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The Netflix Effect: Are you Data Driven and Intuition Led?


This picture has been floating around all forms of social media for a few days, and whilst I am unsure if every stat it lists are 100% correct, my intuition tells me it’s on the money. The Queen’s Gambit quickly became the most watched series of all time. WOW! When an entity like Netflix gets it right, it is like tapping a vein…..watching the floodgates of success open up.


Why do some ideas just seem to hit the sweet spot and create huge momentum in the market and others either just do OK or don’t meet the forecasted expectations?


The reason is the people and organisations that create these types of ideas never have a build it and they will come mentality. Nor, do they focus on building an imitation of other successful ideas that looks and smells exactly like the market leader, but with a different name. That’s great to keep them in line in the market, but it doesn’t set them apart. There is a focus on how they can tap into the needs and desires of their customers.


They get it so right because they are Data driven and Intuition Led.


Data Driven, Intuition Led.

It’s no surprise that Netflix is a data-driven company. They have honed their analytics to enhance their understanding of their customer to make better decisions, not only just to keep users happy and engaged, but to understand the gaps to create or buy new content. Data is incredibly important, but it’s only part of the process. For anything new to occur there needs to be an element of innovation, risk and uncertainty.


Innovation is a process that is data driven and intuition led. It’s about dealing with the uncertainty of the gaps in data and process to create ideas that will solve a problem or delight customers, as in The Queens Gambit.


When you are creating something new, you can understand the gaps, pain points or problems to be solved but there will always be the unknown X factor of impact on the market and customer take up rates.


Now in this situation, who knew that a TV series around the life of a chess champion would create such an impact on the market. Something of this scale, quality and investment isn’t done on a whim…..nor is it done because it seems like a good idea and the customers “might like it”. Projects like this are given the green-light based on rigorous analysis. Netflix knows down the second how much of each content / show their subscribers watch and they are able to further segment this down into geographic regions, user profile, genres watched and days and times the shows are watched.


So why do they do this? Fundamentally it comes down having the knowledge and data of their customers so they can use it to make decisions on content that will keep their customers happy and engaged. Netflix made it their mission to love their customers so much they understand the content they need to create or buy to keep them happy.


Imagine knowing your customer like this! This didn’t happen by accident this happened by design. It also didn’t happen through traditional forms of market research that are skewed with cognitive bias. It happened with fact based, in-situ data of people using their actual viewing preferences, and not what they said they would watch.


Now, Netflix don’t always get this right. There are plenty of examples of shows and movies that completely bomb on the platform. They use this information to understand the type and style of content required and it what regions it will perform the best. But because they have this information they know the questions they need to ask about the gaps they have, and when they have an idea how to target the relevant segments in their database.


Getting this effect from your innovation portfolio

So, let’s bring this back to Corporate Innervation, when you know your customer like Netflix knows their customers you can understand their pain points, needs and product or service areas that aren’t being filled by you, or anyone else. This information can be the starting point to establishing how innovation ideas can be assessed, allowing you to really focus on what could be a remarkable innovation.


This is what it is really like to get it right. Netflix understood the opportunity when it was presented to them by the creators of the show and was able to work with them to develop the show we see today. It started a resurgence in people of all ages to either learn chess or take up the game again, and the sales of chess sets have gone through the roof. I am sure there’ll be a lot of new chess sets being given as presents this holiday season.


So this is more than just the NetFlix Effect – this is the effect of being data driven and intuition led in the creative and innovation process. It takes the ability to be radically open-minded and consider all ideas as they arise. It is about losing any “I already know that” thinking so that you can be analytical in your assessment of ideas and knowledge of your customers behaviour. We need to be deeply engaged in the knowledge of our customer before we can allow intuition to take over. There’s no magic formula, but it is about finding the right balance between data and intuition.


Are you working with your teams to establish this deep knowledge of your customer so you can be Data Driven and Intuition Led?


How you can get the Netflix Effect in your innovation portfolio:

  • Fall in love with your customer through a deep understanding of their actual behaviour – the irrational, emotive response, ie what they actually do instead of what they claim they may do in a given situation.

  • Create a decision criteria and process to assess ideas that is based on the customer data you have. Before you apply your intuition, you need be questioning what the customer behaviour really looks like.

  • Be comfortable in the uncomfortable knowledge that you will never be able to predict the future, but if you work through this process you will know how to respond to the opportunities that are being presented to you.

  • Be radically open-minded. You need to be willing to action ideas that are new, shelve ideas that are great but may only have a small take up rate or stop doing something in order to action another idea. Innovation is notoriously out of sync with the annual budget and planning cycles in organisations. What are you willing to either stop or give up in order to bring an idea to life if it will create more value?

  • Form a meritocracy with a core group of people to support the decision-making process, so you don’t end up with one voice that decides all ideas, nor is it a democracy that has the possibility of creating the popular vote for ideas. Rather, this is a core group of people that investigate, question, discuss and positively agitate with these ideas to create a robust decision-making process.

  • Treat your innovation portfolio like you’re an investor. Whilst you are aiming to out-perform the market to maximise your returns, in reality (and in terribly simple terms) you are looking to obtain as much up-side as possible whilst minimising your risk exposure. The rules of risk and reward apply here. Returns come from risk. Think like an investor - you need to have a long term strategy to understand how each innovation play fits into the portfolio to achieve your desired outcomes.

  • Play it like a chess Grandmaster – you always need to be thinking three or more moves ahead and creating a playbook of strategic offence and defence tactics.


Getting to this point takes hard work and the development and implementation of a systemised process to manage your critical innovation flow. I’ve written a whole book about this, and it’s much too much to cover here, but if you’re interested in establishing this in your organisation with my 9 step framework check out my book Corporate Innervation: Unlocking The Genius Inside Your Organisation here


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