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The following is a walkthrough of my talk at Silicon Beach 2013, held in Bournemouth, Dorset on 5/6 September. It has (slightly) less swearing and I’ve added in some more stuff that I didn’t get around to mentioning on the day, which will add further clarification.

I’m Simon.
That’s me up there, and you can follow me on the Twitters.

This afternoon I’m going to talk about Innovation. It will contain swears.

Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about estate agents a lot.
They’re a strange bunch. I mean, look at them.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, they sell houses. Yet they seem to think no one else knows what a house is.

Granted. Some look like Hitler.
But generally, the concept of a house is fairly universally accepted.
We know what one is – from our experience of living in them – yet they still pretend we don’t.

So, estate agents have invented their own language.

It’s an interesting language. One that I think most people call BULLSHIT.

And it worked back when many people didn’t know or understand HOW to SELL a house. They had experienced houses as homes, not as commodities.

When we know it’s a house, why call it anything else? Adding a MINI and a shiny suit doesn’t change that.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth.
You could say the same for advertising. We have our own BULLSHIT.
And like estate agents, we got away with it.

If anything, in some quarters, it’s got worse.
For some in our industry, they believe this is the right approach.

We say things likes Shoptimisation, Mocial, Fanbassador, Engagement, Wantrepreneurs – and my favourite piece of bullshit: SEO-cial.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

Now we have a new buzzword. It’s time to put a stop to the BULLSHIT and it can start with Innovation.

This is our chance to be relevant again. If – and only if – we do this right.

That word you keep on using, I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Except, we’re not getting it right.
We are excellent at the wrong kind of innovation.

As Gareth Kay said in his celebrated Cannes speech this year:

We relentlessly pursue and celebrate the latest ‘new’ way of doing what we have done before. And it is rarely about imaginatively finding new types of things to do with our creativity and to explore new ways to get paid for them.

Here’s why: innovation isn’t a single thing. I believe it’s a bigger, connected concept that has a single philosophy.

Innovation must help you leap.
Yet you don’t always have to leap to innovate.

It can be a change to process. Building small ideas into a bigger one. Not making assumptions. Being willing to be led. Collaboration – with clients, the public, each other. Be nimble – smaller teams with clear ownership. No more shirking that responsibility.

Whatever it is, it’s not enough to play catch up – it HAS to get you ahead.

That’s why I’ve attempted to make Innovation a big thing. To elevate it beyond the BULLSHIT.

Other people have had a good stab, but they’ve not found it easy.
Daniele Fiandaca, who is Head of Innovation at Cheil, asked his friends and documented their answers on the Creative Social blog.

Here are a few things they said innovation is:

    • Changing behaviour, process and people to produce work that is either a) new enough to get noticed or b) truly goes beyond advertising and into utility
    • It’s smart experiments that make a difference
    • Doing things differently to get cut through
    • Challenging clients on how they communicate and challenging marketing to take an active role in defining what they market – innovating the product
    • Not doing what you did before.
    • Picking at embedded assumptions.
    • Finding solutions to unarticulated problems, creating new things and ideas that people didn’t know they needed or wanted, unlocking new markets and new business lines to sustain economic growth.

Really? I’d argue that’s what we SHOULD be doing. It’s a baseline for advertising and marketing. It’s not going to help us make those leaps.

Then I found an interesting read by Saneel Radia at Finch15, who calls it: “The introduction of the relevant new”.

At first I liked that, but as I let it settle I realized that the definition makes innovation feel like it’s the role of one person, or one team. It’s embedded in strategic thought. If this concept of innovation is going to make us relevant again as an industry, we need to go beyond thinking of it as a single role.

Because it’s all of those things, yet it’s none of those things.

For a culture of innovation to succeed, that means everyone strives to go beyond, to represent the concept that innovation must help you leap – and understand how that works. The key here is culture. Everyone has to embrace the idea of making those leaps. It’s not enough to catch up, whether you’re an account executive, the global CCO, or a student.

How else can we convince clients that innovation is relevant to them and their challenges?

We have to do this – and I implore you to.

Here’s why:
No one here wants to be an estate agent. I hope.

Thanks for listening.