In this webinar, we explore 3 innovation activities that can help you uncover new opportunities for your business.
Transcript | The Case for Space | 38:19
0:01 – Kiirsten May
Okie dokie, so we can probably get started. Welcome, everyone. I'm Kiirsten May, I'm a co-owner of UpHouse along with Alex Varricchio, who you see here as well. Thanks for joining our Case for Space webinar, we're going to share three ways that you can use distance to generate new ideas for your business. But before we get into the content, I just want to share a few housekeeping notes. This is an interactive webinar. Hopefully you're down for that, because that's how we like to run our events. And there's three ways that we're going to interact today. One way is through the Zoom chat feature. And so please use the chat to share your feedback publicly with everyone here today. And we're going to take advantage of chat a little later when we do a group brainstorming activity. Make sure you know where your chat window is. The second way that you can interact is through the Zoom Q&A. If you open the Q&A window, those are questions that come directly to me and Alex.
1:00 – Kiirsten May
Please post those whenever they spring to mind, we're going to take them up periodically throughout the presentation today. We have three sections. And then at the end of each section, we'll go to that Q&A window and see if anyone has any questions they'd like us to speak to about that content. And questions are beneficial for everyone. So if you have a question, please ask it because someone else is probably thinking the same thing. And then the third way that you can interact is through talking through taking the mic, so to speak. We’re going to need two volunteers today for a couple of the activities that we're doing. If you would like to volunteer, if you're that brave person who wants to come on and speak quickly to the group, very easy questions, by the way, you'll need a microphone on your device. So just make sure you've got that ready as well.
1:45 – Kiirsten May
And I also want to give a thank you to CAMA today. CAMA promoted this event to their membership, and we're very happy to have some CAMA members with us today. So thank you very much. We're glad to see you here.
1:57 – Kiirsten May
Now, let's get started. Let's go
2:01 – Alex Varricchio
Today, we're just curious, you mentioned, we're going to be chatting through a few different ways to use this period of distance to innovate an idea for your different organizations. We've said, for better or worse — well, I mean, ultimately, for worse — a lot of ways things have had to had to change during this period. But there's definitely been some things we've seen, a lot of new innovations have come out, people have been pivoting really quickly. And we think there's definitely some lessons to be learned from that. And we're hoping to, to share a little bit of that with you as well.
2:29 – Alex Varricchio
So as Kiirsten said, my name is Alex Varricchio and we are the co-owners of house. We started the organization in 2017. We're a brand and marketing organization that works with different companies to help them position themselves in the market. We're also the co-authors of The Proximity Paradox, which was released earlier this year. And we also launched Crainstorm, which is a crowdsource brainstorming and focus group tool. Again, we’re marketers, and I think one of the things that we've talked a lot about, is that outside perspective that marketers provide through our careers.
3:00 – Alex Varricchio
Prior to this, we had the opportunity to see inside a lot of different organizations. And I think one of the things we've always talked about that seems interesting, or kind of strikes us, is that, you might have somebody that's got 20 or 30 years of experience with their own organization, and we can come in and still be able to provide new ideas or new perspectives and things they haven't necessarily thought of. Now, this isn't because we are so amazing at coming up with ideas, but it really is that outside expertise that's so invaluable. And I think that's something again, that we think that that all organizations should be looking to create, whether or not you're engaging with outside partners.
3:37 – Alex Varricchio
So, we call this phenomenon in our minds the Proximity Paradox. So ultimately, it's all about the fact that you're when you get closer to a challenge, it becomes harder and harder to see it for what it really is. And it becomes harder and harder to see that the forest for the trees, as they say. And I don't know if you can think of a time when you've been trying to solve a problem with an organization around a boardroom table. You've got a lot of great minds around the table with a lot of experience.
4:00 – Alex Varricchio
And you just can't solve it. Then somebody walks in the room and then all of a sudden, they make a suggestion or they think of something immediately that’s an exceptional idea. And it's equally frustrating and liberating, because they were able to think of that. And that's ultimately that Proximity Paradox coming into play.
