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Innovation 101

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

What is innovation?

We hear the term “innovation” everywhere these days but what is it really? Is it just coming up with new technologies or ideas?

Actually, no.

Innovation starts by envisioning how a new technology or idea might shape the future.

Think Netflix. Think AirBNB. Think Instacart.


Innovation is not only represented by new ideas and technologies. Innovation also manifests itself in the process of uncovering new, different, ways to do things – to create efficiencies and increase effectiveness.

These last 21 months alone, innovation and technology have played a pivotal role in ensuring business continuity across all industries, and especially mortgage lending.

Think Zoom. Think Dual AUS. Think automation (APIs, AI, and ML). Think Remote Online Notary (RON).

During these unprecedented times, technology and innovation have been critical for lenders to utilize so they can keep up with higher volumes. During the pandemic, we saw an acceleration of the digital transformation due to necessity. As Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, alluded to in a recent interview, each month we are seeing a year of acceleration of the digital transformation.

Each of the aforementioned “innovations”, and others that I did not list, were probably once considered crazy, impossible, or improbable at the time – yet each one has had the power to propel our industry further and farther, in a relatively short period of time. These innovations have transformed the way we transact and manufacture a mortgage, creating an opportunity and momentum for more beneficial innovation that will continue to disrupt our space.

Being innovative forces us to stop, to think differently, and to challenge the status-quo. However, there is an element of risk associated with innovation. Why? Because we cannot be disruptive and revolutionize our industry by thinking conservatively. Another risk element of innovation is failure; but we must accept failure as an integral part of innovation. That doesn’t mean we have to take unnecessary risks. Rather, we must be risk-intelligent in our approach because, at the end of the day, we are hoping that the innovation will help us grow our businesses and stay ahead of our competition.

And as we continue to shift our focus to become more customer-centric in this age of innovation, many companies struggle to know what making the customer, internal and external, the center of their business really looks like. Customer-centricity starts by focusing on what customers need and how they want to interact with our business - not our products, features, or revenue models. We all agree that customer experience is continually evolving as customer demands change and technology responds to those demands. Customers are looking for convenience and for digital solutions that solve their problems. That’s it. Oh, and they expect a hyper-personalized experience that is curated specifically for their customer journey. Bottom line: companies that can innovate and pivot with agility will thrive in this environment, provided they continue to make their customer at the heart of everything they do.

Many companies talk about the cost and the ROI of innovation; however, few talk about the cost of not innovating – or of innovating poorly. In a cookie-cutter sea of lenders, you must innovate to differentiate.

What’s that adage – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Wrong! If it ain’t broke, then break it and reinvent yourself. In this day and age, you have to be continually reinventing yourself. Why? Because as David Zhao, CEO at NxtFactor, said, “if you are not disrupting, you will be disrupted.”

In these modern times, reluctance to innovate or innovating poorly can actually crush an organization. Our advice? Heed the lessons learned from other companies that once dominated their markets but have since faded into oblivion. Think Blockbuster. Think Kodak. Think Toys-R-Us.

And if you are struggling with how or when to start on your innovation roadmap, find and register for a workshop like BlackFin Group’s Strategic Innovation Discovery. You will be glad you did!

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