Leeds Digital Festival 2020 — A practical guide to Innovation & Transformation part 2

Now that we know why innovation is important to survival and growth for most organisations, what do we do?  Continue reading. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.

First of all, it won’t happen overnight. Building innovation and transformation into the culture of any organisation is not an easy task. As discussed in part 1, there’s a number of hurdles identified by Safi Bahcall that organisations face and we’ve observed the following;

  • People and organisations take time to change
  • Free cash reserves are needed
  • Results are not immediate! It takes faith

Some things you can do, right here, right now

Innovation and transformation have to start somewhere, here's my quick list to help you get started: 

  • Allocate a budget
  • Remove blame
  • Allow and embrace failure
  • Listen, even to the most junior people
  • Be open to new ideas
  • Learn from success, that’s important but also learn from your failures

The joke is that the first two usually get switched to "allocate blame and remove budget" but that's another story

This is easy to say but bloody difficult to do — though it doesn’t have to be limited to the above and inspiration isn’t just limited to 9-5. 

There are a great number of resources online, we have a slack channel that the team shares all sorts of “cool and interesting stuff”. My son listens to ‘Citations needed’ and the ‘Joe Rogan Experience’, two popular podcasts that discuss media, PR, and other interesting going-ons in the world.

I take time most days to look at something new and interesting in areas I'm interested in, like Artificial Intelligence, Data, Science and Technology, future thinking. I also read a number of regular emails, in particular from Azeem Azhar and Benedict Evans.

How to integrate innovation into your culture

When you have a problem that needs solving, make the case using a question. Address the problem by considering what needs to change and why. As a starting point, you can use the ‘5 whys’ method. This will help the team get to the root of the problem rather than trying to find ‘quick fixes’. A great article explaining this method can be found here. 

This phase of getting to the core of the problem doesn’t have to include the whole team. Start small. It can be done yourself or as part of a dedicated innovation team. Build a team that consists of senior and more junior members. Senior roles can act as a sponsor, driving the project forwards, and junior roles often bring an open, flexible, curious mindset. 

The key is to work quickly and efficiently.

  • Deliver solutions quickly
  • Measure and evaluate fast
  • Ensure that solutions are measurable to analyse value

Some horrible failures and fabulous successes

Since Bolser launched we’ve experienced our fair share of success. We’ve also had a fair number of failed attempts at innovation. I’d like to share just a few of those failure and success stories with you. 

NFC Hub: Fail

Back before the release of the iPhone, we invested in the machinery and a website for passive RFiD tags. At the time, near field communication was an emerging technology that would allow instant connection to websites, apps and other digital destinations for anyone with a mobile device. Our prediction was that this technology would take off, but when Apple continued to release iPhones which didn’t support this, the demand simply wasn’t there. 

Mobile Apps: Success

Over the years we’ve designed and built over 85 mobile apps - our first in 2007, before the iPhone and before apps became a part of everyday life. Although we’ve made some apps that weren’t successful (or ‘craps’ as we called them), we’ve created apps that have been a huge success. We’ve invested our own money and learnt a lot in the process, we take pride in our portfolio of successful apps.

QZbot: Fail

I love quizzes - so as you can imagine I was excited about building a quiz engine we called QZbot. For the first time ever you could create your own quizzes and share with friends. However, we failed to see that not everyone was as keen on quizzes as me. The demand wasn’t there and QZbot resulted in failure.

ARO: Success

One of Bolser’s great successes is our app review optimisation tool: ARO. We noticed that a lot of Uber drivers were giving incredibly poor reviews to a taxi app we were working on. We thought it wasn’t fair that the reviews didn’t always reflect the performance of the app itself. After appealing this to the iOS and Android app stores, we realised that there were millions of reviews that could be moderated on a massive scale. We developed AI that can maintain a high standard of relevant app reviews for our clients, and we’ve seen astounding results so far!

Top tips for innovation

We’ve covered a lot over these two articles on innovation and transformation. I’d like to conclude with my top tips and takeaways on innovation and how to bring it alive for you and your organisation!

  • You need a process for innovation. Personally and professionally
  • Every idea is valuable
  • It doesn’t matter who or where the idea comes from
  • No idea is perfect at conception
  • Take time every day to think
  • Write things down
  • Innovation doesn’t happen at the ideas stage - it happens when you decide to implement!

These two articles were taken from our presentation at the Leeds Digital Festival 2020

Ash, Managing Director

Ash set up Bolser in 2001 and is renowned for innovation in digital marketing and cycling to work most days!