Is innovation really innovation when it’s all fluff and no substance?
You can talk the talk about being an ‘innovative’ agency, but unless you have the tools and concrete actions to back up your words, it’s (let’s face it) just bad marketing. You need to be solving a problem, need innovation needs to be actionable.
When it comes to practically implementing ‘innovation’ into your own processes or trying to work it into your clients’, there is always that pressure to do something new. Just about every company wants to to come up with the next big thing that will ‘wow’ everyone and transform an industry. The pressure to ‘innovate’ in this way is especially true for B2B companies– there’s the new client who wants to see that bright and shiny toy, to use the latest thing in e-commerce or digital that will supposedly pull in new customers. This just amplifies the temptation to add steps into an operation; but putting new bits and bobs between points A and B may not enhance but in fact detract from your ultimate goal. Of course, while new ideas are needed and there are valuable tools to organise yourself in such a way to foster ‘that next big idea’, contrary to popular thought it’s actually better to be focused on reshaping old processes in order to improve efficiencies. It’s not about adding to a process, but stripping it down, combining steps, and removing the extraneous and obsolete.
In reality, often the most innovative action you can take is to remove steps.
Where Do You Start?
Set Yourself up for Success
Innovation starts at home, and just like anything worthwhile, you need to work at it. You can’t just decide to have a workplace that is evolving and pushing the envelope, and expect it to happen without taking concrete steps to change things. Here are a few practical ways to foster innovation in your workplace, and then look outward.
While having an open concept workspace has some drawbacks, the advantages far outweigh any negatives. Instead of being closed off and isolated, the dividing lines between designers and sales, marketers and project managers, developers and PR teams are intentionally blurred. Open spaces promote the sharing of ideas, inspiration, and playlists. It’s vital to facilitate open lines of communication, both in encouragement and constructive criticism. It fosters unity of vision, an environment where everyone calls each other to a higher standard and to exceed expectations with each new project.
Inward Reflecting Outward: Core Processes
As you take on client projects ask yourself: what are the core processes in question, and what could be improved? You want to create frictionless experiences for your target consumer (or your client’s consumer). You need to look at the whole picture; depending on your speciality it’s easy to only examine one small sphere and ignore the rest, but in order to identify and target the micro areas of weakness you have to know the macro situation.
Are there certain areas that create resistance? Are there extra steps or visual input that could be removed? How can processes be simplified? These are the types of questions that you need to ask yourself and your team. Especially your team. Because you cannot innovate in a silo. You need to present ideas and have them be challenged, you need to analyse a concept for weak points. Collaboration is key, not the least of which because every person on your team has different strengths and perspectives, and it’s through collaboration that blind spots are discovered. If necessary, pull in specialists and get an outside opinion. If you are overhauling a process, interview the experts along each step and find out where the complications are, and what could be combined and clarified. Often, true innovation can be found in simplification.
If the project involves new technology, don’t just use it because it’s there. Ask yourself: can you use it practically? Will your target customer get it? Is it right for the environment? Will it last?
Work to solidify your core processes, but with an attitude of flexibility and eye to to the future. Don’t ever get so confident in your way of doing things that you are blind to refinement and improvements. Keep your gaze macro as well as micro in where you look for inspiration, and don’t be intimidated by challenges but see them as an urging to a new level of excellence. This way, finding and implementing new innovations can become part of your structure of work and culture, and act as a launching pad rather than a roadblock.