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Old World To New World

For me, there are three important drivers to making tech and innovation central to your company’s culture. We introduced these tools into Face’s processes.



By Andrew Needham

I gave a talk recently at the Cello Partner Day on “Old World to New World: making tech and innovation central to your thinking”. For me there are three important drivers to making tech and innovation central to your company’s culture.

1).  Be curious to explore new things

2).  Have the desire and motivation to change NOW!

3).  Be constantly frightened of what could sink your business next week.

There’s no excuse really as Innovation doesn’t always have to be about the big and scary things; it can be about the small things too. Ultimately we innovate to be better, faster, cheaper, more creative or more valuable than our competitors. Fortunately things don’t move quickly in the research industry so we have more time to innovate than we think. Also we should remember that most good ideas have been thought of; we just need to ask whether they have been applied to what we do and if so, how well have they been applied and could we do them better.

Here is the deck I presented which is based on the framework from Scott Keller and Colin Price’s Encouraging organizations to change: the influence model which I thought was a useful way of sharing some Face examples of creating an innovation culture because it breaks it down into the following four simple steps.

1.  A compelling story: I understand what is being asked of me and it makes sense

Having a vision and a plan to achieve it is key; making the question what role do you want technology and innovation to play in that plan essential. Things don’t happen by accident so start by mapping out client needs (those that are here now and also the ones that you can see coming over the hill) and build an innovation pipeline against them. Think not just about innovating in terms of research technology or research frameworks to answer these needs but also think about bringing research to areas that don’t have them. It’s about future proofing your business.

2.  Reinforcement mechanisms: I see that our structure, processes and systems support the change I am being asked to make

Doing pilots as part of an “always in beta” mentality is a great way of demonstrating to the whole company that your serious about experimenting. The mantra of test, learn, do is at the heart of what we call “Face Labs” our internal innovation network as is working with forward thinking clients to help develop new approaches. Fundamental to this philosophy is being prepared to fail/get things wrong and learn from them. Hack days, opening up to individuals and companies both inside and outside your organisation, writing and talking about innovation (at events, in the press, on your blog or slideshare) are good examples of proving to your employees that you’re serious about making tech and innovation central to your thinking. Finally do you have a line in your P&L to fund your innovation? If not, then why not?

3.  Skills required for change: I have the skills and opportunities to behave in the new way

One of the most important decisions we have made at Face has been creating the role of Chief Innovation Officer. Francesco D’Orazio, Face’s CIO, has overall responsibility for driving our innovation pipeline; is in charge of Face Labs and is rewarded for our successes. People, rewards and training are one of the hardest areas to get right. First of all start with recruitment by thinking what type of people do you want to attract into the organisation as well as what skills do these people need to have (something that is driven by your vision and your plan). Secondly with existing team members it’s critical to ascertain the necessary training skills needed for them to succeed in your company. From a rewards point of view it’s often not just about the money. We send team members to SXSW for a week for example something that is seen as one of the best innovation rewards. Finally it is about embracing technology to run your business and that means at the very least embracing tools such as base camp (or something similar in terms of project management), skype and evernote (becoming paperless) to drive efficiency and collaboration. Recently we have added “PivotViewer” to our technology tool set as it makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data by visualising thousands of related items at once enabling us to see trends and patterns that would be hidden when looking at one item at a time.

4.  Role Modelling: I see my leaders, colleagues and staff behaving differently.

The old adage that “actions speak louder than words” is key here. I can speak from personal experience along with Face’s MD Job Muscroft when we not only introduced the above tools into Face’s processes whether that was from a management, marketing, sales, promotion or research point of view but we also made sure that we were the first to use them on a regular basis. Our twitter and slide share accounts are evidence of that!

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