The Innovation Cycle

I have attended a slew of conferences over the past decade, and while the vast majority blend together like a vegan smoothie, there is the occasional keynote that permeates and awakens you like the first sip of coffee on an early winter Monday morning. I hope you are fortunate enough to experience one of these at every convention; the 30-60 minutes that make the entire trip worth while. The ones that make you vow to impact real change the second you return to the office.

I’m still coming down from the high of my most recent “aha!” moment. It was the perfect combination of message and timing delivered by a charismatic VP who has proven time and time again that he’s a poster child for innovation (Hint: his company rhymes with shmaeshnook). Andrew “Boz” Bosworth has proactively led successful change in one of the most rapidly evolving industries (“News feed” ring a bell?) while maintaining culture and brand integrity. He’s got my attention.

Boz introduced the three key factors for successful innovation which, combined, he dubbed, “The Innovation Cycle.” (I know what you’re thinking…you’ve heard this at every SXSW session that has ever existed; I thought so too.) The difference: he made it tangible.

Understand your Identity.  The key words here being “Understand” and “Identity.”  What you do is NOT necessarily what you sell or who your client is, or even what industry you are in.  It is your core value proposition; the problem you are solving, the service you are providing, the load you are lightening.  What do you actually do? 

I’m guessing you are familiar with a little company by the name of Kodak. I’m also guessing you will be as surprised as I was to learn that Kodak actually developed the first digital camera back in 1975. Hmm. Then why did it take until the 90s for digital cameras to come to the market you ask? Simple: Kodak decided not to release the product for fear that it would threaten their existing camera and film business. Or, as the rock star up on the main stage put it, “They identified with their past and present at the expense of their future.”  Kodak became obsolete not just because they didn’t release that specific product, but because they did not understand their identity and therefore failed to see the bigger picture. They weren’t just selling photographs; they were capturing memories.

Structure yourself for success.  As a manager, I see firsthand the panic that comes over employees’ faces when even a hint of the word “structure” is mentioned.  The actual definition is quite simply “to arrange according to a plan.”  You wouldn’t start driving without knowing how to get there (or at least having your Waze app handy), and you can’t run a successful campaign, team or company without a plan.  Maybe a better word to use in today’s culture is “design”—it’s more fluid and collaborative, which is crucial to the final element.

Commit to the change. John Shedd illustrated this well stating, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”  Its not enough to “design” a new plan; it actually needs to be implemented and practiced in order to succeed. In other words, everyone needs to drink the Kool-Aid, day in and day out. If the whole is not working towards a common goal, then they are indirectly working against it. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is setting a goal too high. People have a hard time committing to something that they view as unattainable. Conversely, the second biggest mistake is setting the bar too low so that innovation and growth cease to exist. Fostering an environment where progress is clearly defined keeps the team interested and accountable.

Liquidus doesn’t just sell ad tech or provide media buying; we build Partnerships.  Our foundation is built on the close relationships we have with our clients and our goal is to provide them with the strategic products and executions they depend on to grow their businesses. My teammate summed this up perfectly: “We are a family of hard working dedicated problem solvers.” We pride ourselves on anticipating our partners’ needs so that by the time they ask, we’ve already written the answer.