I sat down with Melora Zaner, the Chief Design Officer at TIAA, to discuss the often-overlooked value of incremental innovation and the transformative power of design in addressing pressing societal challenges like retirement. 

Our conversation starts with an urgent issue that many are facing—the retirement crisis in America. We discuss the alarming statistics indicating that 40% of Americans are on track to run out of money in their retirement years. Melora offers an intriguing alternative by asking, “What if we shift our thinking from ‘retirement planning’ to ‘longevity planning’?” This approach puts the focus on sustained income, healthcare provisions, and overall quality of life, rather than just a lump sum that may or may not last a lifetime.

Innovation doesn’t have to be grandiose to be impactful, as Melora eloquently points out. The episode delves into the concept of ‘breadcrumbing,’ a term Melora uses to describe the art of celebrating small, incremental changes that lead toward a significant shift. These small steps, often overlooked in the constant quest for disruptive change, can offer customers stepping stones, helping them see a future where their needs and concerns are addressed.

We also discuss the importance of storytelling in the journey of innovation. How do you narrate a story that balances the celebration of small victories with the drive toward grand visions? The idea is to offer manageable steps, or breadcrumbs, to make the journey less daunting and more rewarding for both customers and organizations. These incremental changes shouldn’t be underestimated; they often result in exponential gains over time, especially when they address specific customer pain points.

Finally, Melora shares insights into getting internal stakeholders on board with innovation. She emphasizes that incremental wins can build confidence internally and set the stage for bigger, more disruptive changes in the long run.

Tune into this episode of Innovation Storytellers Show to explore the power of incremental innovation and design-led thinking in transforming how we approach complex challenges, from the retirement crisis to customer engagement and internal alignment. Because sometimes, the biggest changes start with the smallest steps.

Don’t miss this enlightening discussion, full of actionable insights and thought-provoking concepts that challenge the status quo.

Name: Melora Zaner 
Title: Global Immersive Strategist, Former Global Creative Product Lead for Immersive
Company: TIAA

Linkedin WebsiteLinkedIn

Melora Zaner is the Chief Design Officer responsible for building a design-led culture, strengthening our design craft and capabilities, and creating an end-to-end experience vision that unlocks innovation and inspires and empowers clients to pursue retirement security with us.

Additionally, Melora is responsible for defining and implementing an integrated design system and center of design excellence, introducing rigor into our processes and creating a cohesive TIAA experience across all touch points for our clients.

Melora has more than 20-years’ global experience in human-centered design across consumer banking, media and technology and has a strong track record of building and leading scaled cross-functional teams and strategizing with business partners. She also holds 30+ patents in financial, social media and cloud computing services.

Before joining TIAA in October 2022, Melora was the Head of Customer Experience Design at U.S. Bank, and oversaw a team of product and content designers, experience strategists and behavioral scientists to create holistic and high-quality experiences across bank stakeholders. Before that, she held digital and design roles of increasing responsibility at JP Morgan Chase. Melora also worked for Yahoo! in Taiwan and Microsoft and IDEO in China, all in a user design experience capacity.

Melora holds a Masters in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in Human Development from Vanderbilt University. She is a mentor for Girls Who Code, and is a co-founder of DigiGirlz, an international program for young women interested in tech. Zaner is also a musician and began her design career 20+ years ago by supporting herself as the lead singer of a punk band.