Disrupt! – realising a new vision for the creative agency

This is a précis of an article that was published in the January 2013 issue of Admap magazine ©Warc. To read the article visit http://www.warc.com/admap. For a limited time a full version is available at the bottom of this post.

Creative agencies have always been good at innovation. However, the need for predictable growth has meant that creative agencies have been sucked into focusing on one type of innovation- small, incremental improvements to what we did yesterday. A slightly more original TV ad, a responsive website design and so on. We have become experts at Clayton Christensen’s “sustaining” innovation.

So this focus has meant that we have neglected becoming expert at “disruptive” innovation. We haven’t applied a disruptive innovation approach to our client’s business, or to our own industry or business model. And that is dangerous in an era of rapid change, there couldn’t be a more crucial time for a new vision for the role of the creative agency in an era of digital disruption.

But simply re-conceiving the agency role as about moving from comms towards digitally enabled brand behaviour on its own isn’t enough. If creative agencies take the same working approach as the one that is appropriate for creating “sustaining” innovation, they will fail at creating true disruptive change.

We need to combine a new vision for the creative agency with genuinely new ways of doing things that will realize that vision – that is a disruptive innovation approach. Through our work within Dare Labs we have identified some general principles and practices for any creative agency looking to disrupt, whether by tackling client briefs or by producing products themselves.

1. Starting with problems – To create disruptive ideas you have to start with the core problem not just a list of requirements and then imagine how to disrupt the status quo to create a new solution.

2. Following your nose – Encourage serendipity and let people follow their gut feel and what interests them, a tiny idea about a piece of code can lead to disruptive innovation if you let it develop.

3. Open and bottom up innovation – Open innovation creates combinations of talent, insight, data, and points of view that aren’t possible if an organization innovates behind closed doors. Bottom up innovation increases the chance of convex payoffs as the number of ideas trialed is greater.

4. Break the rules – The skills to create ideas and produce digital products that many agencies have need to be combined with the right mindset. How can we disrupt value chains and business models and how can we exploit emerging technology and consumer trends?

5. Creating magic – Asking the question “what is going on in the mind of the user?” can create magical user experiences from quite simple technology

6. The cult of done – A lean start up approach helps to create experiments, helps to get out of “thoughtland” where mistaken assumptions rule, and helps you to figure out what works and what doesn’t for real users.

7. Keeping it core – Sharing the things you learn and the technology you create to improve the overall quality of innovative thinking and keep it core to the business and the search for new revenue streams.

These 7 principles are a modest start in the attempt to find new ways of working that lead to disruptive innovation and unlock the true value of our creative skills.

This is a précis of an article that was published in the January 2013 issue of Admap magazine ©Warc. To read the article visit http://www.warc.com/admap

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