Our Approach to Research and Innovation

Michelle Zassenhaus
Michelle Zassenhaus

June 14, 2023

Sun shining through city scape.
Sun shining through city scape.

Imagining Smart New Futures

Today’s climate has many challenges, and we believe every challenge precipitates an opportunity. The pandemic isolated us, stalled our supply chains and drove inflation high, yet these forces accelerated the maturity of virtual services, opened new delivery pathways and changed the way we get work done. Dynamics like these coupled with the availability of extraordinary new tech (i.e., the Metaverse, Generative AI, Blockchain, Autonomous Vehicles) make this a unique and exciting moment to innovate.

We specialize in understanding what’s going on and helping you (our clients) develop and execute winning strategies. With a blend of strategic foresight and product and business strategy skills, we work with our client partners to clarify a key question, scan the signals, tease out drivers of change, broadly explore the blue sky, identify the white space and imagine creative possibilities for occupying it. 

However, we approach the future as an achievable opportunity. And we are committed to helping you realize it.

Realize The Opportunity

To achieve that future requires beginning with where we are now and a deep understanding of how to develop successful solutions and products. Herein lies our expertise in rapid and rigorous research, which informs the design and development of a solution.

To start, the word “solution” implies “problem.” There are many possible solutions to create, but not all of them actually solve the problem they set out to achieve – the key to getting that right is to deeply understand the problem you’re solving, who has it, what they’ve tried to fix it, what has worked, what hasn’t and why. And then, knowing how to use that information to iteratively craft and test the right solution. This approach mitigates the risk of building the wrong solution. Further, the solutions we’re talking about – software – are expensive to design and build, and even more expensive if they are wrong. And getting it wrong is the biggest mistake tech companies make.

“The most common problem [in software development] is building the wrong thing,” according to Bob Davis, CMO of Plutora. In fact, we know this is a rampant problem because year after year, and again in 2022, CBInsights noted the “no market need / no understanding of market” as the second top reason startups fail.  

Whether you’re working on a new idea, or updating solutions for the audience you’re already serving, mitigating the risk of investing time and resources in the wrong path is critical.

We Bridge Ideas to Impact

At this point you may be thinking “this is not like your typical strategy firm,” and you’d be right. We are the bridge from ideas to execution to impact. 

Building upon Giant Machines’ eight-year history of developing and shipping successful digital products, we offer the leanest, smartest approach to identifying and realizing creative, impactful opportunities – not just dreaming them up.

Here’s a little more about how we approach innovation work.

  1. We focus on outcomes and impact over process and outputs.

We believe there isn’t just one right solution to every problem, and there isn’t just one path to find it. We leverage a rich set of processes and approaches – and are always learning and inventing more. We’ll explore paths charted and uncharted, invent new models and approaches, all with a focus on arriving at your desired outcomes.

  1. We operate with grit and rigor. 

We expect ambiguity and know how to navigate it. We are careful and creative with resources to surface and test the most critical things we need to learn to build confidence about the path forward. 

  1. We think in systems, not silos. 

We think both expansively and critically to deliver solutions that create positive impact and tangible business value. We have a huge quiver of arrows by way of methods and frameworks; we deftly choose the right one for the job.

  1. We have a bias for action

You’ll get smart ideas: stories, business models, strategies. But we know that it’s the execution that matters. We make our strategy actionable, and if you’ll work with us, we’ll move it forward with you. We simply don’t believe in delivering decks that go “thud.”

How have our clients seen success with our approach?

  • We partnered with a commercial real estate lending startup to identify which submarket and customer to focus on and which value propositions to deliver on. Doing so gave their investors confidence to give them $4M and the focus to build an MVP in three months.
  • We partnered with a retail cosmetics client to analyze their workflow and value chain so they could decide if they should invest two years and $5M into supply chain software or build their own.
  • We validated an early product hypothesis for a DTC eye care product platform which realized $500M in revenue in just two years (with more to gain), and strengthened the brand relationship in the process.
  • We partnered with a utility company to research and test a contractual model technical integration for energy distributors to sell renewable energy on their grid.

And we can help you. Join us for an interactive strategic alignment workshop, where we help teams tackle strategic challenges and move from ideas to action. If you feel like misalignment is slowing down progress, this is the workshop for you. We help your team identify risks, create an action plan, and confidently make decisions faster.

About the author

Michelle Zassenhaus
Michelle Zassenhaus

Director of Design Strategy


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