Diversity, Collaboration, Integration: What we learnt at Innovation Stories 2015

creative eventThis month Source LF partnered with Creative Social’s sister organisation, Innovation Social, to bring you Innovation Stories. Held at Digitas LBi, this ground breaking event observed, commented on and analysed the innovation industry’s main pivots as it has matured from upstart and protagonist to matured thought leader and leading light.

The high profile line up of speakers presented real, first hand innovation case studies which whetted the audience’s hunger for inspiration and provided us with the inside track on how to integrate innovation into business. Each expert provided us with cutting edge knowledge and spoke of how leading companies such as Karmarama, Unilever, PHD, Digitas LBi, Contagious, AMV BBDO, The Friday Club and Libertine both consider, use and drive innovation across either their businesses or personal interests.

It was a high energy sold out event consisting of ball throwing, Cannes voting and major fu*k you to some digital stalwarts…no names mentioned here! It was so important a deal that #innovationstories trended 4th in the UK on Twitter at one point!

Co-founder of Innovation Social, Nadya Powell (@NadsBads) chaired the morning and revealed what Innovation Social is about, ‘an AA for people who are itching to do things differently!’

A panel, comprising Alex Jenkins (@A_J) Editor at Contagious, Jonny Spindler (@Hellojonny) Chief Innovation Officer at AMV BBDO and Richard Fearn (@richard_fearn) Director of The Friday Club, discussed the changing shape and maturity of the innovation industry as well as the necessity to integrate rather than isolate. Whilst, post panel, individual speakers took to the stage with their own view on Innovation.

Michael Johnston (@mickstravellin) took to the stage first; keen to impress on us the reasons why marketing cannot do innovation. Michael made the key distinction between sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation. He defined the former as looking at your existing customers and customers in your market and increasing the benefits to increase the cost and consequentially increase your profit margin. He then defined disruptive innovation as changing the entire market by creating a new market and value network and disrupting the existing market and value network, displacing earlier technology. Michael told us that he prefers disruptive innovation claiming it is more interesting due to the extent of its effects on the market. When we caught up with him, Michael quoted the Blue Ocean Strategy book statistic to support his preference; the percentage of disruptive innovations launched is only 11% but it’s allowed for more than 80% of the revenue growth.

This was shortly followed by founder of Mutant & co-founder of Creative Social, Daniele Fiandaca (@yellif) who delivered his input on the value of innovation awards. No one could fault his initial claim that awards are there to inspire us, but Daniele’s main emphasis was on the ways in which work inspires us. His references to examples such as shark detection clever buoys, Domino’s Emoji, Volvo’s life paint and worldwide addresses were used as moot points that challenged the audience’s thoughts as to what was inspiring and inspirational verses just there to win an award.. His view and the wider industry view appears to be ‘We should not work solely to win awards and plaudits, but should instead deliver great innovative work for brands.’

Anjali Ramachandran (@anjali28) followed and is the co-founder of Ada’s List (@adaslist), and writes the Other Valleys newsletter about creative and technology ideas outside of the west. Ada’s List poses as “an informal peer network”, and aims to move women in technology forward together. Ramachandran explained that the aim of Ada’s List is to “create change at scale”. The network encourages sharing, debating and the solving of problems together and by chance conversations. Made possible by nothing more than internet connection. Ada’s List has a keen emphasis on the collaboration of differing thoughts and strategies which Ramachandran, alongside other speakers, claimed plays an influential role in innovation.

Debbi Evans (@SheBlah) the founder of Libertine spoke of the continuing story of the intelligent publication for women. Evans explained how innovation throughout her business resulted in a new experimental approach which enabled the publication to become increasingly sustainable and profitable. The major change was shifting from a printed to an online publication. Evans justified this change by explaining the printing is no longer sustainable. Libertine completely revised their revenue models and continues to aim for maximum inclusivity. These changes are evidence of sustainable innovation to remain relevant and dominant in the industry.

Next we had the pleasure of listening to the Managing Director at AOL UK- Hamish Nicklin (@winehusband) – talking about the world’s oldest internet start up. Since its start in 1985 and development into America Online in 1991 AOL has “put the world online”. As MD of a company which has previously been the world’s number one media platform, Nicklin’s powerful message that “Innovation is a culture not a process” is one we are sure to remember. Have a look at the video below of a 1990s AOL advert…

Jeremy Basset, Global Marketing Strategy Director for Unilever, and Lawrence Weber, Managing Partner at Karmarama spoke next, merely a year after the start of Foundry. Unilever Foundry is the FMCG giant’s in-house start-up programme that nurtures start ups with an eye to eventually partnering and is overseen by Basset. The pair’s talk focused on their role to help scale up start ups, who they claim are inventing the future. With 3000 applications to Foundry and $6million invested, Basset laid out a clear process: brief, pitch, pilot, partnership. The final step highlighting the main aim behind Foundry: innovating through collaboration. Basset and Weber went on to reveal the lessons they have learnt. Basset’s main message to the conference delegates was that people need to embrace the idea that failing is part of the journey through “launching and learning, rather than plan and perfect”. Secondly they stressed the importance of integrating innovation rather than isolating it, claiming that isolation is equal to irrelevance. Their talk ended on an inspirational note with their parting advice being; ‘Think big, start small,act fast’.

Finally we heard from Alex Goat (@alexgoat) of Livity (@livityUK) who sagely spoke of the role of diversity in innovative solutions to problems. She started by claiming “we’re now in the business of taking problems and crafting effective solutions”. Goat went on to explain how diversity is vital in generating innovation within businesses. She urged businesses to be active in hiring more diversely – a diverse group is more effective than a ‘smart’ group. This is particularly relevant when advertisers broadly aim at mass markets, but their agencies staff and their own marketing teams demographic, often represent only a tiny proportion of the market it is advertising too! Thank you to everyone involved in such a unique event and the speakers for their inspirational talks. Check out the speaker video compilation here for snippets of wisdom!