Last week saw the second instalment of Innovation Stories take place at DigitasLBi in London. A solid line up of speakers meant the room was full of industry heads, hungry for a dose of inspiration.
Nadya Powell (@NadsBads), our co-founder of Innovation Social kicked-off with an introduction to what Innovation Social is all about – a support group for people who want to drive disruption.
The first speaker of the event was Glyn Briton (@Glyndot), Managing Partner of Albion, an agency built with innovation ingrained in its DNA. A great example of the unique way in which they work is Skype, which they took from a unknown beta to a household name. It took more than four years to become a mainstream communication tool and begin to disrupt the industry. Changing peoples behaviours; in this case getting them to talk into a laptop, takes commitment, focus and a lot of hard work.
Glyn talked about the changes that Albion have made to maximise innovation. Experimentation is the first step on the road to real change, but following through on those experiments is often where our industry falls down. Albion have consciously kept this at the core of their organisation, and it’s this dedication that leads to true innovation for the clients they work with.
Next up was co-founder of Innovation Social Daniele Fiandaca. Having just returned from Cannes, he discussed one of the newest categories at the awards, the Innovation Lions. Cheil were shortlisted for the Samsung NX Rover project, which Daniele pitched to the jury, a mixture of VC’s and ad industry heavyweights. When they asked him “What breakthrough technology made this happen?”, it was apparent that they weren’t going to win. Something doesn’t have to be new to innovative. Daniele believes that innovation in our industry is rooted in finding better ways to solve communication problems, and it is this that should be celebrated by the Innovation Lions. If the emphasis is going to continue to be tech focused, maybe the award should be renamed the Technology Lions?
Next on stage was Lorenzo Wood (@lorenzowood), Chief Innovation Officer at DigitasLBi sharing some of the learnings from DIG, an innovation program they created with AstraZeneca to push the healthcare industry forward. Casting carefully is essential, this type of unique working environment does not suit everyone, the ideal candidates should be naturally curious and thrive from knowing what everyone around them is doing. Aiming to allow healthcare professionals to work, connect and learn more efficiently, DIG puts a huge about of focus on really understanding the problem before trying to solve it. Taking time to really understand the problem you’re trying to solve will ultimately lead to better, more innovative solutions.
Debbi Evans (@SheBla) talked us through the journey she’s been on with her start-up Libertine. Debbie was frustrated with the dull and formulaic woman’s media that was on offer, almost entirely made up of fashion and beauty content. She decided to do something about it, Libertine was born, a magazine for interested women. Over the last year Debbie has developed the brand, using the power of glamour aesthetics to pull audiences in. She readily admits she’s still experimenting, moving more towards an online presence.
Jeremy Ettinghausen and Agathe Guerrer from BBH shared the importance of experimenting by talking about five experiments they undertook as part of BBH Labs. Take, for example, the robotify experiments and thinky.do. Both perfectly embody the BBH Labs spirit and the hit and run strategy of: do something quickly. Learn quickly. Move on. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Most of all however, they stressed the importance of telling your innovation stories well. Be clear about what you’re doing, and communicate it. If others don’t understand your intentions, it could spell PR disaster.
John Willshire and Tracey Camilleri brought a different interpretation of innovation to the stage. Innovation is about learning, Tracey explained, so leaders should prioritise creating a context where people can learn. We should think about how to attract and delight the right people. John then went on to talk about some of the experiments that Smithery and Saïd Business School conducted together, mostly exploring the Internet as a material. He championed the pleasure in making, in getting suits dirty, and making as thinking. He wow’d the stage though, with his closing statement: “Innovation isn’t what you bring in, it’s what you leave behind.” Yes John.
From the off it was quite clear that Melissa, director of Kitchen from Wolf Olins, has sunshine hardwired into her DNA. Innovation is possible everywhere, she declared. Look for those possibilities. Find something that makes you so happy, you don’t know you’re doing it. She challenged us to get stuck into our business problems and reframe them as advantages. Take, for example, Melissa’s discovery that introversion is, in fact, an advantage in a creative environment – not the weakness she thought it was. For that reason, embrace criticism. It forces you to think about what you’re doing.
Last up was Jon Burkhart, co-author of NewsJacking and founder of Realtime Content Labs, who managed to keep the crowd rapt despite the approaching lunch hour. He confessed that CEO’s make mistakes too, because they’re not where the people are. Perhaps they could do with some more Millennial Mentoring – that is, the genius unification of out-of-touch suits, and bored, tech-wise kids. So far, the results are great. Get involved!
So as everyone's stomachs rumbled for lunch we called it a morning. And what a fantastic day of inspiration and energy it was. Our second Innovation Stories and the demands for the next one mean there will be many more.