and generate innovations to restart its business lifecycle.

But ultimately the company has two choices: innovate or die. I’m optimistic that they’ll choose the former.

Ryan Caligiuri is an associate and innovation engineering practitioner with inVision Edge. Caligiuri is also the founder of The Growth Network, a program that provides professional service firms with a system to grow their organizations through sales, partnership, marketing, and account management strategies.

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