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Five Ways to Crush Payment Innovation (and How to Avoid Them)

Posted on Jun 08, 2012

At US Dataworks, we spend every waking moment, as well as a few sleeping moments, working to improve the overall payment processing ecosystem.  This commitment to continued innovation is at the core of everything we do and every payment solution we deliver.  However, even with that level of commitment to innovation, we have to stand guard against innovation crushers.

Columbia Business School professor, Rita McGrath, recently discussed the five innovation killers that can creep into businesses when they aren't looking.

1.  Innovation is episodic.

  You cannot build an innovative company based on start and stop innovation.  There must be a work environment and structure that fosters innovation, which includes the acceptance that all innovations are not always market successes.

2. Resources are held hostage by incumbent businesses.  The steady-state method of resource allocation inhibits innovation by placing a higher level of importance on existing business. The people that are needed most to create the future generation are allocated to business that is beginning to fade.  Payment processors are among the worst, with their devoted attachment to the check and to the card businesses as we know it today.

3. You're trying to fit innovation in to the structure that you have. Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy made a great observation on this point.  "Organizations have habits. And they will stick to their habits even at the risk of their own survival."

4. Too little diversity of thought; too much isolation from customers' experience.  The take away here is to form a team with a lot of diverse experiences and let them get really close to the target customer. 

5. Treating assumptions like knowledge.  Many great ideas started out as something completely different, which is an uncomfortable situation for many innovation leaders.  Managers of innovation may get caught up in being "right" and not taking as many risks, risks that are often necessary to achieve an important innovation.

Innovation is not simple by any means, but it can be very fulfilling.  The payment systems  in the United States are aging and are badly in need of large-scale innovation.  However, there are too many business held hostage by milking the venerable cash cow to even think about a new milking machine.

Please see the full artcile in the Harvard Business Review