Innovation is a full-time job

Please don't shut down our labs--they provide a safe and controlled environment to face change and challenge the status quo, writes Organic's innovation practice lead

Innovation labs fuel the creativity that drives our agency business. They allow us to be nimble, agile and offer agency folks a place to not only play but to plan ahead and look to where the industry is headed. Our clients demand to have their comfort zones stretched and they want to know what their marketing is going to look like in five, 10, or 15 years.

To succeed we need to be flexible and deliver against our client’s briefs in a way that puts their business ahead of the competition. We need to be thinking and planning ahead—years ahead—and innovation labs provide us with the opportunity to embrace change, tinker with new ideas and technologies that can transform lives and experiences.

So, we’re asking you not to shut down our labs. The only way we can drive innovation is through the work and experiments we’re doing in these labs. Labs provide a safe and controlled environment to face change head on and challenge the status quo. They also serve as a sounding board for client work, measuring what will work and what won’t. This kind of R&D is critical to an environment where clients are racing not only against their industry peers, but against a media landscape that shifts on a whim or an app release.

There are internal benefits to keeping your lab. Frameworks for experimentation and space for rapid prototyping unite employees across offices and areas of expertise. They also allow employees to remove themselves from the daily grind for a brief period and look beyond day-to-day operations. It’s a safe place to play and experiment.

Here are the five things agency executives and marketing professionals need to bring to the table when engaging with a lab:

Appetite: There needs to be an appetite for the unknown and desire to change. Innovation is a learning process. The value of innovation is often difficult to gauge from a spreadsheet, but just stepping up to the table itself is demonstration of a shared understanding of its importance.

Challenges: Every organization has challenges. Labs can equip clients with tools to overcome common culprits like legal, procurement, and ancient attitudes. Creative problem solving is at the heart of a lab’s skillset, so you can help labs help you by presenting all of the problems/issues that need solving.

Plan: As soon as labs successfully innovate, the experiment or invention will need to be scaled for production, at which time the Lab can move onto the next experiment. Agency personnel need to be able to chronicle their current marketing efforts in order for labs to understand how they can inject innovation into the cycle.

Metrics: How marketers measure themselves can be limiting, so keep in mind that success requires updating what’s measured. Bring the full set of your current measurements to the table for labs to ask the questions that will surface holes and opportunities.

Budget: Carve out a slice for learning. Innovation is iterative, and while the results aren’t predictable, the cost of committing to innovation year over year is.

Research has shown that innovation labs can effectively bring teams together to find creative solutions to many of the complex challenges clients are dealing with. It’s this kind of collaboration that helps move businesses forward, empowers talent to think in an open and creative environment and ultimately provides a better experience for both your clients and the audiences you’re trying to engage with.


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