The chances that the late, great Big L was referring to innovation comms when he freestyled this line in '95 are slim...in fact I would say zero. And yet I'm left feeling like much of the outbound communications about innovation follows a similar tack. But the truth is, little of it is close to being ahead of its time.
If there was one resounding message from our panel about innovation communications during this week's London Tech Week this week, it was this: "stop banging on about innovation and start talking about problem solving."
As a dyed-in-the-wool tech comms guy, I find myself easily carried away by the new shiny thing. It happens on a daily basis (literally as I was writing this post in fact when a new biz lead came in over email) and I will put my hand up now and say that in the last 20 years I have, for all the right reasons, contributed to the ever-growing amount of noise there is about innovation. It is a veritable firehose of product updates, bleeding-edge this, world-leading that. In tech you can (sort of) justify it because the rate of development is truly astounding but is it all innovative? Erm...well...ahhh
Cross-over into the corporate world and any large business worth its salt has got an innovation lab or a tech accelerator. And why not? They are getting disrupted left, right and centre and need a way to control some of that disruption by hosting it under their own roofs. But just like the tech world, there has been a lot of noise and let's face it, not all of it should really have ever made it into a press release.
The continued success of the tech sector has been rammed down the throats of corporates by shareholders and market makers eager to benefit from the halo effect of innovation and sadly it just doesn't always make sense. Where it falls down, and quickly, is when there is no actual point to the innovation that is being heralded.
Perhaps this seems obvious? You'd think, but it is evident from a cursory glance at some of the rubbish flying out of press rooms that the problem which is being solved doesn't actually exist. Not only will the eyes of the media glaze over at this, but the true and intrinsic value of innovation is knocked down a peg for everyone else as those with the real goods get lost in the crowd. Thanks a bunch.
Our experts included from Anne Vigouroux from AXA, Rebekah Tailor from the NHS Innovation Accelerator, Jacob Howard from Deutsche Bank, Sophie Cartwright from Facebook, James Taylor from DriveNow and co-host Steve Shepperson-Smith from the CIPR. Quite the line-up I am sure you will agree and they clearly concluded two things are critical to innovation comms:
- A tangible problem for an end-user must be being solved or at best you will get ignored and at worst publicly called out as innovation theatre....
- An innovation doesn't need to be (and often shouldn't be) completely final before taking it out - it is not about product releases, it is about evolving and solving
So highlight problem and tell the world. Would love to hear about how you tread this fine line, your successes, your failures and your learnings. Hit me up on @crossy
We're going to launch an accelerator, we're going to get an article in TechCrunch, and then, we're going to declare "Mission accomplished