Think BR: 'Big lamp' thinking

Dan Machen, head of innovation, Billington Cartmell, !nvent
Dan Machen, head of innovation, Billington Cartmell, !nvent

Before you consider what you could innovate, first think about how and why you should, writes Dan Machen, head of innovation at Billington Cartmell, !nvent.

Pixar is an inspiration to me. The reason for this is simple - for all their technological wizardry, the CGI geniuses at Pixar never forget one thing: if there isn’t a connective human idea at the heart of your work, then all the innovation in the world doesn’t matter.

This insight was gleaned right at the start of their company with Luxo Jr - their (now famous) first film about a big desk lamp and a little desk lamp playing with a ball.

What Pixar heard from initial audiences wasn’t, as had been expected, "How did you animate like that with computers?" No, what was overwhelmingly heard, was "Is the big lamp junior’s mummy or daddy?"

I feel this story illustrates a vital point about innovation - a point made all the more critical in the context of the digital lives we are living.

According to trend sources, consumers are increasingly dominated by a ‘need it now’ mentality and therefore brands command only partial attention at best. Consumers simply expect you to get their busy lives. (Or get lost.)

Tweeting/bumping/blogging/texting all have clear implications - our behaviour bubbles with the present tense. We increasingly want everything, everywhere - not tomorrow, not even today to some extent - but right here, right now.

As marketers, we must retain an urgent sense of ‘big lamp’ thinking - an understanding of what really matters to consumers - connective human ideas that they can join in/share/enjoy on their terms.

Two immediate examples of this in recent times are the iPod/iPhone/iPad and the Xbox’s gesture-controlled games console, the Kinect.

Firstly regarding Apple, it’s perhaps no surprise Steve Jobs was also co-founder of Pixar. Perhaps Luxo Jr was where he first learned that sheer tangibility is the key to success.

Touch is a key element that ensured the iPhone and now iPad were embraced so readily. Looking also at the Xbox Kinect - it wasn’t sold as ‘Hollywood motion capture in your home’, it was sold as ‘jump in’ family fun.

This is probably why - at 10 million units - it has been received with record-breaking adoration.

While tech innovation hurtles forward, human needs will evolve, but similar ideas still connect us - people will still want to share fun with their families; we all still want the world at our fingertips!

The products above illustrate where innovation connects with people - often at the simplest human level. Increasingly, this is about being immediately convenient, or emotionally valuable in people’s lives.

At Billington Cartmell, we have evolved our thinking from the traditional linear path to purchase to a new model that better reflects the diverse influences we live with today.

We also have a dedicated innovation team to act as ‘conductors’ for innovative ideas - orchestrating a collective of specialists comprising the best of the group, plus more eclectic partners.

With ‘big lamp’ thinking, before you consider what you could innovate, first think about how and why you should.

The Luxo Jr story speaks of how technology comes and goes, and then it’s just 'how things work’.

If we retain an urgent need to instil a connective human idea at the heart of innovation - something that touches people in an immediately accessible way - perhaps we may all share a similar success to Pixar for the next 25 years.

Dan Machen, head of innovation, Billington Cartmell, !nvent

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