Why Innovation Must Be Your Agency’s First Priority

All professional services companies that are entering the third decade of the 21st century – from digital product agencies to marketing, liaison and management consultancies or others – have many responsibilities … but only one essential task.

They have to adapt constantly, continuously, and quickly to change and innovate.

While there are some differences in this ongoing rediscovery – depending on the type of agency – the underlying motivation is the same. The world you live in is constantly evolving with new technologies, new market dynamics, new types of customers, new regulations, and new competitors. Since the advent of the modern web, these dynamics have been spinning at high speed, with trends rising and falling like waves in an ocean storm.

And just like in the ocean, the next wave isn’t always visible until it hits you.

Therefore, change and adaptation to change are things given to a table. The big question: how?

Almost like a science of physics

To innovate quickly, agencies must design and monitor themselves to counter organizations’ tendency to fall into stagnation and convention.

Organizations naturally develop mechanisms against innovation, almost like a science of physics.

Employees protect their area. Systems are built to last. Silos are evolving as the most efficient way to maintain order and it is easier and safer for drivers to ignore or throw away data that indicates new directions are emerging.

Fighting this natural tendency is the biggest challenge for agencies looking to survive in this turbulent modern era, but it is also the most important.

You, as an agency or marketing leader, must institutionalize counter-institutional thinking, behavior, and processes.

This is where your organization’s culture, collaboration, environment, and process strategies come into play

Create a culture

The key is to create a culture that demands, encourages, and accepts new ideas from all areas, to create a way to filter the best, test them and implement the winners.

In other words, it means adopting a hungry start mentality.

Even if your agency has been around for years and works with serious clients, it must learn not to starve. This, of course, runs counter to the organization’s need to keep itself fed and happy.

Fortunately, there are some approaches that innovation-oriented agencies can take.

Set a good example

An important strategy is to start from the top with your agency’s leaders. In almost all organizations, the leadership team exudes an attitude that permeates daily work and long-term direction.

For example, a CEO who regularly and sincerely encourages everyone’s ideas and projects can also guide and inspire all employees to take the same approach. On the other hand, a CEO who always strives for safety and resists change will make this position the standard in the organization.

If the CTO has assembled a technical team that supports new initiatives rather than resisting and explains the new technology to all team members, no one can be prevented from seeking more effective tools.

And if the creative director really likes and encourages new directions, regardless of the source, the conversation continues. Someone’s idea must be as valid or relevant as that of the CEO of the company’s founders.

Collaboration and physical workspace

A second strategy: collaboration.

Teamwork is especially important for communicating ideas without getting stuck in silos, which destroy new ideas.

Often, new ideas go through departments or specialties – a multidimensional structure that can help maintain and support collaborative ethics.

Another important strategy: a physical environment designed for innovation and change.

It is no coincidence that many of the most innovative agencies occupy unconventional workplaces that exude a sense of creativity and collaboration.

The common areas, for example, have whiteboards for quick and spontaneous brainstorming. Coffee and other drinks are always available for a wash in the afternoon or late at night. Office designs or wall decorations are unique and intriguing. And, in general, there is a general feeling that the hierarchy leaves room for imaginative problem-solving.

Top Hires & Digital Transformation

This kind of stimulating and dynamic workspace has another advantage: it helps to attract the kind of high-level employees who appreciate pleasant workplaces and creative thinking. A flexible workplace also supports the work style of employees who are used to quickly switching between projects and trying new things.

These employees become part of a flexible team that repeats quickly, tests ideas, and listens to what’s going on in the field and with customers and works for the team’s success instead of protecting a single territory.

Behind all these strategies is the digital transformation of your agency. Collaborative software environments like Slack, rapid collection and sharing of customer data within the organization, cloud-based tools for essential tasks like project management or social media marketing … all contribute to an evolving organization of ideas that is evolving rapidly.

And someone who is not blocked by an established hierarchy.

Guided questions

Finally, an agency can establish specific processes or activities to promote and drive innovation for successful results.

  • For example, a version of a questionnaire used by a United States government agency to evaluate innovative ideas. This includes questions like these:
    • What are you trying to do? Articulate your goals in no jargon.
    • Who cares?
    • What are the risks?
    • What are the intermediate and final “exams” that you can use to assess success?

Stretching workshops and goals

Another process is the one we implemented at our agency, O3 World. These are called laboratories and consist of the time and space that our team has available to try new technologies to solve a problem or find an opportunity. The result is a solution that is usually shown as a prototype.

Conclusion

In these times of accelerated change, an agency built for rapid, collaborative innovation is no longer a luxury or a good thing. This is a necessity. And the only question is whether your agency was designed to take the waves to their destination or sink when others pass you.