Innovation is a popular subject being discussed at the moment and more and more the responsibility for innovation is sitting with the digital marketing team. At a recent Interactive Minds event the topic of Digital Marketing + Innovation was explored and four industry experts presented insights into different approaches that could be used. These discussions are invaluable to Digital Marketers who are expected to apply an innovation approach to their work and be informed about innovation processes and directions available.
Jen Storey who Co-Founded Edgelabs and is currently working with Computershare was the first speaker and she talked about what innovation is and how it occurs when you identify a problem worth solving. Identifying a suitable problem is one of the first steps and a suitable problem can be defined as having high importance and have low satisfaction. Once a problem worth solving is identified, it provides the organisation with an opportunity to leverage innovation and disruption to develop a solution worth doing.
She spoke about known knowns, known unknowns and unknowns unknowns. Unknown unknowns, are the things that we don’t know that we don’t know and once identified are the areas of most opportunity.
Jen also outlined the difference between improvement, innovation and disruption and explained how innovation is higher risk than improvement and moves from incremental changes, to new ideas and directions. Innovation differs from disruption though as disruption will actually cause real pain to others in the industry. The more disruptive you are, the more pain you will be causing.
Simon Sinek’s ‘Know your why’ was mentioned and it was discussed how important this is as a reference point when innovating. It was a good reminder that people don’t buy your product, they buy why you do it and if you keep your why at the centre of your innovation journey, it will be more genuine, aligned with the business and get better outcomes.
There were many bite sized quote gems mentioned by Jen on the day and one of my favourite was “Innovation is not a linear process, most of the time you’ll be swimming in a great swirly mess.” I also loved the hypothetical question of “How you could give away the core product of your business and make money another way?” It reminds of the 10x revenue concept (what would you do if you had to increase your revenue by 10 times?) as a method of completely rethinking what you offer to your customers and how you make money.
One of my key insights from this morning of learning was that there is also no right or wrong way to approach innovation. Rather there are many, many different models and frameworks and at this stage when innovation is being incorporated more into marketing and digital, it’s about finding the best approach for your organisation.
As Ben Sorensen, the Director of Innovation and Disruption at PwC shared, we can read all the books about innovation and learn what to do, but the biggest challenge in truly being innovative is to change how we think. He mentioned that students are a great resource for new ways of thinking, particularly ones that aren’t encumbered by life experiences. Ben described innovation as doing things differently to create better outcomes and talked about how the status quo doesn’t extend into the future, so that we can’t expect business to be done the same way as it has been done to date. We need to find different ways to create value to remain relevant. A good example of this was any organisation that sells time (eg. Consultants). If you’re selling time, you are selling a commodity that is limited.
Ben also brought attention to the The Bain and Co Value Pyramid (image below) which looks at values that are important to customers. The more values included in a solution, the more loyal customers will be and the better the company will do.
Throughout the presentations there were continual references to the startup industry and what we can learn from their approach. Being ok with failure (or even celebrating it) is something that was raised by Ben and the importance of expecting to not always be right when you are moving fast and trying new things. Letting go of control in the innovation stage is also important as control won’t reduce your risk, it will just inhibit your opportunities.
When Janice Hoogeveen, who works in innovation and marketing at Health World took the stage we had the opportunity to look at innovation from the lense of the FMCG industry. Janice has worked in organisations that have tried various models of introducing innovation — forming separate innovation teams and incorporating innovation into existing teams. Janice shared that the optimal structure really depends on the organisation’s place in the innovation journey, however she feels that separate innovation teams are more effective, providing they have a way to decimate the opportunities through the rest of the organisation.
Another point that Janice shared was that being innovative doesn’t mean having to start from scratch every time. Learn from other industries, borrow with pride and adapt for your business. Innovation is all about persistence and moving forward.
We spoke more about team structure when Tim Anderson from Suncorp Innovation Labs took the stage. His team uses the hipsters, hackers and hustlers model (explained here). They get things done by being lean and quick and using small feedback loops, which is part of the lean startup methodology. We talked about the “ready, fire aim” concept which focuses on getting stuff out there fast and before it’s fully built.
Tim mentioned a few resources to check out including this Ted talk on The surprising habits of original thinkers. He also briefly told the story of “any old map will do” where an army platoon was lost in the Alps. One soldier found a map in his pocket, and using it the troops got out safely. They later discovered the map was for another mountain. This is referenced in the book Sensemaking in Organisations by Karl Weick.
“When you are confused,” Weick explains, “any old strategic plan will do. Strategic plans . . . animate . . . people. Once people begin to act, they generate tangible outcomes (that) help them discover what is occurring . . . and what should be done next.”
Tim’s final point was that to be innovative, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
The innovation discussion showcased a plethora of different frameworks, steps and thought processes that a modern innovator can access to help them with each step in the innovation process. As a Digital Marketer, it’s useful to draw on the key themes shared which can be summarised as:
• Focus on problems worth solving
• Know your organisation’s ‘why’
• Be lean, fast moving and use small feedback loops
• Don’t expect to be right every time (embrace failure!)
• Get started.
Are you a Digital Marketer who has taken on some innovation responsibilities? Share your approach and learnings on Interactive Minds’ Facebook group.