Tangible Innovation – 8 Things you Should be Doing now to Unbridle Progressive Change

June 20, 2017


The quest for innovation has been omnipresent since the clock brought us into this century, but the need and desire for innovation feels like more of an imperative with each passing year. To date, this year alone there have been 18,822,462 mentions of the word innovation.

The concept of innovation is pervasive at Cannes, not just in the innovation category but throughout the festival – I would be so bold to argue that the festival although firmly rooted in creativity has a greater focus on innovation. But what is innovation if not creativity with purpose

This obsession with innovation has led to innovation for innovations sake. The idea that companies and brands are actively seeking innovation regardless of the need but merely out of necessity to be ranked among their peers as innovative.

Never before has there been such a view of the future that offers the sheer limitlessness of opportunities as we are experiencing now. An environment that can feel exhilarating but also crippling for many. Here are 8 things I took away from Cannes 2017 as viewed that you can do to activate a culture of tangible innovation in your environment today.

1. Be tech agnostic.

Most approach innovation from a technology first angle. It’s natural that as an audience we would move from the most interesting thing; the product and find an application within our life and business.  But that’s not how Innovation works.

To innovate you have to identify a business problem that needs solving, out of that root problem innovation will flow, whether tech plays a role or not.

2. Get comfortable about being in the business of not your business.

Iterative progression happens from within. But large scale change happens in colliding your business and industry knowledge with something outside of your sphere of knowledge.  Uber didn’t come out of the taxi industry, but it has certainly changed it. The panels at Cannes that are the most valuable are almost always made up of a professionals and experts from different career paths that have a common goal approached from different angle’s. Start having conversations about elements of a problem outside the sphere of your profession.

3. Maximize opportunities for different viewpoints and inspiration by hiring people that are unlike you.

Diversity was one of the most used words at Cannes main stage panels in 2016 for good reason. Diverse work spaces are richer spaces for inspiration.

4. Connect the innovators to the service delivers

Innovation cannot exist in a bubble. It can but then there is a good chance it will serve nobody. An innovation function needs to be intricately linked to the service of the business to prevent it from drifting too far from the core business.

5. Don’t disrupt your core business.

The most common way to try an embed innovation within an organization is to build a lab internally and fill it with gadgets in the hopes that out of play, something novel will flow. It works for some but not for most. Companies are finding new ways to bring innovation in without disrupting the everyday flow of work, through things like skunkworks structures, integrated accelerators, project based partnerships and many others. Find the innovation model that works for you and causes the least disruption to your core business.

6.  Be OK with not changing the world.

Not every innovation is going to reshape the cosmos, and that’s OK. The most remarkable innovations are the simplest one. The small change that make things better.

7. Take comfort in the fact that “Principles remain. Practices change.” – Sir John Hegarty

Innovation is about change. However whilst change is a necessary step for evolution, innovation should always keep the basic principles intact, despite the fact that the practices may change. For example communications as a profession has undergone tremendous change in practice through the proliferation of social channels and shrinking media pools, to name but two of many elements, but the principles of good communication is now, as is has always been – rooted in smart story telling.

And lastly.

8. Reward curiosity, embrace failure.

Not everything succeeds, but learnings from failure are more remarkable and impactful then those you get from succeeding. In all things, find and reward the curious, they are the problem solvers hidden within your business, all they need is the freedom and confidence to to take you forward.