Archive for the ‘Digital’ Category

Enough Innovation, Go Evolve

[This piece was co-written with an esteemed colleague and verifiable thought leader Jose Corella@josecorella. Frankly, he wrote all of it. I just talked a lot and made some edits.]

Picture waves, currents, and boats.  Some waves/currents are big and some boats are big; commensurately, some waves/currents are small and some boats are also small.  The big boats navigate the small waves & minor currents relatively easy – and stay the course – while the smaller boats may feel the water as choppy and are forced to make changes in direction more often.  When the water isn’t too choppy, and the undercurrents are minimal or known, the larger boats can usually get from Point A to Point B more efficiently, while the smaller boats may have to expend more energy as they travel with the changing currents.

Conversely, as major undercurrents begin to change the larger boats have a more difficult time tracking those changes until those changes are physically impacting their ability to sail smoothly; whereas the smaller boats, which by design are closer to the undercurrents, can feel or “sense” the major changes in direction sooner and can make adjustments sooner.  Therefore, travel from Point A to Point B in the most efficient manner is highly dependent on the size of the vessel and the environment in which it operates.

Now the big question: Is the big ship considered innovative when it starts to use a new tool that allows it to track the changes in the undercurrents sooner?  Consider this before answering:

  • The water in which the large ship sails didn’t change, it is still water.

  • The ship itself didn’t physically change; it is simply using a different, perhaps new, tool.

The not-too-subtle reframing of the question then becomes: Did the ship truly innovate with the use of the new tool or simply adjust/evolve to the macro-change in the currents?  Industry says, more often than not, the metaphorical ship (corporation) innovated.  Our argument is that companies – big and small – spend an enormous of energy, capital, and training on innovation when in fact they should be shifting their thinking and resources to evolution. Why evolution?

  1. More achievable. Dreams / big ideas without action are simply that, dreams.

  2. More efficient. Executed ideas build onto themselves and generate more ideas.

Innovation thought leaders frequently counter with arguments proposing that evolutionary ideas may prohibit truly breakthrough or “innovative” ideas. However, we postulate that steady, incremental, iterative ideation yields far more results – and enables additional “innovation” – at a far greater rate than the proverbial home run.  James Dyson famously made 5,127 prototypes1 before arriving at the final design of the world-renowned bagless vacuum cleaner.  Mark Zuckerberg, arguably, evolved from CourseMatch to Facemash to Facebook 1, learning something from each successive evolution.  Dyson and Zuckerberg each captured the critical insight first (crappy bagged vacuums suck, or don’t, and desire for social connectedness, respectively) and then worked the evolutions…hard.

The bottom line is that we feel that the term innovation is being overused; whether it is during strategy sessions or within goal documents, the fact is that innovation, real innovation is very, very hard.  Organizations should instead be shifting the thinking away from lofty innovation goals and spend more energy toward delivering incremental, achievable – a.k.a. evolutionary – changes in their business models.  To be clear we’re not advocating that organizations should stop pursuing BHAGs; we’re saying that huge, game-changing ideas should be pursued but not at the expense of quickly adopting market-driven evolutions.

While our proposal may seem like semantics – given that sometimes the “best” innovation is often described in terms of being linear and iterative – changing the dialogue from “go innovate” to “go evolve”, while subtle, can represent a very powerful mindshift.

1. “Think like Zuck” by E.Walter

Other thought nuggets:

  • By the time the Titanic realized what was going on, it was too late.

  • Would the tools that small boat fisherman were using for eons helped the Titanic?

  • Was the Titanic doomed from the outset due to size and “not invented here” hubris? What could the leadership have done differently? Besides listen more.

  • Large companies typically resort to spending more money (on the engine) to break through the turbulence; is that a good strategy?  What is?

  • Can you credit an org/brand with innovation if they eliminate or reduce unnecessary clutter? Or that just simplification?


Hyper Island Reflection

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the last two days of an intensive three day “master class” from Hyper Island. I won’t belabor you with details of the class or how it works, but I do think one of the featured attendees on the website says it very well. The world of digital at a pleasant 10,000mph. With great biscuits.— Sarah Jenkins, Managing Partner, GREY.  Also, here is a video (a bit too long) about another experience there – Hyper Island Master Class

Here is what I was thinking at the beginning of day two:

I’m having a hard time understanding what kinds of campaigns we should be running, socially, based on what we want our outcomes to be. We had a brainstorm yesterday about Digital and Social Engagement as it should work in the future and the group I was in kept talking about apps, both Facebook and Mobile. While I believe there may be some opportunity in this area once [certain technologies are available], I’m not convinced that we should be focusing on programs or campaigns at all.

Instead, I’d prefer to focus on developing bite sized content that drives light level interaction among our consumers (the people we want to buy our stuff). For me it means I should start to focus on conversations even more. Recognizing that there are more than words and copy that make up this tidbits. We have to think about these social platforms as BRANDING PLATFORMS not just communications platforms. Our whole process for developing ideas has to change. We have to have does (account teams) and thinkers (strategists) in the same room far more often or we’ll keep getting served program level campaign ideas meant to meat short term goals and objectives that are often in discord with higher level strategies.