Value-add innovation

Airports are full of surprises, usually the ones we don't like such as delays, lost luggage and excessively long customs queues. I must admit, I wasn't looking forward to killing a bit of time at Tallinn Airport (the capital of Estonia) located in Eastern Europe.

The good news is I was pleasantly surprised by some of the innovations it had incorporated through its very small, but effective airport. My first surprise came just after coming through the security screening on my way to the departure lounges. Just after the screening, I noticed a customer service measurement tool. It wasn't complex, it was a simple device with pictures that gave the airport user a quick way to judge their security experience. Four coloured faces with simple words to allow you to score the experience.   

A quick push of the coloured face and your service experience was measured:

( Perfect  -  Pleasant-   Unpleasant  -  Unbearable )


My next value-add experience came near the departure lounge. A library reading lounge, with nice comfy seats and a great stack of books to read in three key languages: English, Estonian and Russian. Their little sign said it all.

"Dear Visitor! Here you can find books that help you pass time until your flight"

They encourage you take the book on your flight if you find it a thrilling one, and then return it when you come back. They also encourage readers to add comments and to add books to the collection.

The third value-add was the expo booth. The world’s first exhibition center in an international airport. This is a permanent trade-fair that showcases Estonian export products and investment opportunities. Knowing how many business travellers come through the airport with a spare 30 minutes or so up their sleeve, this expo booth captures attention (as it did mine) and before you know it, you're being shown around the trade show booth by their staff. A great way of promoting key Estonian businesses, gaining contact details of potential clients/customers and providing a space for people to use their time in a valuable way.

So, how can you get commercial from all these innovations? 

Obstruction is a key innovation skill that comes from considering what might users or customers dislike or even hate about your service or product.  A big dislike for a lot of travellers is the waiting. Providing a reading lounge, with books to boot, is a great example of innovating around the user obstructions. 

To apply to your world - list the key obstructions that your users or customers may be experiencing, and start innovating around them by thinking of the ways you can address them. 

  •        Can you save people time?

  •        Can you save people effort?

  •        Can you reduce the complexity for people?

  •        Can you make things less annoying or frustrating?

Commercial innovations can always be found by innovating around the obstructions.

Keep hunting for those commercial ideas.



Nils Vesk

Founder of Ideas with Legs | Innovation Speaker | Consultant | Author

nils vesk