Warning To Innovators: Be Thick Skinned

In the payments space, when the going gets tough, the tough get innovating.

No one knows this better than Chris Colson, who serves in a unique capacity as director of innovation at TSYS.

PYMNTS.com first caught up with Colson when he began his journey at TSYS several months ago and spoke about how innovation and “people-centered payments” go hand-in-hand. Colson also spoke about the need to put an innovation process in place in order to better understand and gauge the market and its needs.

Fast-forward to the present, and Colson has built that process, leading TSYS through a first 100 days in which he says he received an incredible 60 submissions for innovative projects from the TSYS staff.

How is Colson translating those ideas into platforms that can change the payments space? Market Platform Dynamics CEO Karen Webster caught up with Colson to find out.

“As you know, it’s very, very rare that an idea comes in on its own and actually gets launched as that original idea,” Colson said.

According to Colson, TSYS has developed six prototypes in the last 100 days, and engaged with their clients in order to get feedback. Colson said that it’s that feedback that lets his team decide quickly and efficiently which products are ready to advance, which need major tweaks and which should be discarded all together.

“We can make sure when we get ready to launch a product, we’re going to hit the mark and not waste anybody’s time, or resources, or finances,” Colson said. “It’s a good way and a quick way to minimize resources and expense to get that necessary feedback.”

Pressed on the type of response TSYS’ prototypes received, Colson said the reactions “[ran] the gamut,” but that negative feedback provided another opportunity through which TSYS could learn and adapt.

“In innovation, you’ve got to have a thick skin. So when someone tells you they don’t like the prototype, for whatever reason, you don’t take that personally,” Colson explained.

He also noted that two of the prototypes were very well received, and that two other were what he deemed as “sci-fi” in that they were designed to “[push] the envelope of capability and what people would want to do.” As such, the mix of prototypes TSYS tested and created gave the company a deeper understanding of what the market really wants and needs right now, and provided more clarity to their innovation process.

“The nice thing about the process that we’re implementing is, when you get that quick prototype and you get that quick feedback, it’s OK to say, ‘It’s not something that that we think the market has an interest in.’ And more importantly, if that’s the case, you also get that feedback to hopefully help you adjust to say, ‘Oh, this is what the market’s looking for or what the clients want,’” Colson said.

“We’re constantly looking for that feedback from team members, clients, vendors and clients on how we can modify that program to make it more successful.”

To hear more Colson and Webster on how TSYS tackles innovation, listen to the full podcast below.


*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.

Chris Colson
Director of Innovation, TSYS

Chris Colson is director of innovation for TSYS. He is an 18-year veteran of the payments and financial services industry, having previously served as vice president, product management, of Equifax, in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he was responsible for managing multiple business units and product portfolio teams. Colson’s additional responsibilities at Equifax included defining product and market strategies; identifying, developing and working with segment partners to create joint products; and defining and describing innovative ideas. Prior to TSYS and Equifax, he gained additional experience working at companies such as S1 Corporation, Magnet Corporation, Bank One and Bank of America.

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