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4 Questions Tata’s CMO uses to measure innovation

Julie Woods-Moss warns her peers not to over-promise about digital disruption

Most companies — and their chief executives — want to think of themselves as innovative, but Julie Woods-Moss believes there is value in being “an enabler of innovation” instead.

A few weeks ago an Indian IT association known as NASSCOM interviewed Woods-Moss, CMO for Tata Communications, during its annual conference held in Hyderabad. The video has her describing her firm as a potential “Uber of telecommunications” because it can offer on-demand services that help other companies set themselves apart from competitors.

Of course, even if you’re an enabler of innovation you still have to have a good grasp of what innovation is. In the clip Woods-Moss cites four main points to think through as a sort of litmus test:

1. Is there a new way you’re creating value?

2. Is there a new way that value is being consumed?

3. Is there a new form of quality control?

4. Is there a new way to scale?

“As a business leader, if you’re looking at innovation and wanting innovation to be meaningful rather than peripheral, you have to be able to answer those questions honestly, and with complete rigour,” she says.

A startup like AirBnB would be a good example of such a firm, she suggested. It offers new value by helping people find accommodation by allowing others to offer their space, which is new value. AirBnB has no inventory, however, which means the value “being consumed” is not a set of houses or units it owns. Peer review from guests offers a new form of quality control and it can scale easily because anyone with some available space can offer it.

Though CMOs in many cases can be a disruptive force in companies to make innovation possible, Woods-Moss cautioned her peers to make sure they understand the challenges as well as the promise digital transformation can bring.

“If the CMO builds too much of a promise, then the rest of the company cannot deliver, that becomes this expectation chasm,” she said. “It’s good to have that friction (of being disruptive), but it’s also good to have a plan around where the underlying value is that you’re trying to create.”

The other thing to remember about being innovative, Woods-Moss added, is having a strong emotional connection with what you’re offering consumers.

Watch the full clip with Woods-Moss to learn more about her thoughts on digital disruption including her choice of a classic book on the subject.


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