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  • Writer's pictureNick Bonney

Why The Old Ones Are The Best

Last week I stuck my head above the Brexit parapet by sharing some data on LinkedIn and came under fire from both sides for presenting the data in a biased way so this time I thought I’d start safe in the comfort zone of something we can all agree on. Nan’s are great. Before the gluten-free keyboard warriors start typing, just to be clear that’s Nan’s not Naan’s (although I am quite partial to a peshwari).

Like most of you lucky enough to know your grandparents, I thought my Nan was great. She was part of that stoic generation who had lived through the war and just seemed to take everything in her stride. She also made the best Bakewell Tarts bar none (sorry Mr Kipling) and was also good for a proverbial saying to sum up seemingly any situation. Increasingly in my working life my Nan’s words have been ringing in my ears. Those days when you get a terrible brief, I can hear her saying “more haste, less speed” or when you’re tempted to point out someone else’s failings and check yourself as you hear “those in glass houses” echoing in your head.

Time Flies - My Nan and My (now 12yr old) Daughter

Over the past couple of weeks, it’s another one of her oft used expressions which has been nagging at me. Having been intrigued by a piece of advertising on the tube, I have started using Moneybox. For those of you not aware, Moneybox is an app which ‘rounds up’ your spending and syphons it off into a Stocks & Shares ISA. There are far more cost effective ways for me to invest and understandably Moneybox has come under fire for its fee structure but it just seems to work. It makes you feel that you’re saving money you otherwise wouldn’t have saved and does so through an intuitive user interface. Perhaps most importantly, it’s built on one of those age-old expressions my Nan was so fond of – “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”.

Moneybox - Helping the Pennies Look After Themselves

It strikes me there are two very different ways that one could look at the Moneybox app. It would be very easy to write an article heralding it as being one of a new generation of fin-tech start ups disrupting the traditional banking world. Yet to do so would be doing it an injustice and, as with so much in the technology world, would be focusing on what’s new and shiny rather than examining the underlying human behaviour. All too often we are so obsessed with what’s changing that we can lose focus on more deeply held motivations which underpin it.

Moneybox feels natural because it is based on a genuine human truth. Like many children, I can remember taking my Nan’s advice literally and putting my coppers away in a jar. That feeling of the small, inconsequential act of putting money away to see it eventually become something more substantial still persists for kids today and brands like Metro have even managed to gamify the gesture by asking children to guess how much their savings are going to be worth.

Moneybox of course isn’t the only player in this space. Monzo have launched their Coin Jar feature and Lloyds have built their own round-up functionality called Save The Change. Like CitizenM who I wrote about a few weeks ago, these are all examples of how brands can apply digital technology to transform a customer journey in a way which benefits both the brand and the customer at the same time.

Looking at the grid above, you’d think it was plainly obvious – of course you should be looking for innovation which has both customer and business impact. However, in the real world, it’s not quite that simple. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can reflect of plenty of projects I’ve worked on which have been not only in the amber but even in the red quadrants. Many of these were understandable; looking for ways to re-structure a business in response to changing competitive pressure or market dynamics. Some though were the result of a JFDI culture where everyone knew the idea wouldn’t work (even if it had worked in another market) but were either worn down or too afraid to speak up.

However, when I reflect on the launches in the green quadrant, almost universally the customer was involved at the start of the innovation process. This doesn’t have to be research in the traditional sense of asking people out-right but often can be observational – listening and watching how people are interacting with our products and services and looking for those hidden opportunities. In a desire to move at pace, we are often too quick to jump straight into ‘testing’ ideas. In practice this creates a group of stakeholders who are already emotionally wedded to their favourite idea long before ‘real people’ ever get sight of it. Whilst there might still be considerable time, money and effort spent on researching the ideas, in reality the research will have minimal impact.

With the vast array of tools available to us as researchers these days, getting customers involved early in the innovation cycle need not slow down the process or cost the earth. It could though make the difference between a genuine step change and a pointless vanity project.

As my Nan might have said “we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason”...


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