Some principles for innovation units at creative agencies

Here are some principles for creative agency innovation units which have been synthesised from existing thinking and new ideas being discussed in the start up world and which we are using here at Dare Labs. Thought it might be interesting to share them. What do you think?

1. Adopt a “growth mindset”

It is pointing out the obvious but the rate of technological change we are experiencing is exponential.

Ray Kurzweil, The Law of Accelerating Returns

This complicated chart shows just that. Futurologist and computing expert Ray Kurzweil predicts that by the 2020’s the computing power available for $1000 will be equivalent to the power of a human brain and that by mid century we will hit the singularity. Whether you disagree with Kurzweils timeframe (check out this argument from Paul Allen ) or buy into Kurzweil’s thinking (see his rebuttal here ) it is easy to agree that it is pretty much impossible for an individual to keep up with the change we are experiencing. So an obvious but important first principle is that it is essential to have what Standford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” – a restless hunger to learn and develop skills and adopt new ways of doing things.

2. Be a collective not a clique.

Openness and acting with a generosity of spirit is crucial if an organisation truly hopes to adopt a growth mindset- how else can we hope to expose ourselves to innovative ideas and technologies if we don’t look to share with others and have things shared with us in return? So the second principle is to act as a collective – made up of small teams of collaborators from within and outside the agency who come together to work on projects in an agile, lean way acting with a philosophy of experimentation, a collective where everyone who has something to contribute is welcome to do so.

3. Embrace the Cult of done.

The third principle is to embrace the spirit behind this tongue in cheek manifesto “the Cult of Done”.
. Innovation is part creativity and a large part execution. Ideas are of course important but in many ways not as important as getting things done.
Getting things done helps us create experiments, helps us figure out what works and what doesn’t, helps us understand consumers, helps us learn how to succeed. So you need to get your hands dirty, adopt the lean start up approach of getting MVP’s to market in order to Build/Measure/Learn.
The point though is not to “Fail Fast” to coin that popular phrase from the start up world, the point is to “learn quickly”

4. Search for magical user experiences

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” Arthur C Clarke

It is a little overused quote but it inspires our third principle of always looking for ways to create magical user experiences.
To achieve this we will combine deep and insightful understanding of human behaviour with daring applications of cutting edge technology.
Just think about gestural UI’s. They don’t really add additional functionality. But they combine a human truth about how we want to use our hands to control devices with a cutting edge technology to create a more magical experience.

Experiments to create magical experiences won’t always succeed, there is a lot to be learnt along the way, and ultimately the role of innovation units is to take greater risks than is OK on client work.

5. Create value for stakeholders don’t just extract value for shareholders

Ultimately the goal is to create value for everyone involved. Creating job satisfaction and opportunities to learn and develop for the poeple working on experimental products. Creating brand equity and PR for the agency. Creating valuable magical user experiences for the end users of new products. And hopefully creating new revenue streams and business models.
So that’s the theory for what it is worth. We are rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty. Watch this space for more news of our latest efforts.


One thought on “Some principles for innovation units at creative agencies

  1. Hello,

    This is really interesting take on the concept. I never thought of it that way. I came across this site recently which I think it will be a great use of new ideas and informations. Thanks a lot.

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