Mar 15, 2011

"Credit card of the future" co-innovation project

eYeka is a new form of R&D catalyzer that relies on a very large network of creative people competing to come up with great new concepts for brands. Briefs are prepared by eYeka and submitted to a global community of 130,000 creative individuals in 76 countries. The process is appealing to me. It cuts through the internal barriers that companies have when they try to think about innovation.

The payment industry has a very strong cultural bias towards incremental improvements. When you combine that with so many dramatic external changes happening at the same time (mobile phone capabilities, merchant discontent, social media growth, etc.), there is a potential for highly disruptive innovation that could be delivered in unconventional and unexpected ways.

eYeka launched a campaign last year to get fresh insights and ideas for the credit card of the future. They received 100 entries that you can browse through on the site. The actual details of each entry are locked out to mere mortals like us, as the ideas are now the confidential property of the company that sponsored the work. Still, you can get a pretty good understanding from glancing through the titles and pictures of the submitted creations.

There are lots of entries related to the form factor, with mobile phones, touch screen plastic cards, and biometrics. The predominance of form related entries is a testament to how old the current plastic card is. Other entries see the credit card of the future as an ID device to access services as well as your house or your car. Intriguing titles like "credit/membership", "preferred store coupon alerts" and "all in one card" hint at a device that can collect together many different private label payment services, with built-in access to coupons and other promotions. And there is connectivity all over the place. Internet of course, but also built-in GPS and close proximity radio frequencies.

I met up with Alexandre Olmedo, co-founder of eYeka and CEO of the company's Asia-Pacific activities.

Aneace: I'm using the term crowd-sourced innovation, but it looks like you prefer co-innovation. What term should I use?

Alexandre: We prefer the word co-innovation because we find differences between crowd-sourcing and co-creation. The term crowd-sourcing implies launching a brief into a crowd and hoping something good will come back. Co-creation for us is more about getting the right ideas from the right people within a proper process.

Aneace: How did you come up with the idea?

Alexandre: We worked with the client closely to understand what they wanted to achieve. And when we realized that what they wanted was to revolutionize credit cards instead of just an incremental improvement, we knew that eYeka was a perfect fit for this project. The idea thus given birth was to engage eYeka's creators to imagine the credit card of the future.

Aneace: Can you briefly describe the process?

Alexandre: Once we knew what was needed, we crafted the brief for the creators, inspiring them to imagine what a credit card of the future would be like. Along the way, we would assist the creators with any questions that they might have. At the end of the exercise, all the entries were looked at in detail and analyzed carefully. If we have any doubts about the entry, we will get back to the creators. Analysis required us to look at the main themes and ideas suggested and group them together to understand what the creators wanted to see most, and how they want their credit cards to work for them.

A comprehensive report was then put together with recommendations for the client. This was then taken to a workshop where the stakeholders could discuss the recommendations and further testing with a representative sample of the target audience.

Aneace: How can banks benefit?

Alexandre: Banks benefit because traditional innovation/research tends to be more conservative, focusing on small incremental changes. This is because they talk to average consumers for their market research, who are good at telling banks whether they would buy something or not, but have more difficulties expressing what they want. Often we see changes to just the rewards scheme, or the interest rate, or partner discounts. But through a partner such as eYeka, we can deliver revolutionary ideas from a community of creative consumers whose ideas are more avant garde. These creative consumers are like creative directors in agencies. They have the ability to deliver breakthrough innovation, and we have 130,000 of them worldwide. These creators will express needs that the general population may have, but will have difficulty articulating. However when they see the creators' ideas, they can say "Yes, I always wanted that!". This allows banks to get fresh ideas for new product or services that are hard to invent through traditional market research methods.

Aneace: What surprised you most in the results of your work on the credit card of the future?

Alexandre: What surprises us and the clients always is the level of entries that we receive, not just from an executional perspective but from the ideas perspective. The most common reactions are: "Wow, who would have thought of that?" and we know that we are on the right track.

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