THIS IS HOW WE DO IT
INNOVATION VS. THE DAILY GRIND
As a digital marketing company, innovation is necessary for survival. Questions like “What’s our next big thing?” and “What are we doing to innovate?” were becoming a regular part of weekly touch-base meetings. But trying to fit in innovation with the day-to-day, was about as easy as getting in a good workout, preparing from-scratch meals, and having perfectly polished kids with straight A’s – all while killing it at your job. So, not super realistic. We had a lot of intriguing half-baked ideas, but no structured platform to turn them into actionable plans. So, we decided to completely overhaul our process.
WHAT’S THE RECIPE?
A few of us put our heads together and tried to answer the question, “How do we make space for innovation – both TIME and a physical PLACE that is going to foster creativity?”.
One thing that’s unique about MediaLab is our talent mix – engineers, artists, marketers, self-starters…all with unique methods and vast industry experiences. We leveraged that knowledge to gather collective best practices. We researched, combed through concepts and processes, tossed out what didn’t fit our brand, and added some flair to support our culture. While taking note of the downfalls experienced by fellow industry innovators, we made a point to solidify our commitment to innovation by establishing a phased test period, outlining the investments needed, and reciting “Success does NOT mean every session results in a new product”.
The final product was formulaic, yet flexible in order to support a variety of subjects. The process was designed to feel organic, but with enough structure that we’d encourage rapid idea generation through our arsenal of brainstorming activities and tools. We transformed one of our conference rooms into a creative space with places to draw, large canvases displaying business models, our “house rules”, koosh balls to toss at your neighboring innovator, and goofy icebreakers. It was dubbed “Innovation Lab”, a clear derivative of our company name.
READY, SET, TEST!
Our initial plan was to run a monthly program (one session per week) for anyone in the company that wanted to participate. This would be a tool to train our employees to think through their ideas using shared vocabulary and processes. The house rules mandated that you “ch’check your title at the door” and “FOCUS – with your mind on the brainstorm and the brainstorm on your mind”, among other things, because this wasn’t going to be successful without that commitment from participants (and 90s rap lyrics are life around here).
The first few sessions were wildly successful. People who didn’t cross paths on a regular basis were grabbing lunch together to discuss their notes for the next session. We had people reaching out to share their own unique ideas and ask if there was a way they could be explored in a future session. We solidified how “unique” we really are through some icebreakers – leaving some of those awkward childhood stories out of the notes.
We quickly realized that this wasn’t something we could keep to ourselves. As content creators, we’re often given assignments like “I need a 45 second animation”, instead of “I’m having difficulty explaining what my product does”. So many of our clients’ real challenges could easily be explored through Innovation Lab. Through these sessions we were able to focus their marketing efforts and identify a strategic plan, instead of just creating something with the “let’s see if it works!” model.
HERE TO STAY
“We should run this through an Innovation Lab” has become a regular statement in meetings. From team-building to product engineering, we’re constantly digging in our toolbox of templates and curriculum in order to put our ideas to the ultimate test. We’re playing the Jelly Bean game (funny and delicious!) with a small business owner that would have in the past just placed an order for some website content. The question is no longer how and where we will innovate, it’s “When’s our next session?”.
Want to get involved? We’d love to have you. Get in touch!