How the Accenture Luminaries Program Helped a Toy Manufacturer Unlock Breakthrough Ideas

There was a level of expectation in the room at the Accenture Innovation Hub in Boston when the CIO and senior leadership of a major toy manufacturer, together with its Accenture team, gathered for a workshop to explore how to think about new technologies and how their IT function can support the growth of the business.

The stakes were high. Technology’s impact on the toy industry was affecting every aspect of their business—from customer interaction and sales channels to processes and, critically, product. Both children and their parents were evolving their assumptions on what a toy could and should do. The group was there to learn about and experiment with new technologies, and to look for potential big ideas for their business.

Into this buzz walked Accenture Luminary Sanjay Sarma. For some in the room, it was as though he was a celebrity—famous for his early work in RFID and auto-ID, Sarma had become an expert in the Internet of Things and recently expanded his thinking to how IoT is bringing a new vocabulary to reinvent companies, shifting the mind-set away from products to owning journeys in people’s lives. The MIT professor of radical innovation had captured this concept in his latest book, The Inversion Factor: How to Thrive in the IoT Economy.

Sarma is one of eight Accenture Luminaries—esteemed, world-class academic thought leaders widely recognized for their groundbreaking research in critical areas of technology-driven innovation. As an Accenture Luminary, he brings a new dynamic to conversations and innovation sessions to help companies think about what’s possible in their industry, unlock breakthrough ideas, and encourage a whole new way of thinking.

Which is exactly what Sarma accomplished on this day in Boston. By the end of the workshop, Sarma had inspired a whole new approach to the toy manufacturer’s business. He had talked about looking at new technologies as inventing a new design language with the nouns and verbs that can help rethink what is taken for granted.

He asked the executives to think of themselves as not being a products company but rather as owning an element of their customers’ needs. For example, he said, Amazon strives to own “reading,” not sell books. He challenged the audience to apply this concept to themselves: “What element of your customers’ life do you want to own?”

This question rippled through the room, forcing the attendees to shift their perspective to consider what their company might focus on if they owned “play.” By expanding their world from building toys to creating play, the barriers that define a toy company are blown down, paving the path for new ideas and broader innovation. Sarma brought this to life by sharing several examples showing that changing a company’s language opens up opportunities for innovation.

Afterward, Sarma said: “It’s fascinating to work with companies that realize that change is upon them and they need to marry technology with business and personal and recreate themselves in some ways to meet these extraordinary new challenges. To me, it’s that conversation that is most exciting, the conversation that includes technology, people, and business in redoing everything.”

By the end of the day, the gathered executives had come away with not only a larger definition of their business, but also several important actions to begin to exploit this new approach. This involves evaluating a more immersive shopping experience for parents and children in the physical store environment, projecting what play would mean in a completely digital shopping experience, and creating a specific team to continue to progress the thinking and drive results through additional innovation sessions.

The Accenture Luminaries program was created to bring together Accenture account teams and technology experts, esteemed academic thought leaders, and senior-level strategy-makers from client organizations, in an environment tailor-made to jump-start the sort of innovation that could disrupt the established order of highly competitive industries. The Accenture Luminaries combine to bring expertise in the fields of design thinking, software design, security-by-design, robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, machine learning, future of the workforce, IoT, automation, auto-ID/RFID, digital learning, gaming, health care, extended reality, design, marketing, emerging technology, leadership strategy, mobile systems, and sports technology.

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How the Accenture Luminaries Program Helped a Toy Manufacturer Unlock Breakthrough Ideas

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