4:16 – Alex Varricchio
So, when do we know that the Proximity Paradox, or how do we know this is in play? Again, it's any time that we see ourselves too close to an organization. And it's ultimately anytime you hear anybody say anything along these lines, you can tell that it's happening. “The experts told us to do it this way,” or “We've hired the most experienced for the business,” or “We keep on promoting people up within the company it's worked for us in the past, it's got to work again.” All of these things. It's doing things the way that you've always done them. It's only looking at an outside expert for ideas and for inspiration. And it's only taking risks when others in your industry are doing the same thing. These are all of these pieces, again, coming together for the Proximity Paradox. And the challenge with this is that so many of us don't view proximity as a hindrance.
5:00 – Alex Varricchio
We view experience as something that you want to have. We view that that deep focus on an issue as something that's really helpful to us, when in fact, it can also get in the way of our businesses and the way that we do our work. Ultimately, we believe that you're too close to your business and it kills your creativity. This is the case for every industry for every organization, we need to find ways to overcome proximity to look for new inspiration points and help each other out throughout the process.
5:27 – Alex Varricchio
There’re three fundamental steps to overcoming proximity. The first one is ultimately recognizing when proximity is in play. Again, it sounds really simple but unfortunately, it's not and countless people that we talked to, they beat themselves up, especially marketers for in-house organizations, they beat themselves up because they don't feel like they're being creative around their own brands. Or they think that their idea killers because they have to execute really intense projects. The most important thing I always just say is to recognize that it's there and then accept the fact that it it's not your fault, and that also you may not always be the best person to solve a challenge. And that's okay. Proximity isn't a choice.
6:00 – Alex Varricchio
It's something that we all have. We use a term “eyeballs” when we're talking about things like our proximity to something, and we will bring in an outside expert or an outside voice, just to help us get those ideas flowing.
6:10 – Alex Varricchio
And lastly, the way that we always think about proximity is just finding those ways to create distance within yourselves in your organization. And this is ultimately what we're going to be talking through with everyone today.
6:22 – Alex Varricchio
We think that there's three different ways that you can create distance for your organization.
6:29 – Alex Varricchio
The first one is create distance by shaking up the way that you treat your people. It’s looking internally at the systems that you've got the roles that they have, what they're working on. The second one is looking at shaking up your creativity by developing a process and look at your processes where innovation being killed in the process that you've got in your company. And the third one is looking how you position your business within your own industry. This is a really important one. Again, we always look so closely at our direct competitors, what are they doing what can I do that going to fit within the mold of what everyone else is doing within my space.
7:00 – Alex Varricchio
And that's not necessarily going to make me stand out. All of these are the areas that we want to chat through with you today. And one thing to note as well when we talk about distance, I think a lot of people often assume that we mean that you always have to bring in outsiders to help you innovate. And this is definitely not the case. We want you to create that distance within yourself so that you can start to come up with new and fresh ideas.
7:21 – Alex Varricchio
So the first area that we want to talk about today is creating distance for your people. I'm going to use a little bit of a story to help shake this out.
7:29 – Alex Varricchio
I think there was a time when the Proximity Paradox became really clear to us. I was visiting my sister in Calgary and my niece Franca was there with her, and I walked into her place, and Franca had pulled out all of her toys, all of her clothes, everything that she possibly owned into the middle of the living room. She brought it all out, she had stacks of it. And when I got there, I talked to her about what she was doing and what this was all about. She explained to me in pretty significant detail, that she was headed on a mini-vacation, and she said she had to bring all her toys, all her stuff, and she went on in amazing detail as to what every single piece, of those things that she had there represented.
8:00 – Alex Varricchio
Some of the things were toys, some of them were friends, some of them were devices that she needed to move from A to B. And it was all this amazing creativity and imagination that she showed. And when, of course, when it came time to clean up the mess, she was three at the time, so my sister ended up doing most of that heavy lifting. And I think kind of got me thinking a little bit. Because as time goes on, she's going to become more and more responsible to clean up her own messes. And she's going to start to only play and imagine to the level at which she's comfortable cleaning up her own messes. So she'll start to reduce that creativity, it'll start to come down, because she'll think, “I don't want to take everything away, because I'm gonna have to put it all back.” So she starts thinking less starts creating less. And I think as adults, this is something that we feel and experience a lot. Most of the people that will be on the call, most of us have to deal with the messes of our own ideas, we have to deal with executing those ideas. And because of that, it starts to really limit what we can come up with. So that's where we bring in this term, this “innovation versus execution ceiling.”
