David Armano and I talk about innovation

Last October, David Armano, SVP/Innovation Chief at Edelman and I spoke at MIMA’s annual summit, a pretty terrific annual conference in Minneapolis. We agreed that we would not use decks, and instead that we would simply talk about our experiences trying to inspire others to embrace new ideas and technologies.

Our premise was that you don’t need to be a chief innovation officer to know that pushing boundaries in business environments can be both rewarding and often times frustrating. Advances in society, technology and the way we work have paved the way for innovation to happen in virtually every field.

But it can be hard. Muscle memory, organizational structure, physical space and a fear of change all present formidable challenges.

Yet for agencies to be more innovative — creating utility not just messages, practicing prototyping instead of demanding perfection, launching new businesses — we need to change. We need to change ourselves, our processes, our teams, even how we conduct performance reviews.

There were some good questions and topics for conversation. We talked about how innovation can be small; it doesn’t have to be big. How it’s hard to find funding for projects when agencies are in the service business not the software business. How important it is for our industry to become builders rather than message makers. How the next generation of creators wants to build things out of technology and code and APIs, not out of words and pictures. How simple tactics like “shut up and write” can inspire new thinking. How different teams comprised of the new creative person – digital, social, able to write code – can yield unexpected results. How it might be worth launching new sustainable businesses within existing companies.

MIMA’s Annual Summit is one of the better events I attended last year. Executive Director Tim Brunelle does an amazing job organizing an agenda and attracting speakers. And the opportunity to connect, network and discover sources of new ideas makes attendance well worth it even you’re from another part of the country.

Keynoters included Avinash Kaushik and Chris Anderson, two of the smartest guys you’ll ever hear talk about what’s happening in our and related industries, inspired everyone in attendance.

David and I played a small role. But if you’re interested in what we do and how we think, and you have an hour with nothing more important to do, here you go.

Note: This video only became available recently. Hence this post four months after the actual event.


@lisavgray Thank you for that. Much appreciated.


This was a well balanced talk. I liked how the undercurrent of innovation was tackled not by opposing viewpoints but rather analogous ones. You are very tech centric and David is a bit more content and interaction centric which really created a nice blend of ideas, opinions and approaches. David's comment about how he prototypes was very refreshing and is a point that I think gets lost on a lot of people these days. 


Another bit that stood out was one of the last questions about the case that making something specifically to the users benefit and not necessarily to the brands is still inherently a value add to the brand. While a brand might still ask you to quantify that, the question could be repositioned as "Is there value in a person walking out of your store with a smile on their face?" The answer should be the same in both instances.


One item that while at face value I will agree, but yet can't 100% stand behind is your statement about the next generation of creatives want to do everything with code and API's and such. I would just temper that back a bit myself. I worry about the lack of warmth and humanness to that idea. While technology is paving a creative revolution we have to be aware that it doesn't solve all problems and isn't always the answer. Code and API's are creative toolsets with much power but I continue to believe that the next gen creatives greatest power is multi dimensional and connected thinking. It's understanding what it is to be human and being in tune with our human experiences while harnessing technology to accentuate those experiences. Foundational creativity such as drawing and storytelling will remain as a backbone to the best digital experiences moving forward.


Look forward to you panel at SXSW. See you there.


@edwardboches - my pleasure. Glad to learn about #mimasummit too.

edwardboches moderator

 @ed_flynn_ As always, an incredibly thoughtful comment. Agree that utility for the consumer is a benefit to the brand. Think Sit or Squat app for Charmin, or Skype Teacher's Directory, or Epic Mix for Vail. By doing good for the consumer, all win trust and loyalty.


And yes, you make a good point on the code and API thing.  I believe my point was to remind advertising employers that future gen creatives don't just want to make ads.  They want to "build" things. I still believe that the people holding them back are the current generation of CDs and traditional agency leaders.


 @edwardboches Epic Mix is a great example indeed. I just did a project with the RFID company that set that up and the case study is very impressive. Agree with your point about advertising employers and would ad that they not only struggle with the new type of work but how that work even gets created. My statement perhaps was a bit more angled at those new creatives themselves.