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Make Innovation Possible through Innovation

By Jeff Melton, SVP, Global Technology & Platforms, MSLGROUP

The vast majority of executives, 93 percent, hitch their company‘s long-term success to their ability to innovate but at the same time, less than 18 percent believe their own innovation strategy is delivering a competitive advantage – Accenture

The private equity and venture capital sector’s actions are indicators that established organizations are not identifying emerging opportunities to innovate soon enough in a world of shifting trends, i.e. Change Spaces. Established and emerging Change Spaces can be easily missed because too often organizations arbitrarily monitor Change Spaces and they too often do so in silos. For example, emerging technology Change Spaces are often disconnected from the liberal arts – changes in culture and society – that are the true drivers that are influencing the innovation and change. In the world of marketing and communications too often Change Space, or trend, monitoring is disconnected from the organization’s strategic and creative processes. Too often a baseline expectation for new, innovative service and product prototypes is non-existent or poorly defined. Too often innovation is approached without rigor and a demand for results and too often it’s one team’s job to figure it all out.

The need to innovate proactively, strategically, and efficiently is key to unlocking influential ideas – and the process needs to be everyone’s job.

A niche incubator or silo’d accelerator within an organization won’t succeed on its own because success rates will be too low and people come and go. Everyone in an organization should understand the drivers of change that surround their organization, its clients, and its clients’ audiences. A recent article in Harvard Business Review states that companies are now making innovation everyone’s job which is a bit of a shift for many organizations. But if making innovation everyone’s job is to be successful, every member of an organization needs to not just contribute new ideas but they need to be trained and supported with the tools and process to do so.

Members of an organization need to identify important macro Change Spaces influencing their organization, its clients, and its client’s audiences. They need to identify innovation partners that are driving or participating in those spaces in order to help approach opportunities and challenges with a new lens. In large, matrixed organizations every team, office, or specialty should have a strategic understanding of the change spaces impacting them as well as their own set partners from within those Change Spaces.

Approach innovation with innovation

Operationalizing large scale innovation is not easy because accurately identifying the drivers of change as well as the drivers and participants with which to partner can yield poor results if not approached with an equally innovative process. “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been”, said Wayne Gretsky. His words convey the need to understand signals that point to where things are headed – and that by doing one can be the first to develop innovative and creative strategies to win. Organizations know that monitoring emerging drivers of change is messy – with disparate ‘trend monitoring’ data sources, technology partners and platforms, analysis processes and presentation formats – all creating innovation inefficiency. Simply put, organizations are not connecting cutting edge technology, data, and strategic processes to efficiently decode the interrelated influence of driving Change Spaces across society, the environment, politics, the economy, as well as emerging technologies that together create strategic advantages.

Organizations that begin to understand how interrelated Change Spaces and their respective drivers and participants impact their organization’s future business as well as their communications will out-innovate and out-communicate the competition. It is for this reason that organizations are focused on creating processes for partnering with the most innovative minds across various and sometimes unexpected Change Spaces. But understanding the Change Spaces as well as the drivers and participants is just the first step. The next step must be to deliver on the new thinking by defining the number of prototypes required – by setting clearly defined, quantifiable expectations for innovation across all relevant spaces and partnerships. Members of an organization should be strongly encouraged to not just partner and collaborate with change space drivers and participants but to create prototypes that will be supported with investment.

What should an organization do to get started?


The importance of strategically, proactively, and efficiently prototyping is immense but so too is the nuance of properly communicating the stage of development for new ideas. Understanding and clearly communicating an idea as a Prototype vs. Alpha vs. Beta vs. Gold is critical as too often a prototype can be mistaken or miscommunicated as market-ready. Communicating internally as well as to clients that something is still just a prototype will help to manage expectations.

As the CEO of Publicis Communications put it, “If the company is serious about transformation, it needs to act quickly instead of just talking. After all, in a market that changes so quickly, you can’t stay still.”

Jeffrey Melton


Jeff is head of Global Technology and Platforms and leads the global integration of digital technology with MSLGROUP’s global digital offerings. Connect with him on twitter @JeffDM



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