9:00 – Alex Varricchio
And we have all this within ourselves. Our innovation ceiling really represents that ultimate extent to which we can think creatively. Where we can go what we can imagine, it's a pretty darn high ceiling. And then an execution ceiling represents what we're able to produce what we're able to do in the roles that we have in our jobs within the organizations, we're out with the budget, the resources, everything that goes along with that with confidence, everything that builds into that piece, and that execution ceiling is often quite a bit lower than the reaches of our imagination. So over time, we find that execution ceiling just starts to drop and we lose our confidence. And again, we're not as able to come up with and produce really excellent ideas for ourselves or for our organizations.
9:39 – Alex Varricchio
When I found this to be really clear for myself, was within the last organization I was at. For a period of time I served as the organization's creative director, so I would come up with ideas for other organizations for other companies and other brands. And this came easily, the ideas were something that you'd come up with them, they would be creative, they be unique.
10:00 – Alex Varricchio
All those types of things would always happen because as I was innovating for other brands, I didn't have those same connections in the context of that brand, I was able to free-think a little bit more. And then at a time, I actually switched my role within the same organization, and I became our marketing director. So ultimately, I was now just marketing our own organization. And as soon as I made that flip, I now was responsible for budgeting resourcing, making sure that the messaging that I was doing, we were able to produce internally, all of those pieces, nothing about the organization changed. Nothing changed about the factors outside, it was just my role that shifted, and I found immediately my ideas were more safe, they were more conservative, and they didn't reach again to that same that height of execution. I think, ultimately, for us is that until you can separate innovation and execution for yourself and within yourself, you're only going to innovate to the level at which you can execute those ideas. And to ultimately be effective, we need to be able to create distance between our innovation brain and our execution brain. And that's ultimately what we want this first activity to help you do.
10:58 – Kiirsten May
so it's important to know that when you feel sorry
11:00 – Kiirsten May
It’s important to know that when you feel stuck in execution mode. It is not you; it happens to everyone. And it's a symptom of your proximity to the challenge. It's not a measurement of your creative potential. And so this first activity will help you create some distance between your execution and your innovation ceilings. And it's called a disrupter brainstorm. When we talk about disruptors, we're talking about business leaders who are very innovative or who we would say have a very high innovation ceiling. And in this exercise, you're going to think like one. Here are five characteristics that we find are common and disruptors. And you may recognize some of these disruptor brand logos that are on the screen right now. These individuals, typically they are outside the industry, they are disrupting, they come from a different space. They're not established, and they probably have very few resources to work with, particularly if that space is characterized by a lot of infrastructure a bricks and mortar.
12:00 – Kiirsten May
Normally the folks leading these rebellious companies have a different background or skill set than you or the other leaders or big players within your space. And often they have a customer obsessed mindset. They want to create a friction free experience for customers. So when we talk about disintermediation of a space, often that customer obsessed mindset is what's driving that. Often, these companies are using technology to create that innovation and to remove middlemen. It's important to remember that disruptors are not more creative than you, what they have at their advantage is that concept of distance and that big picture thinking they're able to bring. In this exercise, this is something that you can do with your team. You're going to think like a disrupter. This brainstorm will get you thinking like a disrupter to unlock new ideas for your business. In order for this to work, you need to temporarily ignore the execution constraints that you've wrestled with. It's good to dial back your industry knowledge.
13:00 – Kiirsten May
It’s hard to do but very beneficial. Then look at your company at a surface level. And your goal is to think about the game in a different way. In other words, you want to look at your business, not from the perspective of someone who already works in it, but from the perspective of an outsider, you want to set aside a couple of hours and gather your team, you can do this in person, if you're getting together in person again, or you can do it virtually. This is very easy to do over a tool like Zoom. And you're going to spend time brainstorming ways to improve a company just like yours. For the sake of this exercise, maybe give your company a fake name if you're Acme maybe be Bacme for this, just to help create a little bit of distance and separation.
13:42 – Kiirsten May
Here are four questions that you're going to brainstorm answers to with your group. Spend about 15 minutes on each one and just blue sky think around them. What if you could not serve clients face to face for the next year? How could you expand your customer base or your audience with only the resources that you have available currently? What if your marketing budget was cut in half or doubled in size tomorrow? And then what if someone new came in and took over your role? What do you think they would do differently than you?
