Today's CMOs face increased pressure to redefine how their companies interact and engage with their consumers in order to survive. Yet most are not taking advantage of the changes in consumer behavior and the possibilities offered by new technology to improve their product, retain employees, and manage the bottom line. So how can marketers and their agencies foster innovation? Here are a few suggestions from a digital renaissance woman:
1. New Process
For marketing executives, it should be about incorporating a new management process, one that is innovation driven. Idris Mootee best describes a form of innovation management as "the economic implementation and exploitation of new ideas and discoveries, and the implementation of an innovation culture in an organization, to promote and make possible the development of new ideas and business opportunities. It consists of innovation strategy, culture, idea management and commercialization risk management." Simply put, it's about building a structure for innovative thinking coupled with action and surrounding yourself with smart and creative types who offer a blend of business and design thinking.
2. Rethink the Org Chart
For agencies, it's about design-driven innovation. Designing the right team structures that will drive fresh thinking. The cross-functional teams of the dotcom era need to evolve further and represent diversity not only in role but in gender, age, race, and culture. The old paradigm of agency rockstars (copywriter and art director combo) needs to add a creative technologist and/or social scientist to the mix. If innovation is about reinvention, how can one innovate using the same conventional teams or methods? For example, look at your creative brief. It was developed 20 years ago -- blow it up and start again. Considering CMOs now view strategy and innovation as a top factor in hiring a marketing agency, it would be wise for agencies to pay attention.
3. Find Inspiration through Failure
Take a lesson from farmers -- they learn to fail, succeed, and then fail again. Sometimes by their own mistakes; sometimes it's out of their control. They learn to deal with failure like the death of animals, crops that didn't grow, or bugs eating their prized peaches. They experiment a lot, trying to figure out why it happened and think about solutions -- quickly. And most of the time, the experiments are small -- like putting a fence around the base of the apple tree, digging a ditch around a strawberry patch, or converting unsold corn into cow feed. Learn to fail courageously and how to spin it; as Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed. I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work."
4. Risk Budgeting
It's funny the level of comfort one has in failure when there is a budget attributed to it. Take 5 percent of your entire marketing budget and apply it to "innovation planning." Innovation planning is key, as it prepares you for the unexpected or ensures a budget is available when you need it. Consider the risks associated with inaction.
5. Agents 3.0
Move over change agents, what we need now are innovation agents. They possess a high IQ (imagination quotient), wake up with a different idea every day, act as a catalyst for discussion, and truly think and look at the world differently than you. Provide the right environment, and they will sprout.
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