Innovation: from aspiration to acceleration

“The aspiration to be innovative isn’t anything new, yet neither is the problem with regards to its execution and delivery.” IPA Head of Insight Damian Lord shares key learnings from the recent Trend Hunter Future Festival in Toronto, including six key accelerators for achieving fully integrated innovation.

“Let’s face it, bandying around the term innovation doesn’t automatically solve anything; it just becomes a cyclical exercise in impression management, further restricting innovation to the role of bridesmaid in the organisational plan, never the bride.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Innovation can and should be made habitual and indeed woven across every level of seniority. All you need is a determined outlook and then it can permeate; such is the learning from Trend Hunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche.

In his keynote speech at the recent Trend Hunter Future Festival in Toronto, Gutsche delivered something of a clarion call to all 850 cross-sector attendees, including myself: we need to reject farmer thinking – that of repeating whatever led to last year’s harvest – and embrace hunter instincts; an appetite to investigate, endless curiosity, and a willingness to destroy what we relied on before. By doing this, Gutsche posits, we are better able to accommodate change, to accommodate ideas, and to accommodate innovation. And given the changes to our industry since the turn of the 2000s (the seemingly inexorable march of digital media), these hunter instincts appear apt for agencies looking to triumph over the challenges ahead.

Furthermore, accelerating innovation across the agency doesn’t require a convoluted game plan. Hunter instincts are inherently democratic and follow no hierarchy, so everyone can and should feel part of the process. Each one a weaver helping to thread it further into the company fabric.

In short, Gutsche outlines six key accelerators:

1. Everyone can actively hunt trends

2. Internalise the pace of change in your market

3. Embrace hunter (not farmer) instincts

4. Inspire a culture of action that embraces all

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

6. Be methodical about creativity.

Ultimately, everyone is responsible for innovation because everyone has ideas. There just needs to be more workplace autonomy in setting them free.

And there lies the crux of it: it’s about engagement, it’s about people. Encouraging the asking of questions and the raising of ideas, from the CEO right through to the graduate planner. Make it much more of an open forum, starting as soon as each employee walks into the building.

With that in mind, here are three questions to ask yourself (and like any good hunter, others around you):

  • What factors might lead your agency to fall apart (or what might lead you to an ideal place?)
  • How can you reword your conversations to stop limiting the potential of others?
  • What tactics, symbols or workshops could you implement to make change happen?

Make it your everyday, your next new normal. And who knows, once it’s well and truly part of the furniture you might start reaping the harvest.”

Last updated 21 January 2022