14:14 – Kiirsten May
If you're willing to take on this challenge, and try this brainstorm with your team, I've got a few tips. The first is be willing to challenge your current assumptions. The goal with this exercise is not to develop concrete ideas that you can execute tomorrow, but to break out of execution mode and into innovation mode, which is tricky. It's kind of like getting back into an exercise routine, it feels terrible at first, but the more that you do it, it gets easier. You might feel like this exercise is dumb or a waste of time, but we encourage you to give it a try. It’s very hard to break up your traditional lines of thinking and it's not always going to feel productive. And once you've completed the brainstorm, go through each of the ideas that you've come up with your team and talk about why you could or could not execute them. And then kind of pick a few that are your favourites and share those with your senior managers, team, even if people don't buy in right away, having these conversations can create an appetite for innovation with your company, which is fertile ground for future work that you want to do.
15:00 – Kiirsten May
And then lastly, try choosing one of the more out there ideas and putting a plan together to champion it through your organization. And we'll share some tips on how to do this a little later. But first, let's give this a try now. We’re going to spend two minutes right now everyone can do this wherever you are, and think about the following questions. And after you're done, we'll be looking for a volunteer to speak up and share their ideas. So think about someone who might come in and take over your role. This can be a totally fictional person. But what if someone came in and took over your role? What do you think they would do differently than you? That first 90 days, what are they going to shake up or try and kind of spend some time think maybe jot down a couple notes on what one of their ideas would be and how they would implement it.
16:00 – Kiirsten May
So there was a lady who owned a furniture company and she sold furniture to hotels and different assisted living facilities. And it could be very expensive for someone to purchase her products if they need to outfit let's say, like 10 floors. One idea that she came up with, just by chatting with another person in the room, was that if a different person came in and took over her position, they would probably come up with a tiered offering. A multi-year transition plan. So rather than a client having to replace all the furniture in one go, they could maybe do it floor by floor and that way she would have a multi-year contract and in a way, finance the renovation for that client organization. That was really cool. She came up with this very quickly just by chatting with a couple different folks near her. And it kind of feels funny when you're like, “Yeah, this is what someone else would do. Why am I not doing this right now?” And often that is just the logistical challenge of having to figure this out and get this done. She felt like she had a burning needs for her business that she needed to address.
17:00 – Kiirsten May
She wasn't really looking at changing the way she delivered her products. But just by taking a few minutes to think like someone outside her industry, she thought of a very novel way to serve her clients and that, to her knowledge, no one else was doing. You could even do it within your own organization. Think of somebody that works in a different department from you, if they came in what would be the first thing they would consider or look at? It becomes really easy to break yourself from that, from that line of thinking.
17:29 – Kiirsten May
And if you have any questions on this content, I just encourage you to go ahead and post them in the Q&A or post them in the chat, whatever you have handy, and we'll definitely take them up. But before we move on, if you kind of like this model of innovation and execution thinking, there's a few ways you can operationalize this in the work day. One is when you're assigning tasks to team members tell them if it's an innovation task or an execution task. That way they won't waste time reinventing the wheel if what you really want them to do is just get in the car and drive or vice versa.
18:00 – Kiirsten May
When you have meetings, split your meetings into two parts, so allocate the first half of the meeting to innovation discussions. And then the second half to execution discussions, and don't mix them together. When these two conversations mix, that's when it can feel like meetings are getting off the rails. If you're just clear about what kind of conversations need to happen at each time, it's going to help everyone stay on the same page, it's going to make your meeting feel more productive. And then lastly, when you're having conversations with people, particularly people who you work with, acknowledge if you're in that innovation mindset or that execution mindset, and that's going to help the other person get onto your page. And then you can also invite them to break you out of one mode or the other.
18:44 – Kiirsten May
Next, we're going to talk about how to innovate by creating distance from your industry. And when we talk about industry, we're talking about the market leaders in your space, your direct competitors, the geographies you serve the partners who serve your industry, and of course the customers that everyone is going after.
