Firestarters #8 - The Agency Innovation Conundrum


Last week I went to my first ever Firestarters event which was focused on a very interesting topic, that of the innovation conundrum with agencies. I was really happy to see that the panel had a great gender and mind balance to it. 

Innovation is something we all faced with daily without even spending a split second to think about it, but it is also something that agencies, brands and all companies - small or big - are faced with. There is a constant need, but also desire, to innovate. However, very often do people do it for the right reasons. With technology pushing the boundaries more than ever, the  innovation imperative is increasingly present and strong. 

Some of my favourite talks were Phil Adams - Innovation is a bet not an experiment, Anjali Ramachandra - Focus on the good ideas, and Antony Mayfield - Resign thinking.

Phil Adams

Phil Adams

Phil talked about something that I have been increasingly noticing; we seem to be spending a lot of time with clients discussing what they want and need rather than why they want and need certain things. Do we really spend enough time asking the right 'Why' questions? And if we did, would our proposals look the same? My partner often tells me you simply need to ask someone 'a why question' five times and you generally get to the core of the issue. Because when you don't you often get 'products' that neither solve a problem or sell more 'products'.

Phil Adams

Phil Adams

Phil Adams

Phil Adams

Phil also mentioned that agencies have an unhealthy obsession with means. Innovation should be the end, and not the means. Which also brings me back to something that I have noticed in agencies and brands; they all seem obsessed with the technology, new apps, channels and platforms rather than the amazing content they are producing. Sure everything needs some amount of packaging, but not to the extent that it takes the focus off of what really matters; the content.

Anthony Mayfield

Anthony Mayfield

One of the quotes of the evening that really stuck with me and had me thinking on my walk back home was mentioned by Anthony Mayfield, from Brilliant Noise. The quote originally came from Netflix's Chief creative Officier, namely Ted Sarandos, who said about Netflix that "the goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us." Now is Netflix doesn't represent pure disruptive innovation then I am not sure what does. From the point of view of a global PR agency, I really do believe that we need to start thinking more like start-ups and deliver change rather than solution 'to keep up with times'. This is of course easier said than done; but we should certainly try to think outside the box and ahead of times, and convince our clients that they should be doing the same. Because in all honesty, clients - brands and companies - don't want to follow trends they want to make them. But for this to happen, they need to be willing to take the risk and work with agencies that will offer bold solutions that both solve problems and change the ways things are done and thought of.

There is undoubtedly the need to make room for innovation whatever agency you work in, but we should not get distracted about the innovation in itself but rather focus on what problems need innovative solutions. This being said innovation should not only be in our ideas but should also be present in our work space and work process. 

A huge thank you to Neil for the invitation

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