Yesterday as news circulated that I’d be taking a new role at Edelman (EVP, Global Innovation & Integration). I spotted a tweet that I was secretly hoping I’d get. Zach wasn’t sure what my title meant—but congratulated me anyway. He brings up a valid point. Words like innovation are vague and in the past have been overused. And the word “integration” can be a number of things. But we chose these words purposefully and here’s my take on what they mean:
Simply put, it’s what keeps your business on the front line. Google had a great run for a while as the only kid on the digital block, then Facebook came along and innovated by connecting people to other people not just information. Google innovated by indexing the Web, and Facebook is emerging as a challenger fueled by an innovative way of looking at human connections. Craigslist is an innovation and has played a role in disrupting the cash cow of newspaper classifieds. But someday, this space will be disrupted again by another innovator. In short, innovation comes in waves of all sizes, but it’s something that every business needs to focus on—because it can ultimately create new opportunities which are essential for growth.
Many organizations set up innovation incubators or labs and treat them as experiments. In my experience where I’ve seen this done, it leads to some interesting experiments—but a lack of adoption. This is where integration comes in. Innovations can often happen in nimble environments, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t be treated as a lab. Instead, innovations should occur in batches with the purpose of scaling and integrating more broadly. It’s the second half of the equation and can be accomplished with multiple teams focused on pushing things through to fruition.
I’m viewing my new role as a mandate from Edelman’s most senior leaders—”permission to innovate.” In this role, I’ll be focused on finding the right partners in crime from external platform developers to client partners to internal innovation co-conspirators. As Alan alluded to in his note—we are seeing tremendous shifts in the areas of mobile, social, search, content, platforms and analytics. Each of these areas will present opportunities for a business and brand to adapt over time. In my estimation, the transformation will be in baby steps. Small, nimble, incremental steps which help a brand uncover new opportunities in marketing, communications and how they conduct business in a connected age. That’s my new job which I’m really excited about, and don’t be surprised if I reach out to you at some point.