19:02 – Kiirsten May
Recently Publishers Weekly, which is a physical and online publication that reviews books, they wrote a review of our book. And we felt like this quote captured the concept of distance from industry quite nicely. “Every business owner needs a perspective independent from the industry they operate in with its code of accepted activities and behaviours dictating what ideas are and are not acceptable.” And so sometimes you might feel like your company is a box of constraints padded with rules on what you can and cannot do with your brand products or marketing. And often, it's no better outside the office. Your industry is simply a larger box of constraints with its own code of accepted activities and behaviour. And so to break free from your competition, you need to create distance from the different players in your space. So check out these guys, you might recognize some of these folks. These are mascots for big insurance companies in the US and it's an example of how all the big players can start to look the same when their industry is very competitive and it has a strong code of accepted behaviours.
20:00 – Kiirsten May
Insurance providers in the US are essentially trying to differentiate themselves from each other through their branding and advertising. And when you look at this, you realize, “Hey, these are all quirky spokespeople!” And this has become the norm, but someone had to be the first and that was, I believe, the Geico Gecko, and then Flo and then these different folks started to come on after that. And that gecko felt totally bizarre for an insurance company when he first came on the scene. But over time, that sea of sameness kind of emerged, and that's simply a by-product of a very competitive space. And now it's weird if a big us insurance company doesn't have a quirky spokesperson, but there is a way to be different and that's what a company called Lemonade is doing.
20:52 – Kiirsten May
This organization does look very different. They sell policies exclusively online, direct to customers and customers are put in a pool based on their risk. And then at the end of that year, if there's any leftover money in the pool from claims not being paid out, the pool can choose a charity to have those extra funds donated to. So, this insurance company is also a social enterprise. They don't have any quirky spokesperson; they just have a very different delivery model. Now insurance brokers that we’ve spoken with in Canada say this model is not perfect, but from a marketing perspective, it has been very effective. They've broken free from the crowd, and they've captured a new audience, which is a millennial audience that wants to shop for insurance online.
21:37 – Kiirsten May
If you feel like your current market is crowded, you can try this activity. You're going to brainstorm ways to redesign your product or service to connect with a new untapped audience segment. And this can be especially helpful right now if your organization has seen your main audience your bread and butter audiences’ sales drop off as a result of COVID-19 and you feel you need to bring new customers into the sales funnel, this is a great activity to try.
22:05 – Kiirsten May
First, let me explain how you could do this within your organization. This activity works best when you have a lot of participants because you're going to try to cover a lot of ground turnover every stone, so to speak. 12 is the ideal group size. And you'll want to have this big group for two hours. And it's going to work like a series of lightning brown round brainstorms, where you want to move quick. But if a group of 12 is not realistic, you could also do this with a smaller group, say a group of three to four people and brainstorm for a shorter period of time, maybe half an hour, every day for four days. So small companies, you can do this too. Once you've assembled your group, you're going to write each of these audience groups that you'll see here on a piece of paper, fold it up and stick it in a hat.
22:54 – Kiirsten May
So you can use different groups than these ones here. There might be an audience you've thought of in the past that you'd like to brainstorm around, but just be sure to include some really nice and unexpected groups to help shake up the brainstorm. And that's where you'll see some really weird audiences here in the list that we've assembled just to shake things up.
23:13 – Kiirsten May
Break your participants into four groups of three people. And each group will draw an audience from a hat and spend 15 minutes brainstorming ways they can make your current product relevant to that audience. And again, you can do this virtually as well. You don't need to have a physical hat; you can just assign audiences to groups. And then when those groups get together and brainstorm around their audience, they can use these three questions to spur their thinking. First would be, how can we change the delivery method of our product to get the new audience to buy? So that what lemonade did going from broker to online? How can we change the features to get the new audience to buy? So again, maybe there's a social enterprise component, or how can we create a modified version of one of our products or services to serve that new audience? So modified version or there are a few tweaks you can make.
24:04 – Kiirsten May
At the end of the 15 minutes give each group in your participants three minutes to pitch their reinvented product back to the larger group and task someone with documenting all of the ideas. Then you're going to change up the groups, draw new audiences and repeat the 15 minute brainstorm and pitch back session. And the goal here is to hold four rounds of brainstorming and cover 16 new audience groups with your big group of participants.
24:32 – Kiirsten May
It's important to note that the first time you do this, it's very hard. But each successive time you do it, it gets easier and easier and faster and faster. And that's why you want to have multiple rounds. But let's try this right now. We're going to need a volunteer again. So please don't be shy. All we need is someone to say this is my product that I would like you to brainstorm around and then as a group, we're going to pitch ideas back to you on a way that you could revisit in your product for one of these audiences.
