A few days ago I attended a morning of the second Adtech Sydney, after last year chairing the keynote panel on the new media mix and the panel on blogs as a marketing tool last year. The event has progressed over its very promising start last year, with apparently around 30% more attendees, and an exhibition sprawling into new rooms. It is certainly a major convening point for the industry in Australia, with most of the major players involved or attending.
I spoke on the panel session on Innovation in the Digital Marketplace, together with Karim Temsamani, General Manager of Google Australia/ NZ, Simon Smith, Managing Director of eBay Australia, and Warren Lee, CEO of APN Online. Matt Whale, Director of ?WhatIf!, moderated the panel. I think it was a good session, with us managing to address some of the important points in what is a rather sprawling topic, though perhaps we agreed a bit too much…
A few of the points that I made were:
* Levels of innovation. There is much focus on innovation at the product (new services) and channel (new uses of combinations of digital channels for marketing such as Coke Studios, linking outdoor with SMS, Dell’s Ideastorm etc.) levels. However all of this happens in the context of business model innovation, and ultimately industry structure innovation (for example the shift of the primary platform to social networks). While only a few are able to play effectively at the industry structure level, actually changing the game, any innovation at lower levels needs to take into account the state of industry structure or platform innovation.
* Innovation from startups and large corporations. I’ve written before about innovation coming from outside large organizations. While Google, Microsoft, Adobe and a few other major players are currently showing outstanding levels of innovation, the reality is the majority of the innovation happening in the online industry is coming from startups. This bodes well for the industry, however since startups must dance with elephants as they create products and strategies, and are more likely to be sold in trade sales than in IPOs, there is a massive symbiosis between large and small players in fostering innovation.
* Innovation processes and open innovation. While many of the Fortune 100 have implemented formal innovation processes, still a minority of the business community have taken a concerted approach to enhancing organizational innovation. This is particularly poor in Australian and the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan). It is basic business practice to establish and continually refine innovation processes in the organization. It is critical that these initiatives embrace ‘open innovation’ in the sense of drawing on external ideas, talent, resources, and capabilities. For leading organizations such as Procter & Gamble, Boeing, IBM, and Eli Lilly, this is well understood. For smaller companies, the case is even more obvious and pressing. Open innovation happens to be almost entirely a social network issue – how can you uncover and connect with the most relevant people and resources on the planet to support your innovation processes? I have helped a number of large firms with these issues.
* Using innovation tools. The most important issue in improving organizational innovation is not better ways of filtering all the ideas that are submitted in the idea box. It is how to generate better ideas that draw on current technological and industry trends and complement organizational strategies. There are three tools that, used well, can help develop high-potential business idea.
Scenario planning. Formal scenario approaches can be applied in many ways, including explicitly for innovation. This is done by mapping industry trends and uncertainties, and identifying new services and business models that will thrive in some or all of these worlds.
Industry network analysis. Value network analysis can map out the current value flows in the industry. When overlaid with technological, regulatory and other trends, specific opportunities in shifts in industry structure can be readily identified.
Technology landscapes. Building a landscape of emerging technologies – and particularly how they intersect and interact relative to the current business – can be used in a variety of ways to develop new business ideas.
At the end we were all asked what we personally most wanted to happen this year. I asked for dataportability, which has the potential to transform the online landscape, opening up massive opportunities for innovation. The current momentum is good – let’s hope this becomes a key platform for how the industry landscape evolves.