When we research the history of innovation and in what situations it flourishes, we discover that several types of collaborative conditions support new ideas and inventions. A recent Harvard Review story story titled Innovate like a Kindergartner, noted that collaboration was a key ingredient for innovation. With this in mind, how can we use these optimal conditions to create rich professional experiences and resources for better digital strategy innovation?
Steven Johnson, in his recent book Where Good Ideas Come From, theorizes that two examples of these environments include large cities (urban communities), and the Web. Why? Because numerous connections are made and remixed in these densely populated environments, the result being a sort of hybrid melting pot of ideas and solutions.
Digital Strategy planning requires broad business knowledge and digital marketing experience, including business startup experience. Startup experience is valuable because of the dynamic fast-paced culture of startups, which provides opportunity to be technically and creatively inventive and financially resourceful (a requirement for many brand campaigns). Startups are often required to launch products and services; their small intense business teams quickly develop excellent cross-platform collaboration skills.
So in practice, the digital strategy planning process should mirror the coral reef: an environment where different forms of information and experience, such as media, ideas, digital and legacy media experiences, business operations, technology research (trend and non-trend types), and strategies should be integrated. Your personal digital strategy center of excellence then becomes a complete resource toolbox for better and more insightful digital solutions and innovation.
For example, in a healthy coral reef, zooxanthellae can provide up to 90% of a coral’s energy requirements; this symbiotic relationship enables corals’ success as reef-building organisms in tropical waters. Sometimes businesses do not allow for cross-department collaboration and broad research during the digital strategy planning stage. The result: the strategist is required to produce a strategy report and launch and implement a timeline before proper macro and micro research is complete.
An environment that truly supports innovation at the digital strategy level should operate as Johnson suggests, like the “zooxanthellae, coral, and the parrot fish, not competing but collaborating, borrowing and reinventing each others work”, on a micro and macro level.
Collaborative environments allow for ideas to develop, like the Internet and the Web do. The Web was developed through a collaborative effort of academics and with government funding. Once the academic and private sectors came together, only then could the strength of the Internet/Web come into existence.
If you take a look at digital strategy from a macro perspective, you will also find that good ideas can come from good research into areas such as: a brand’s history, the competition, current global trends in a specific niche or broader target market, current digital technology, consumer behavior, where technology trends or non-trends are headed in six months to a year, and identifying and addressing the requirements of clients. All this allows for the development of innovative new tools and techniques. By using technology together with traditional promotions, you also drive new features, social integration, and strategy.
Usability feedback (UI/UX), organizational vision, goals, and market opportunities and initiatives are also important to maximize digital investments. The digital strategist should also be flexible and experienced working with a company’s senior management, marketing and sales, and service stakeholders with a goal of understanding their business strategy.
How does a global perspective play into good digital strategy planning?
Good strategy research includes intelligence gathering on a global level. For example, understanding current and future global trends in urban centers can develop insights into successful branding, PR, and marketing campaigns.
In large urban centers there are millions of urbanites with buying power. From Manhattan to Mumbai to Barcelona, consumers demand the latest trends and are sophisticated and connected through social media. These urbanites are willing to try new products and services, and are comfortable with media campaigns and digital conversations. I am referring to urban consumers who have some level of disposable income. Here are some interesting insights:
For example, here is a current global urban trend that could possibly affect your brands strategy planning:
“According to Intuit, October 2101, China, Africa and India are set for immense urbanization in a few decades. Close to 180,000 people move into cities daily, adding roughly 60 million new urban dwellers each year. ”
Here is an insight into urbanites’ spending power and behavior:
“According to Bundle, May 2010 survey, the average Manhattanite spends 59% of their $13,079 food budget on dining out, compared to the average American household that spends only 42% of their $6,514 food budget.”
Now that we have trend research, how can we use it in our digital strategy planning?
In large urban environments, many residents will take on identities that reflect the city’s culture, changing one’s normal identity from, I am I to, I am NYC, LA, Sidney, or Shanghai. So, if you were to launch a media campaign in a large urban environment you might approach it by identifying your brand with urban-specific products, services, and communications that capture a city’s character.
In August 2010, Starbucks launched new ultra-premium, single-origin coffees only available (in limited quantities) in metro markets such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Miami.
In December 2010 in San Francisco, Yahoo! installed digital screens into 20 bus shelters across the city. Commuters were given the opportunity to play video games with and against each other. Commuters are given the choice to identify with one of the 20 preselected neighborhoods, and represent one of them as a player. The winner of the two-month contest received a performance by the band OK Go, and a fully paid for block party. The residual from this is an intense increase in your personal Facebook friends count and Twitter followers!
Finally, keep in mind that the development of the Internet was an academic and government-funded project. It took the private sector to make the Internet/Web successful, which gave birth to a very powerful new medium, YouTube. Some ideas are just ideas; some are practical and can stand on their own, while others give birth to more innovation. They come from individuals in business market/non-collaborative environments such as the programmable computer, and market/collaborative environments, which is how the calculator developed. In academic or research non-market/non-collaborative environments superconductors were developed, and in non-market/collaborative ones the computer was designed.
So given these ideas, your personal digital strategy center of excellence should be an ecosystem like a coral reef, borrowing and reinventing itself from different resources and global locations, in order for good innovation to occur.
Peter Sabbagh is a VP of Digital Strategy at BlueSky365.com, has traveled extensively implementing marketing and social media campaigns in the United States, United Kingdom, Africa, and Asia. I’m enthusiastic about marketing, branding, social media, mobile, and innovation. I am also very interested in how social media technology affects people in emerging countries.