25:00 – Kiirsten May
If there's anyone who would like to have this group of webinar attendees brainstorm a way they can reposition their product today, please just let us know what that product is you can either raise your hand in Zoom, and I'll come talk to you. Or you can post it in the chat where everyone can see. If not, Alex and I have a product you can brainstorm, but it's obviously going to be much more fun if it's your product than our boring product. And if we do have any brave volunteers again, I do have a book to give you.
25:34 – Alex Varricchio
Two examples of this that we've seen that have been pretty interesting. I don't know if anybody knows what the Nintendo Wii is, but essentially, what they did was create. Nintendo has been marketed to the same audiences for years and years and years. If you think about every kind of game gaming console. Sales were pretty steady, but Nintendo really thought about the opportunity to look at, “Can we find a brand-new audience for this product?” So, what they ended up looking at doing was actually going to seniors homes and they essentially repositioned the Nintendo Wii to work for seniors who are wanting to work out to get some exercise and to try a different a few different things that way, which is a pretty interesting thing.
26:00 – Alex Varricchio
And they ended up going right back to the top of their market after this, which was pretty incredible. But they instead of again, focusing on trying to take over more and more market share and upping the technology within the same system, when you've got other competitors coming in and really kind of kind of showing them up a little bit, they just decided to take that same offering and positioning it to a new audience. They didn't have to change anything in the actual product itself, but they ended up tapping into a pretty new segment, and really upping their sales. And one more example of this too, that we know of is an organization out of Toronto, so they essentially had a ticketing software that they used and prior to they're essentially launched it last year, and then of course with COVID hitting no one was going to take it at events anymore.
27:00 – Alex Varricchio
So they quickly pivoted and said let's try and use this product, essentially for access into things like grocery stores, hair salons, all those types of things, when you used to book walks of times that you don't have to have people waiting outside. And they could just go in at that, that time slot and set themselves up. So again, there's one that's doing really well with this. And I think the biggest thing with this area to consider and look at is that sometimes we think about having to reinvest in product, reinvest in our efforts and process. But what can be the simple and sometimes the most effective way, is to just look for a second audience, third audience that you can start to market an existing product to.
27:28 – Alex Varricchio
And maybe one of the things to when you're doing this to consider is ultimately when you brainstorm different ideas for your organization, or for that future customer that you might have. Spend time doing that and look at what those opportunities may be, but then obviously, it's tough to switch yourself and get too far ahead of yourself.
27:45 – Alex Varricchio
Because you still need to satisfy of course your current customers and clients. So really find that that balance in the middle. And those are the things that are typically the easiest to implement, the things that will entice those future customers, but it will still satisfy existing ones. So you can use this highly fancy model, we've got it here to help you. Yeah.
28:06 – Alex Varricchio
The next section that we want to chat through a little bit with you is just around creating distance from process. And this is definitely one I think everybody knows, especially if you've worked at a start-up as the company grows more process comes into place, your ideas get safer. It's harder to come up with things, it all feels it feels tricky to tricky to pull it all off. And we use this kind of term in our office, this the idea of “irresponsible innovation.” I mean, ultimately all innovation or ideation or creativity feels irresponsible until it's essentially proven. So it's tricky, because every time you try and do something that's creative or different a lot of these things can start going through your head you can think, “Our reputations on the line,” or “We don't have time to do this,” or “We can't afford this,” or “This isn't my job description.” You know, “This feels like play,” or “This feels silly to do this. We've got bigger fish to fry. We should just be out there looking at getting more customers getting more business.” All these things can feel like they get in the way of us feeling comfortable enough.
29:00 – Alex Varricchio
to innovate because innovation until it's proven, it's nothing. And that's the part that's really hard about it. And until creativity is proven, it's nothing. And people often laugh at it, they'll think it's ridiculous when you're trying to explore new ways of thinking or trying things. So it's something that you really just need to keep in mind, when you're coming up with innovations, or coming up with creative ideas that you have to stick it through to the end, you have to keep pushing, because it's gonna feel uncomfortable till you get there.
