Weeknotes #9,893: What is 'innovation' anyway?

How do you encourage innovation in a media company? I was at a panel yesterday discussing this, but felt like we have more questions than answers.

What is innovation? It's an overused word. But what it creates is a competitive advantage and a way to help identify new revenue streams and, most importantly, leads to a better product or experience for the user or viewer. Innovation isn't a product or service - it's a mindset and a way of working.

Photo by Chris Denbow on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Innovation labs: Why have a lab for innovation? Are innovation labs a good idea - a team with the explicit remit of identifying and exploring new trends? Does that practice act like central heating for new ideas, helping them spread around the building, or does it make the rest of the company feel like innovation isn't part of their job? How do you encourage the whole company feel to work with that spirit of experimentation?

Overload: Innovation has to happen on the front line. In media companies, that means journalists and production staff who are already overloaded. Deploying a new piece of technology takes time to learn and if the current workflow is already working, there's little incentive to change. How do you encourage a more positive, exploratory way of working without directly impacting productivity?

Tech v media: Should media companies be thinking of themselves as tech companies, or is it wrong to even compare themselves to tech given that their products are so different? Is there any 'agile development' in media, or is that impossible with a product that always requires a final edit? Should media be more confident in translating its working practices into an online environment, rather than trying to emulate tech firms?

Openness: How does a media business make money if it opens its content for free? Should partnerships with externals firms, for services and devices, be the route for new revenue streams - effectively outsourcing innovations in those areas to specialists?

Strategy: How do you structure innovation so that work fits the company's objectives, but without placing limitations on what staff can work on? It's about thinking differently, but how do you think strategically too? Do businesses just need to have a portfolio approach, allowing all types of projects because one in ten should be successful?

Good management: If that innovation has to take place on the frontline, then journalists, developers, designers - all the frontline staff - need to feel they have the support and confidence of their managers to work in different ways. Sometimes that might be as simple as some old fashioned management: 'that was good, do more of it...'. And to what extent do internal corporate IT practices limit innovation, discouraging staff from exploring and downloading new tools because of firewalls and security concerns, or blocking customisation of machines and programmes?

Can you share your experience? And can you suggest good examples of what you regard as truly innovative editorial? I'll gather your ideas and see if we can draw some conclusions...

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Amount of time spent sitting in stationary or slow trains yesterday due to snow: 6.75 hours
Homeworking radio of choice: 6Music

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