What really makes an innovator?
What skills and behaviours would you use to sum up your innovation team?
- The ability to see what others miss?
- Commercial rigour & analysis?
Whilst all of these are no doubt important ingredients, are they discriminating? Would you say yes to all of these with reference to your brand marketing team as well?
I think there is one thing that really differentiates the genuine innovator and it is one of the most important. Resilience.
My time client side was littered with highly impressive & capable people who have nothing but a litany of innovation failure to their name. 4 years of your working life and what have you got to show for it – some “valuable learnings”?
This is not an indictment on them – anything but. The notion of praising the ability to kill a project is often given lip service. As a man who inherited the name “slayer” in one of my innovation roles client side, I know this only too well. Along with death & taxes, the only other irrefutable truth I am aware of is that innovation fails.
It’s all well and good to “learn from your failures” – but we live in the real world – and the real world finds it hard to look at a CV with a 4 year period where you “learnt a lot” …but delivered preciously little.
Highly ambitious & capable people don’t like not achieving. And whilst clearly that time hasn’t been spent twiddling thumbs, there is also a truth:
“It is easy to be busy, any fool can be busy, but surely you are not paid to be busy – you are paid to be effective” – Time Management by Martin Scott
Faced with this reality, many marketeers are only too eager to jump back to the relative safety and comfort of brand management – and the skills they have learnt aren’t easily replaced and are often lost.
So what keeps those hardy few going? Ultimately it has to come back to resilience. The ability to take knock after knock but keep going.
Belief that they will succeed because they are doing the right thing and whilst they haven’t got it right yet, they will get it right in the end.
An old Marketing Director of mine talked about innovators having a “shelf-life”. I disagree. Brand managers who “do” innovation have a shelf life – but true innovators don’t.
They don’t get beaten by the knock backs – all 5,127 of them Mr. Dyson – because they have the tenacious drive & urge to win – no matter how long the race must be to eventually win.
So next time you’re interviewing a candidate for an innovation role, maybe ask when and how they last dealt with failure. It might be the difference between an innovator and a marketer doing innovation.
By Simon Garnett, Managing Director, US