29:22 – Alex Varricchio
And the thing that we've really noticed in this time that we're in right now, is that all of our standard operating processes are out the window expectations are really low for organizations right now. And support is high. I think we've seen a ton of organizations, small businesses that quickly, all of a sudden, switch their delivery methods and go online, and do things that are totally unique. A lot of them didn't get it right, coming out of the gate, but they had to do it, they tried it, and people were really forgiving of that. So I think right now, this is a really good time to start testing innovations in your organization or testing that thinking and culture, because we're in a safe space to play in innovation and people are people will give you a little bit more room right now to get try things and maybe not get them exactly right.
30:01 – Alex Varricchio
The last activity want to run through with you today is just launching a fearless initiative. And when we talk about a fearless initiative, this isn't necessarily some huge new business initiative or a huge new product development or campaign you need to kind of think about and create within your company. It's ultimately just it's a small project that you want to try to get your culture and your organization comfortable with innovating. The things we always talk about, we say fearless innovation is don't expect a big return on investment right away. Often, it can be helpful if you're in a larger organization to actually treat a fearless initiative, like a continuing education project. Because essentially your staff are going to learn through this process when they do it. And it makes it really a lot easier to innovate and create to the next time it comes up. When you're doing this to do you want to keep that team nimble, you're going to learn a ton going through the process. And again, you want to develop something that you can bring to market in a matter of weeks. Whether that be a campaign, whether that's a new product or a service offering, make sure it's quick, and then make sure that you launch that thing before it's ready or perfect because again, we always are going to kind of lose track and lose our motivation as we go.
31:05 – Alex Varricchio
So to develop a fearless initiative, the way we suggest doing is essentially you choose a budget, keep that budget small and then start kind of consider the expense and employee development cost or continuing education investment if you need to. Sometimes we can make it work with an HR budget, or a marketing budget, whatever that might be. But if you don't have room in one, kind of consider the other space that that you might be able to tap into. And the next make sure to assemble your team and get really clear on who's owning the project. And then be sure to pull in support from other folks within the organization and then make sure that they know that that's an option for them. And they come up with the idea. We want to be something that's going to relate to your industry, but that connection can be loose, it doesn't have to be something that's exactly what you normally do. The idea and goal here is to try something that's unique and different.
31:49 – Alex Varricchio
Set a deadline and again, the sooner you can get that product to market, the better delays will kill enthusiasm and they'll kill interest in the product, and it can make it really hard to follow through. You know and tying to that as go through those motions again, identify the steps needed to bring this thing to life, then sit down and make it happen, because you're going to have voices in your head that tell you all these real and reasonable and rational reasons to stop kind of continuing on.
32:00 – Alex Varricchio
But just we encourage you not to give up. It just makes it harder and harder to do it the next time. I think the thing to remember to just cross that finish line, celebrate success or failure this plan and then plan that next project plan that next initiative or campaign. The goal here is just to instill that culture, make sure you're doing it on a repeat basis, and that it's easier and easier to do. We had a couple questions, last webinar that we did just around examples of what your initiative could look like, and up house when we went into quarantine we looked at developing a few campaigns for different organizations that were, again, quick, try them, get them out the door. We also launched a project ourselves called Frontline Friends, which was essentially it was a colouring book series that we did to help teach kids and talk to kids about what was going on and also what their role was in all of this.
33:00 – Alex Varricchio
And we featured different Frontline Friends, those folks that were out there working and doing things every day, and got their opinions on what kids should be doing from home what they wanted to be doing when they got out of isolation. And it was something that again, it was a really quick idea that we developed, we got it out really fast. And it ended up it's been covered by a number of sources, and we've had a really good engagement with it. And people have said that it's been a nice supportive thing for them to be able to use and try. So, again, doing this, it's something that is it's it gets the creative juices going internally for your own teams. Again, it feels good to do it, and when it works. And also again, if it doesn't work, you will learn something through it, and it will become that much easier to do it to do it later on. So as much as you can think of this and think of ideas to do, we encourage you to do that.
33:42 – Alex Varricchio
So if you've got just a minute now, I think, while it's fresh in your mind, let's just spend a minute thinking about what a fearless initiative might look like for your company. So write down any ideas that you have around this. And then also if you think about a person in your organization or a couple folks in your company that you'd like to have work with you on this, that can be really helpful.
