Y&R’s take on true innovation

23 Jun 2014 by Scott Middleton

What is true innovation? Is it simply being the first to do something? Is it executing an idea that genuinely changes the way we meet customers’ needs? After being identified by BRW as a top 10 Innovation Company in Australia earlier this year, managing director Andrew Dowlingof Y & R attempts to define the elusive concept of true innovation. He suggests is not just about leverage tactics that have never been used before, but about their impact on the customer and their relationship with the brand. He breaks it down into some key principles that create an environment ripe for innovation:

Unearth unknown needs

Today, meeting a customer’s wants and needs is no longer simply about efficiently fulfilling a brief exactly as asked. It is more than that. It is about becoming your customers’ partner for growth, keeping abreast of change and being aware of needs they may not have been aware of or ever articulated. These needs require unearthing. They may not sit in an existing brief but they are paramount to finding paths for true innovation.

Know your market

Dowling calls it “being obsessed with Aussies” but regardless of where you do business, the message is the same: you must know how your customers think and behave. Global data and trends are useful but not as useful as a solid understanding of your local market. This allows for differentiation in crowded categories and innovative products.

Invest in unconventional doers

It often seems like the ratio of innovative ideas to executed innovative ideas is a million to one. This is because often creative thinkers fail to invest in creative doers. Creative thinking is only one part of innovation. Perhaps of equal importance is creative doing: people who think outside the square to get your product to market. This includes unconventional software developers, designers, and producers who get a kick out of working in new technologies or with new methodologies. Who get things done. Quickly.

Be flexible

Real innovation means giving up on rigid models and old ways of doing things. It means becoming nimble and open to new ideas. It means building on past successes while acknowledging that what worked once might not work again. An innovative team is reactive and responsive.

Be driven

Dowling points to the old adage, “there is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind”. This is true. For innovation to work it must be timely. As such, we must turn up the heat, hold ourselves accountable and be driven by commitments and expectations. The alternative is to watch opportunity pass us by.

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