I’m on my way to Minneapolis at the invitation of my friend Tim Brunelle, CEO of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association, for MIMA Summit 2011. From everything I can gather he has an awesome session planned. Google’s analytics guru Avinash Kaushik and Wired’s Chris Anderson both keynote; the list of speakers is impressive; and the sessions are all designed to inspire action.
I’m doing a session with the prolific and omnipresent David Armano. It’s called Group Therapy for Would Be Innovators. We both decided to eschew Powerpoint, panels and pontification. Instead we hope to conduct a large group discussion that covers the following
- What does innovation even mean inside an agency?
- Can agencies actually create value beyond service?
- Should they think in terms of creating their own products?
- Does the service model get in the way?
- How can culture, space, and team structures help
- Is the role of CIO even necessary?
- How much should you invest in innovation?
For some reason innovation appears to be the new industry buzzword. As a result it gets overused, applied to everything, and sometimes pursued with no clear purpose. My thoughts on the subject are simple.
We need to innovate for three reasons.
To keep up with changing consumer behavior.
In just a few years our consumers have turned into content creators and distribution channels. Our old media connected information to them. New media connected them to information. But social media connects people to each other. That means agencies have to invent new ways to engage. We have to master transmedia story telling. We need to get better at gaming dynamics. It takes new kinds of work, teams, briefs and processes to be effective and that is a form of cultural and organization innovation.
To create new products and IP
Who says an agency can’t invent the next Groupon or Instagram or Kickstarter. Our companies are filled with talented, creative, idea generating people. But most of us can only think like service companies. It’s why people like Matt Britton, who created Crowdtap, had to take his idea outside of his agency. Granted some of us are trying to do this with internal labs or various kinds of internal spinoffs, but it takes a software mindset rather than an agency mindset. You need to be faster, more agile and comfortable with prototyping.
To assure long term growth
We spend an inordinate amount of time maximizing how we deliver current services to current clients. Pitches drain our time and energy when we try to sell current services to new clients. It’s often a challenge to develop new services, products or IP for clients who came to us for a different reason. So maybe we ought to carve off at least a percentage of time, money and resources to invent new services or products for either our own firms or client companies who are willing to experiment with us. If one thing is certain it’s this: in transformative times incumbents rarely survive.
None of this is easy. We have to get buy-in, plant seeds, change people, discover new partners. But it beats sitting around watching other people do it first and admiring their accomplishments.
I’m hoping the MIMA sessions yield some great discussion and inspire some new ideas. Wouldn’t it be great if next year we were listening to someone in this year’s audience present their latest innovation.