Jared Carneson

The quest for innovation has been omnipresent since the clock brought us into this century. However, the need and desire for innovation feels like more of an imperative with each passing year.

The concept of innovation is pervasive at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity every year, not just in the innovation category but throughout the festival – and 2017 proved to be no different.

I would be so bold as to argue that the festival, although firmly rooted in creativity, has a greater focus on innovation. But what is innovation if is not creativity with purpose?

This obsession with innovation has led to innovation for innovation’s sake; the idea that companies and brands are actively seeking innovation regardless of the need, but merely out of a desire to be ranked among their peers as innovative.

Never before has there been such a view of the future, offering the limitless opportunities that we are experiencing now. It’s an environment that can feel exhilarating, but also crippling for many.

Here are my 8 takeaways from Cannes 2017 on what you can do to activate a culture of tangible innovation in your working environment today.

Be tech-agnostic

Most approach innovation from a ‘technology-first’ angle. It’s natural that as an audience, we would move from the most interesting thing – the product – and then find an application within our life and business. But that’s not how innovation works.

To innovate, you have to identify a business problem that needs solving. Out of that root problem, innovation will flow – whether technology plays a role or not.

Get comfortable about being an outsider

Iterative progression happens from within, but large-scale change happens by combining your business and industry knowledge with something outside your sphere of knowledge.

Uber didn’t come out of the taxi industry, but it has certainly changed it. The most important panels at Cannes are almost always made up of professionals and experts from various industries, whose career trajectory has led them towards a common goal, albeit from different angles. Start having conversations about elements of a problem outside your professional sphere.

Maximize opportunities

By maintaining different viewpoints and inspiration through hiring people that are unlike you. “Diversity” was one of the most used words at Cannes’ main stage panels in 2016 for good reason. Diverse workspaces are richer sources for inspiration.

Connect the innovators to the service deliverers

Innovation cannot exist in a bubble. Or, it can, but then there is a good chance it will serve nobody. An innovation function needs to be intricately linked to the service of the business to prevent it from drifting too far from its core aim.

Don’t disrupt your core business

The most common way to try and embed innovation within an organization is to build a gadget-packed internal laboratory in the hopes that over the course of time, something novel will flow.

It works for some but not for most. Companies are finding new ways to bring about innovation without disrupting the everyday flow of work, through things like skunkworks structures, integrated accelerators, project-based partnerships and many others.

Find the innovation model that works for you, causing the least disruption to your core business.

You don’t have to change the world

Not every innovation is going to reshape the cosmos – and that’s alright. The most remarkable innovations are the simplest ones. Many a time, it’s the small changes that make things better.

“Principles remain. Practices change”

Innovation is about change. However, whilst change is a necessary step for evolution, innovation should always keep the basic principles intact, despite the fact that the practices may change.

For example, communication as a profession has undergone tremendous change in practice through the proliferation of social media channels and shrinking media pools, to name but two of many elements.

But the principles of good communication is as it has always been – rooted in smart story telling. In the words of Sir John Hegarty: “Principles remain. Practices change.”

And lastly…

Reward curiosity, embrace failure

You won’t always succeed, but learning from failure has a more positive important impact on the longer term. In everything, find and reward the curious. They are the problem-solvers hidden within your business.

All they need is the freedom and confidence to take you forward.

Jared Carneson, Regional Director and Global Innovation Lead, Social & Innovation, FleishmanHillard Middle East.