34:00 – Alex Varricchio
And just I would encourage you right now to take a minute, we'll just take a pause here for a sec. And you can essentially just put those down, put down any ideas you've had in your mind before that might be good. And any people you think you'd like to see, help out with this and bring it to life. By putting pen to paper, oftentimes, it just makes it a lot easier to actually stick to it when we get back off this call, and you get back to your busy days. So I'll just give you a second.
34:22 – Alex Varricchio
I think just to kind of wrap this up and wrap up our conversations here, I think ultimately, whether innovation or creativity is something that you're comfortable with or whether it's something that you're able to do today, the practice of innovating is invaluable. We are in a unique time right now, where we have permission as an organization as individuals not to get things perfectly right, perfectly correct. So it's a time for us to explore our creativity time for us to explore different ways of thinking look to new audiences, look to different markets, anything like that, that you can do to help yourself innovate and create in a way that's gonna what can continue to push that further and further in your company.
35:00 – Alex Varricchio
And as much as you can again, making sure that you can recognize proximity within your organization. As we kind of talked about before, there's those three steps to overcoming proximity. First is just recognize that it's at play. Again, give yourself permission and accept the fact that you might not always be the right person to solve a challenge try and back up from proximity anytime you can back up from a problem. And then again, acknowledging it in your own mind and kind of question yourself and say to yourself, “Am I am I too close to this? Am I thinking about her too much? Do I need to take a little bit different approach with this? Or do I have it the right way right now?” And then lastly, create distance by shaking up the way that you traditionally tackle a problem. Look at the ways that you treat your people look at the roles they have, can you flip them around on projects? Can you try different things with them? Look at your process. Is there anything that you can do that to change your process out? Like, Kiirsten talked about earlier, can you look at the meetings that you have as a company, and start to split them out into innovation and execution sections so that you're not trumping ideas with execution when you should be keeping things open.
36:00 – Alex Varricchio
And then the last one is your industry, I think we're all guilty of doing this, we look at our direct competitors, we see what they're doing, we try and one up them, but we end up doing what they're doing with a little bit of a twist. And to a customer, oftentimes, they don't see the difference in those little changes that we're making. So, it's important to look at your industry and say, “Can I look to a totally different industry to inspire me from for something? Can I look to a different type of organization?” If you're a B2B start thinking like a B2C or vice versa. All of that will help shake up that those constraints of your industry and happy to think a little bit differently.
36:32 – Alex Varricchio
So, if you're interested in the in the book that we've got, we do have a bit of an offer on the website. You can go and check that out there. You can get a digital copy with a discount. Also, there's just a list of where that's available as well. But yeah, I think that kind of wraps us for today. If there's any questions, we'd be happy to address those and if not, we'll wrap up for the for the afternoon.
36:58 – Alex Varricchio
Kiirsten, you're on I think questions. I think I can't actually see much from my screen.
37:02 – Kiirsten May
No questions in the Q&A. But I did put a copy to that link, if anyone's interested, in the chat, so you can get that. And if there's anything that you wanted to talk to us about individually, after today's session, we're always happy to get together and bounce ideas back and forth. And a big mission of what we do here at UpHouse is supporting other marketers, particularly in-house marketers, and I know there's in-house marketers on the call today. And so if you want to grab a coffee or a virtual coffee, we are always happy to do so.
37:32 – Alex Varricchio
And one more thing I'll add too, it's a question that we get pretty frequently, is just around if you're a one or two-person team. I think sometimes it can be tricky to think about how to brainstorm different ideas and we always encourage you to find if you've got a marketing colleague in a different industry, or a person that you can have that outside perspective or voice, identify who that person is and just chat with them and say maybe have a weekly or bi-weekly check in with them just to run through things you're doing.
38:00 – Alex Varricchio
And see if they can poke holes in it, if they can provide suggestions or ideas to help make your organization stronger and then you do the you do the same for that other person. Often all we need is just that little bit of outside expertise and outside perspective to help us. see things a little more clearly and help us innovate more effectively. Awesome. Well, thanks so much, everybody for being here today. And yeah, hope you have a great rest of the afternoon and the week.
Alex Varricchio and Kiirsten May are the owners of UpHouse, an award-winning marketing firm in Canada.
They have recently published a leadership and marketing book, The Proximity Paradox, and launched Crainstorm, a crowdsourced brainstorming web app that allows people to gather insight and ideas from marketers and other innovators.
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