The more I work with large corporate clients, whether in tech, pharma, consumer goods, automotive, or other industries, the more I've become aware that most companies are seeking the same thing from their suppliers and vendors -- and event designers are not exempted. They want us to help them get or stay ahead by doing things that are innovative. Sounds great, right?
The only problem with this is that innovation is a retrospective adjective, not a forward-facing, actionable strategy.
When corporations tell you they want innovation, they may as well be telling you they want magic. It is all but impossible. We look at things retrospectively and call them innovative -- sliced bread.. Uber.. drag bingo. But virtually no one ever sat down at a table and said "Let's make INNOVATION". Rather, people set out to do their jobs, and innovation is a consequence of how they do their job, not their initial intention.
The most successful innovators sat down and said "F**k it!". They decided not to be a victim. They grew a pair. They decided not to make excuses. They found guts. They decided to break the rules as much as possible and still get away with it. When they succeeded, people called it innovative. That's the adjective that describes the successful outcome.
I don't know any entrepreneur who doesn't want that. The difference between the people who get called innovative and the ones who don't isn't a desire to be more innovative than the other guy. It's the person whose attitude says "What are these rules for? Why? Who said?". It's the person who says "Let's pitch the thing that is as close to the line as we can and STILL WIN".
What companies really mean when they say they want innovation is that they want the risk takers... rule breakers... dream makers, don't you mess around with me. In part because so much of giant corporate culture can't take the risks that our small agencies can. They are inherently risk averse, have employees who are motivated by fear, and they incentivise the maintenance of the status quo.
Innovation is an outcome. It's the result of a mindset that questions every limitation. When you combine that mindset with a vision, a team who understands it and is ready to work hard for it, and a bucket of talent, you will aim higher. You will fly farther. You will crash harder. And you will win bigger.
Innovation is the result of having guts. Clients need agencies, suppliers, and partners with chutzpah.
I'm not interested in creating innovation. That's akin to saying I want to create a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. You don't set out to do that. You set out to do something that is so satisfying and singular that it resonates as something heretofore unconsidered. Not because you want to disrupt an industry... but because you dared to be different.
I'm going out there and I'm gonna try to win. And I'm going to do it by breaking as many rules as possible along the way. If I innovate along the way, history will be the judge of that. My job is to deliver on my mindset of breaking through barriers, rules, and assumptions to try and deliver something unexpectedly better. Innovation is a judgement. Breaking rules is a strategy.