3 Ways to Foster Innovation

  1. Look for a Purple Cow. Innovation is a term loosely tossed about, often hard to define, and something that all organizations embrace. Business is competitive and marketplace challenges require companies…to quote an old Apple tagline…’to think differently’. For most large, risk-averse public companies, thinking differently is hard, so Innovation is often outsourced to agencies or consultancies, or even more often something that is asked of all partners…which is unrealistic. What you should be seeking are innovation teams that have rich cognitive and experiential diversity. They are hard to find, but do stick out like a Purple Cow in their unique abilities. 
  1. Demand Cognitive Diversity. It’s proven that more diverse teams solve problems more effectively. In the Harvard Business Review, Alison Reynolds and David Lewis wrote: “Colleagues gravitate toward the people who think and express themselves in a similar way. As a result, organizations often end up with like-minded teams.” Your Innovation Partner should embrace diversity and thinking different. Bringing together multiple disciplines is a normal step toward driving cognitive diversity…research, creative, media, strategy, and technology specialists should all be represented. Go a step further to ask your Innovation Partner about how they embrace and encourage a diverse culture rich in cognitive diversity. Management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats Strategy for lunch.” 
  1. Seek Agility. Innovation often occurs on the fringes and requires partners developing creative solutions to be extremely agile. From an organizational design perspective, larger doesn’t mean better when seeking innovation…so if your agency is bigger than your own company, that’s not ideal. Publicly traded companies are naturally larger, and leadership is most often focused on operations and finance…not solving client challenges. When you engage an agency partner for innovation, be sure that the firm’s leadership is actively engaged on your business. It’s hard for a leadership team managing an organization any larger than 200 on staff or more than two dozen clients to be actively engaged in driving innovative solutions. Smaller, independently owned agencies are more effective at delivering innovation, because they are focused on longer term and more meaningful metrics than earnings per share. 

Chris Mycek is Greater Than One’s Senior Vice President of Strategy & Growth where he helps healthcare clients achieve their business objectives by leveraging new technologies, emerging channels, and the fully integrated model of GTO Group. He is recognized as a top-tier strategic marketer and agency leader with an expansive marketing repertoire including more than 20 years of experience in supporting the development of corporate, brand, and digital marketing for multi-national organizations across a variety of industries.