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Communicate Levant | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

The art of innovation


The art of innovation

We now live in an age of experience. After years of using the Internet, we have become increasingly accustomed to a certain level of engagement with various technologies. The Apples, Googles, Amazons and Facebooks of this world have transformed us into a digitally savvy consumer base.

The demand for a richer and more meaningful user experience has been fueled by a number of maturing technologies over the years – better tools to create, faster Internet to deliver and powerful mobile devices to consume.  And it’s easy to see how and why we ended up this way.

However, now is the time to shift our focus to what’s coming next, which should not be simply about what you can do on your mobile, but what your mobile enables you to do, in this digitally connected world. Think about your mobile as a “social passport” to interact with the world, with digital media acting as the destination for new experiences. Gradually these encounters will become more personal and captivating through our social identity data: explicit (what I say about myself), behavioral (what I do and my activities) and relationship (who I am connected to and what those connections say about me).

Today, it makes business sense to add digital components to a product, thereby enabling a more relevant and unique user experience. And the only thing a consumer would need is their “social passport” to fully engage. This is where technology, such as near field communication (NFC), really gets exciting – a simple tap is all it takes to interact nowadays.

Typical NFC trends around the world start with public transportation.  As trust in the action of tapping builds, the focus will become quite narrow on the control of our mobile wallet. Once tapping has become the norm, our offline and online worlds  will start to fuse. Cars, smart homes, retail and wearable technologies are flirting in this space already. Even Apple, which notably lacks NFC in its iPhones has been busy this year with a few interesting NCF-related “iWallet” patents.

We are on the cusp of the largest technology jump of our lifetime, if not ever. Hence, it’s a very exciting time to work in digital.

It’s also fascinating to note the transformational effect that digital is having on many industries.  Banking, for example, is no longer a place you go to, but something you do. Similarly, retail is no longer a place you visit, but something you make happen. You can see how digital is transforming industries – from transactional to experiential.

It’s our job to find business value in this hyper-connected world. To make this work, we need to shift from campaign-based thinking to an enduring, more product-based approach. We must become entrepreneurs for our clients. And as entrepreneurs, we must seek new business opportunities inside an organization. The ones that lead to innovation, which can then lead to success.

In the past few years, I have been to many events, conferences and open debates about innovation.  My general takeaway from these sessions is that innovation is an over-abused word, nicely complemented with a few authoritative crowd pleasers, such as “big data” and “the cloud”.

I believe innovation is an art form. In its purest form, it’s the art of failure. The right type of failure is good. Any controlled, cheap, fast and measurable failure will ultimately make way for triumph. You have an idea that you build, test and validate. The goal here is to cycle through this process as quickly and cost effectively as possible. As the wheels turn, you incrementally build a product that people actually want.

Anyone who is serious about this new age of experience will develop an innovation strategy. Not to be confused with hiring innovative people – there’s a fundamental difference. A successful innovation strategy requires a client relationship with a clear understanding of the right kind of innovation required: together with a safe place, an innovation sandbox, if you will, where failure is acceptable and new product ideas are incubated.

The agencies that get that right, will be trailblazers. Watch this space and good luck.

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