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FEI11 - Monday Keynotes

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@font-face { font-family: "arial"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }Douglas Holt was the first keynote of the evening presenting Beyond Trends: How Cultural Innovation Builds Breakthrough Brands. Doug shared his brand-focused model of innovation, which he says is quite different from the more familiar models of technology-focused innovation. He believes this cultural innovation model is in fact the driver behind some of the biggest brands in the world, and further that it is necessary for building big (>$billion) brands and revamping tired ones. He argues that some standard efforts like pursuing trends and consumer co-creation don't lead to new billion dollar businesses.

He started first with two academic cases, first Jack Daniel's then Nike, and by way of their brand reinvention histories makes the case for his culture-based model. He describes the traditional model Red Ocean Branding ' a situation in which brands duke it out within categories, imitate one another, engage in so-called 'benefit wars' and 'emotion word' wars, and chase the same trends and clich'd ideologies. He does clarify that this area is not static, and is often fertile territory for traditional largely sustaining pursuits. In pursuit of the bigger stuff though, he suggests we ask what are the social disruptions specifically acting on categories of interest creating demand for new ideology, new culture. Holt says that social disruption creates demand for emergent ideology, making cultural orthodoxy less and less important. Brands are repurposing cultural material that already exists ' brand myths ' to convey ideology. Jack Daniel's reached a much broader audience by creating a powerful representation of the masculine, frontiersman ideology. His next example Nike was focused on traditional 'better mousetrap' innovation and was reaping only modest gains, if any. Nike reinvented its brand by recapturing the tenacious fighting spirit behind achieving the American dream ' conveying the 'mythology of the hood', the overcoming of strife in its messaging. The principle of 'mythologizing ideology' around stories of discrimination brought significant growth to Nike's brand. Other companies that followed this framework: Starbucks, Vitamin Water, Whole Foods ' and these are not just product-focused. In application, the model gets flipped to build a strategic framework. His next case, Fat Tire beer, existed in the craft beer red ocean centered on an artisanal-cosmopolitan ideology ' what he termed 'aestheticized' beers. Fat Tire pursued a 'creative rebel discourse' ' which he defined as 'some quixotic pursuit or obsessive interest/avocation' ' to get out of craft beer marketing game.
I think the message from the presentation was that, while cultural input is useful in traditional marketing pursuits, there is incredible potential for achieving enormous growth if you incorporate culture into your strategy. Overall, an interesting smattering of cases; a fascinating incorporation of culture into the innovation model.

Don Tapscott wrapped up the keynote portion of Day One with his talk on Innovation in the Age of Networked Intelligence. This one started powerfully discussing the dramatic changes in our world, and change was the recurrent theme. He used the example of 'revolution in revolutions', discussing how the Internet has changed the transactional cost of dissent, insurrection and rebellion. On the flip side, he wonders aloud, 'How do you use social media to create a secular society to bring a new democratica into being'? He states that 'the Internet is a global computational platform that lowers transactional costs' ' 'collaborative innovation is the new way of innovating' - and furthermore, that the 'future is not something just to be predicted, it's something to be achieved.' He posits that we are at a major turning point in history, qualifying that 'the industrial age has run out of gas' ' just about literally, I think. He suggests that we need new models of innovation across industries. He fights the misconception that the upcoming generation is one full of 'slacktivists' countering that they're actually doing more and having a greater impact (e.g. the Obama campaign) than anyone could have imagined, saying it's the 'first time in human history we are being mobilized and we're all on the same side.' I love that optimistic framing, and agree completely ' just look at the rise of social entrepreneurship and social innovation. He then explored the need for change within the University model. Traditionally, teachers are transmitters of knowledge but today there are better and easier ways to learn. 'The smartest kids aren't going to class', they're getting rounder perspectives by exploring the multitude of knowledge stored online. This is the rise of the age of networked intelligence, as he says, 'the Internet now giving us the ability to be publishers, to access knowledge in the crania of others.' Because of this, 'whole ecosystems of human beings can be connected.'
He then ran through the major drivers for change: 1) The technology revolution ' With Web 2.0, the physical world is becoming 'smart'. 2) The Net Generation ' Youngsters who want to impact the world and have high expectations wanting freedom, customization, scrutiny, integrity, collaboration, entertainment, speed, and innovation. 3) Collaborative Communities ' Self-organization and the innovative process have tremendous power ' example: the Obama campaign. He says that if you put these three together you get an economic revolution and a profound change in innovation. Lowered collaboration costs allow peers to come together. Applying the principles of 'peering' and collaboration to innovation opens up the process ' he says, 'Think global and act global.'
He wraps up by breezing through some of our collective to-dos, 'rethinking innovation ecosystems' and 'innovating industries'. In summary, the theme of the talk was change ' point being that change is happening in spades. He left us saying, 'We can move to a greater level, share intelligence or even our consciousness, and problems of innovation at one end and social justice at the other could be solved.' The message: Collective intelligence is extremely powerful and could provide a way for us to innovate at the exponentially increasing pace of change. A lot of unanswered questions but certainly ample food for thought!

- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)

Clay is a Business Innovationist with Creative Realities, an innovation strategy consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to their Innovationist Blog where all things innovation are discussed. You can find out more about Creative Realities at www.creativerealities.com

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