What is innovation?

“What is innovation?”

It’s a question I get asked all the time.

Here’s how I answer it…

You have a problem…

You solve it.

You have a bigger problem…

You solve that.

And you keep going, solving bigger and bigger problems.

In my opinion…

Innovation is the process of SOLVING bigger and bigger problems – the bigger the problems you’re solving, the bigger the innovation is.

Innovation Case Study

In my role as Director of Strategy + Innovation at Web Profits (and previously Chief Innovation Officer) one of my key areas of responsibility is to keep Web Profits at the forefront of digital strategy and execution, and how it’s delivered to clients.

Producer Model

Back in early 2014 we realised the the ‘old’ agency model of account managers, account executives, accounts specialists (and so on) was broken (problem) because there was too much ‘waste’ getting the information from the client to the people actually doing the work, and a lack of accountability on performance.

So, we restructured our company to leverage the Producer Model (solution) where clients would speak to the person doing their actual work. Almost overnight we removed a TON of internal ‘waste’ and increased performance for every client across the board.

That innovation set the stage for our next (bigger) one…

Fluid Marketing

Late 2014 we realised that the digital landscape was moving away from a channel-specific approach to an omnichannel one (problem). We’d been operating for almost a year with the Producer Model and started looking at how the fastest-growing companies in the world ran their digital campaigns – we saw that they all had ‘growth teams’ that worked together across channels.

So we decided we would ‘test’ pulling together Producers from different channel specialties (Acquisition, Social, Search & Content Marketing) and creating on-demand growth teams led by our most experienced marketers – we referred to this as Fluid Marketing (solution) as we were able to move tactics and advertising budget between channels ‘fluidly’ (ie in real-time).

Over the next few years this became our flagship service, driving the majority of our growth, because of the record-breaking results we were able to achieve for clients, over and over and over, across nearly every industry we worked in.

Fluid Teams

Up until last year, we would create ‘fluid’ teams on-demand based on client requirements, however we realised that we had almost as many teams as we had clients, which meant that we weren’t able to get the full benefits of a ‘growth team’ where team members work with the same people, day-in and day-out (problem).

So last year, we moved to ‘Fixed’ Fluid Teams where the same group of people would manage a portfolio of clients, as a team (solution).

That change (or ‘innovation’) opened up our ability to drive even faster innovation in our service delivery excellence. With our new fluid team structure we are able to make rapid gains in the performance we can achieve for our clients.

So…

Had we not moved to the Producer model, we would not have been able to launch Fluid Marketing. Had we not launched Fluid Marketing, we would not have been able to move to ‘fixed’ Fluid Teams, and we wouldn’t be anywhere near the world-class level of digital strategy and execution we are today.

We’re not perfect (I don’t think anyone is) but we’re working tirelessly day-in and day-out to get as close to perfection as possible.

One of my biggest fears is that we get ‘beaten’ by younger and hungrier competitors (I LOVE to win and HATE to lose).

But as long as we continue solving bigger and bigger problems (faster than anyone else), we will be ‘innovating’ at Web Profits and staying ahead of the game.

How can you approach innovation?

You don’t need to solve the world’s problems to innovate – you can do it in your own ‘house’. But you do need to focus on solving bigger and bigger problems.

In an Inc. article from 2019, Bill Gates and MIT predicted the world’s next 10 big innovations (these are BIG problems that need to be solved).

In that article, they reference the 10X Rule, which states states that to dislodge incumbent market leaders, you must be 10 times better, faster, cheaper, stronger, or otherwise.

So if you want to be a market leader in your space, continue solving problems that will make you 10X better, faster, cheaper, stronger (or otherwise) than everyone else.

It’s not an easy feat, but what else are you going to do šŸ™‚

Alex Cleanthous

Alex Cleanthous

Director of Strategy + Innovation | Co-Founder at Web Profits
I co-founded Web Profits in 2006 with the belief that there's always a smarter and better way to do things. We're now a digital growth consultancy with offices in Australia, Singapore, and the United States. I'm passionate about personal and professional growth, and I like to surround myself with people who are as well. I have substantial private board experience, and have successfully launched an IPO.

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Iā€™m the co-founder of Web Profits, investor in a number of different companies, and have successfully launched an IPO. Get access to 95% of my best life hacks.