Innovation was the overarching theme of the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC) 2012 in Tianjin this week. As a representative of a design and innovation firm and as a member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Values, I was delighted to see that many panels and conversations approached innovation from a holistic perspective. That meant not contextualizing it solely as technological disruption or process optimization, but as a deeply humanistic endeavour that connects consumer and producer, along with other stakeholders (increasingly in hybrid roles), in a creative act. Innovation, after all, is a human enterprise.
Rotman magazine, the print and online quarterly of the Rotman School of Management, has just released its new (Winter) issue, devoted to the theme “Open.” Openness has been a buzzword for a while, ever since Henry Chesbrough wrote his seminal book on Open Innovation, but, to apply Gartner’s Hype-Cycle terminology, now it seems as if Openness has finally reached a plateau of productivity after going through years of troughs of disillusion.
A lot has been written lately about the changing profile of the CMO, a role which faces an increasingly complex set of stakeholders and expectations (“10 Great Expectations: What CEOs Want From Their CMOs”) as it is engulfed by empowered consumers, big data, digital media pervasion, and accelerated technology innovation cycles. While CMO tenures have slightly increased to an average of less than four years, the role remains a hot seat. Technology savvy, analytics prowess, and strict ROI measurement are almost unanimously heralded as the key attributes of a successful marketing leader. The CMO is expected to be a business strategist, innovator, and change agent, while at the same time also acting as the brand evangelist, inspirational communicator-in-chief, and cross-functional collaborator. Tough one. How can today’s CMO succeed in times of hyper-connectivity when long-held beliefs are shattered, audiences are transient, and “software is eating the world” (Marc Andreessen)?
We live in a connected world. This may sound like a trite statement at first glance, but like many coinages of this kind it has entered our collective vocabulary by moving straight from provocative insight to cliché to mainstream reality. And as I am headed to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the largest gathering of the wireless industry (50,000 attendees and 1,300 exhibitors), I’m probably not the only one noticing the unique historical backdrop that underlies the event this year and gives ever more credence to the seismic economic, cultural, social, and political shifts triggered by the universal power of connectivity. The Mobile World Congress, perhaps, would be more aptly dubbed World Congress in order to describe the far-flung implications of communication technology, much of which is now mobile.
I had the great pleasure of speaking at The Great Indian B2B Marketing Summit in Bangalore yesterday, organized by Jessie Paul, the former CMO of Indian outsourcing juggernaut Wipro, author of the book “No Money Marketing,” and founder of Paul Writer, a marketing consultancy cum hub that runs an influential online CMO Roundtable and other formidable programs to facilitate the exchange amongst the Indian marketing community. The program was quite an eclectic mix of topics, ranging from social media and digital marketing trends, to market development, to marketing leadership, to personal branding.
If TED is about “Ideas Worth Spreading,” then the Economist’s Ideas Economy conference series is – as the title would suggest – about ideas worth monetizing. It’s the Economist, stupid! The venerable publication, a notorious late adopter, has realized that despite solid market standing it must reinvent itself to survive, both through a suite of new digital products and by branching out into the conference business. The focus on Innovation (as in “a commercialized original idea,” as the excellent moderator Vijay Vaitheeswaran defined it in his opening remarks) is a natural fit: The Economist has always stood for liberal economic policies and liberal social values – which is typically the kind of fabric that innovation thrives in.
The most recent event of the series (full disclosure: frog design was a sponsor) took place last week in New York: With the theme “Human Potential,” 250 business leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, and academics discussed for two days how to foster and tap into the creativity and intellect of their employees, stakeholders, peers, and students. The cynic could object and ask “Do we indeed have potential?,” inferring that the term “potential” implies progress and betterment – but are we, humans, even good? And if so, can we get better?
Openness is the mega-trend for innovation in the 21st century, and it remains the topic du jour for businesses of all kinds. Granted, it has been on the agenda of every executive ever since Henry Chesbrough’s seminal Open Innovation came out in 2003. However, as several new books elaborate upon the concept from different perspectives, and a growing number of organizations have recently launched ambitious initiatives to expand the paradigm to other areas of business, I thought it might be a good time to reframe “Open” from a design point of view.
Silver Fish Hand Catch! As the social web’s echo chamber is gushing about Wieden+Kennedy (W+K)’s masterful Old Spice campaign (actor and former football star Isaiah Mustafa wowing viewers with his smooth-talking delivery in video replies to hundreds of online queries or comments tweeted to him by web users), first spoofs are manifesting its pop-cultural credentials, and the meta-story is increasingly becoming the story ("how did they do it?"), both practical and philosophical questions arise. The jury is still out on the campaign’s commercial impact (various news sites and blogs are reporting that sales have fallen by 7%, which various other news sites and blogs dispute). I’m more interested in the campaign as a cultural phenomenon and its lasting implications: Is it a one-off nifty idea or are we witnessing the emergence of something bigger than that, a whole new paradigm for marketers and content producers, as Mashable claims?
From “marketing in the age of streams” to the “Googlization of media” to “situational awareness” to “location, location, locaton” to “business becomes social” to “private becomes public” – in their latest report, Edelman’s digital mavens Steve Rubel and David Armano provide a solid overview of the six key digital trends to watch.
If you worry about social media pushing the boundaries of privacy on sites like Facebook these days, then you may want to be mindful of what is looming on the horizon next – because ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet.’ What we are sharing (mostly voluntarily) today is mainly a cocktail of sociographic data (birthday, birthplace, location, education, memberships, hobbies, etc.), convictions, intentions, and activities. Soft stuff, really, if you think about it; information that can conveniently be tweaked and entirely made up at your fingertips online, as needed to enhance your social credentials. It remains a virtual currency in a virtual world.
“Hard” privacy data looks different, and we have not been sharing it much to date. It cannot be easily fabricated or altered because it is literally an existential part of our individual lives, and as such becomes only social through the act of sharing. Radical Transparency in its most radical notion extends to those human areas that are most personal, and it doesn’t take much imagination to pinpoint the most sacrosanct of them: our genetic code and our dreams; the very physical and the very meta-physical fabric of our selves.