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Simpliying Innovation Part 2: Why Innovation Hubs Might Not Be The Right Fit For You

As the pressure for companies to innovate and adapt intensifies, the winners will be those who resist hype and simplify innovation.

Empowered staff, input from experienced entrepreneurs and clever partnerships can simplify the entire approach.

Innovation is not always about building a rocket ship. We can instead focus on leveraging the assets we already have and integrating our services in smarter ways. Innovation hubs and consultants don’t always deliver the best results. Empowered staff, input from experienced entrepreneurs and clever partnerships can simplify the entire approach.

One of the best ways to simplify innovation is to start by asking how we can leverage the resources and knowledge we already have. I asked this question when working for a major publishing group back in 2009. As one might expect, journalists were the life blood of their operations and so we started by documenting their day-to-day routine. It turned out that a large amount of time was spent analysing data and reading articles from various news sources. From our readers’ point of view, we acknowledged that there was an increasing trend for news readers to consume media from multiple sources instead of a single publisher, and in a pre-Flipboard era, find ways to tie in their own social content sources.

Without even using the term ‘innovation’, we soon realised that if we allowed our journalists to share insightful commentaries on the numerous articles they had read across the web and publish these in real time to a mobile platform, we had the makings of expertly sourced, cross-industry content that greatly improved on the user experience of social news at the time. This was supplemented with a simple ‘car mode’ feature for easy offline playback of radio shows, user personalisation via Twitter and RSS, and financial stock data we already paid for. What we had created was a new ecosystem built for mobile consumption yet without huge expense and little change to business operations.

Senior strategists and management consultants can bring capacity and energy into the innovation space, yet there is a risk that the breadth of industry and execution experience is too narrow. Furthermore, the costs and effort needed to bring this together into an innovation hub can be high and yet still fail to overcome conventional perspectives and PowerPoint paralysis.

To innovate in a more informed and practical manner, we can look to bring in proven entrepreneurs, client/supplier partners and our own eager junior staff members. The alternative perspectives this brings into the mix will simplify the way innovation flows through an organisation and empower insightful junior staff members. The perspectives and front-line experience of an entrepreneur cannot be replaced by slideware, lengthy analysis or consultants. High-growth entrepreneurs, who also have deep corporate experience, will help deliver more value, with less cost and effort.

Stephen Barling is the Managing Director & Chief Product Designer at Greyspace Digital.

You can read Part 1 here.