An in-depth understanding of consumers sits at the heart of what we all need to do, but we know it’s not always easy to uncover insights that will unlock a true innovation opportunity.
Ideas don’t have any value until they’re executed in the right way, according to the CEO of innovation consultancy, Edge Labs.
“There’s a lot of hype around innovation and a lot of talk about ideas, but what does it all really mean?" said Simon Spencer during a presentation at last week’s CeBIT’s 2016 Digital Marketing conference in Sydney.
“The execution needs to be a wonderful choreography between the marketing side of things and the engineering side of things that brings a new product offering into reality and actually makes it successful.”
So what can you do in order to make innovation happen successfully?
Get the timing right
While he commended organisations that are brave enough to be the round peg in the square hole and push the boundaries of ideas generation, Spencer said success was all about getting the timing right.
“I’ve seen that even though you may have a great idea, the timing may not be right, or the execution isn’t practical,” he said.
Accept an idea as a raw product, not an end in itself
Spencer also said organisations need to recognise that an idea is just a raw product.
“We’re always going to have lots of ideas,” he continued. “The quality of our ideas boom will come down to our ability to be open to a lot of good ideas and then recognise which ones we want to play with now, and which ones we will park for future use.”
For Spencer, the key is experimentation and exploration, because you don’t know the potential value of a marketing idea until you kick it around.
Don't accept the launch and lead method
Spencer, who gained more than 20 years’ experience in the digital and tech space for both large organisations like Oracle and Citigroup before moving into the startup space, has been involved with a plethora of creative campaigns and said he’s seen the best and worst.
“For instance, I’ve seen a great campaign launched in banking, which was fantastic to begin with, but then they walked away from it,” he said. “It was a launch and leave, which is actually not uncommon across a lot of enterprises. Too many organisations take a great idea and throw money at it, launch it, and then realise that’s just the first part of the journey.”
Don’t copy someone else’s model
When it comes to being truly innovative, Spencer said if you’re too focused on copying someone else’s’ model, then you’re completely missing the point.
“There are lots of different styles of innovation,” he said. “But it all comes down to finding a need and filling it. And the great thing is companies, customers and the economy are all just problem factories, they’re constantly generating problems, which is great. As a result, there are so many cool problems to solve. And the most interesting ones are those nobody else is looking at.
“Where there is consensus, there is generally little or no opportunity. So find an area where there is not a lot of consensus and there is a lot of need, which is exactly what the likes of Uber did.”
Invite collaboration between technology and marketing
When it comes to leveraging technology, Spencer also suggested to look at strategy first and technology second.
“Technology is the glue between a business and a customer,” he explained. “It needs to be effectively incorporated in the creative process. And while marketers are great story tellers and IT are master builders, it is the fitting of those two together that can really drive innovation and creates incredible products.”
Embrace data as a sensor
According to Spencer, your data is actually little signals of interactions, transactions, movements and networks.
“As a digital marketer, you’re sitting on a minefield of data, but you can also be the puppet master of a great sensor network,” he said. “The more you look at your data as a sensor capability, it will start to inspire ways for you to find out about new things to drive further innovative ideas.”
One example Spencer revealed was when his company worked with a building client to look at elevator data to see which tenants frequented it the most and when.
“Based on the data, we could see which businesses on which floors were possibly doing well, which ones were getting busier and which ones were quietening down,” he said. “All sorts of interesting signals can be collected from analysing the right data.”
Ultimately, leveraging data is about creating insights and developing the right instrumentations to drive a business forward.
“Stepping back from this obsession about the ideas boom, real solutions need to be driven by real problems, and we need to treat Australia as a wonderful incubator of ideas that we can commercialise and prototype,” Spencer added.