Last week was the second in series of breakfasts we’re hosting for those who work in innovation at brands. At the first breakfast we agreed the topic should be partnerships and broadly that’s what we covered.
Sequestered downstairs at Lantana Cafe in Fitzrovia the conversation started off with a discussion of what resources brand innovators use to effect the culture of their companies.
Some tactics included
- An internal version of these innovation breakfasts – simply putting everyone with the word ‘innovation’ in their title in the same physical location and fueling it with bacon, seems a tried and tested approach (other protein sources are available).
- A regular internal newsletter for anyone who wanted to opt-in, based on ‘passion rather than position’. One of our attendees recommended using this to plant subversive provocations of The Great Digital Threat in amongst otherwise innocuous stories of cheerful innovation.
- Another ran a series of briefings based around what they could learn from innovation that happens in life and death operations: A&E rooms, F1 racing teams etc., with the logic that if those organisations can afford to innovate in situations where people actually do die then perhaps we can reframe our fear of innovation in industries and situations where lives are not in fact at risk. As a colleague used to quip when the youngsters at their agency got into a flap – “It’s PR not ER!”
- Sharing articles on an internal network. Yes, it seems basic but a dedicated slack or yammer channel provides a single go-to location to share and learn (an interesting side-bar: sometimes trials can’t be with a small group because to be successful they require some kind of critical mass; the internal network is one: a trial of six people isn’t going to hit the critical mass you need for there to be a useful level of conversation and sharing).
- Encouraging individuals to ‘own’ an area of expertise and to research it, speak about it at conferences and generally become known for that area. I have to say, I tried this at Ogilvy and it’s a challenge getting the right output: an excited junior who just LOVES bitcoin / IoT / Snapchat filters risks being perceived as a naive fanboy if their untempered enthusiasm isn’t proofread / sense checked.
My favorite example of arguments for innovation came from Luke Williams at RNLI: economic reasons can make the most compelling arguments. The RNLI example was that a long term analysis of boat construction costs and facilities made them realize that it just wasn’t going to be cost effective to keep outsourcing construction of Lifeboats – so they built their own facility and now build and refit boats in-house that previously sat outside the organization: talk about vertical integration.
Ostensibly this morning was supposed to be about partnerships, which we did finally get around to discussing. One of our banking participants explained how by streaming their partnerships the bank was able to associate them with the right people inside the bank and make sure they had the right level of support and focus. To achieve this they split them out into streams that were relevant to specific teams in the bank from corporate partnerships to startup partnerships to association memberships. Providing a structure like this makes the purpose of the partnerships self evident and accessible to the participants but also to those outside the program.
We’ll be doing another breakfast in October in the private breakfast chamber at Berner’s Tavern around the theme of selling in innovation to your organization: how to successfully get your organization to adopt innovation. Joining us will Joe Turner from change consultancy August. Joe will be available to offer insights on what he has seen work to drive adoption of innovation and change at some of the world’s largest brands and businesses.
If you work in innovation at a brand and would like to join us please do hit me up on lryan [at] spredfast.com.