OPINION18 June 2015

Putting it into practice

Innovations North America Opinion

The final day of IIeX in Atlanta included clients such as Coca-Cola and Merck talking about how to support innovation within large organisations, as ZappiStore’s Stephen Phillips reports


We kicked off with a passionate call for the industry to start shouting louder about its own success. Unlike most similar speeches I have heard, the speaker Merril Dubrow of M/A/R/C, then had a number of measures to actually do this. These included consolidating all associations into a World Research Council and getting the top clients to insist on a code of conduct including no grid questions or long surveys!

Much of the rest of the morning was taken up by a series of presentations from clients taking about how they develop and partner to introduce innovation into their company. They recognised the inbuilt reluctance to change that they are often faced with, but talked through interesting examples of how they had overcome these obstacles and created change that was of profound value to their companies.

Carlos Fonseca of The Coca-Cola Company spoke about how it ensured internal teams could innovate and work with great local companies but still retain some unified vision. He spoke about its “freedom within a framework” philosophy, a way of bringing in best in class partners at each stage of the insights curation process. This stopped the company ending up with a lowest common denominator approach to global insights but instead a common core with great local ideas coming through. He also talked about moving the insights department towards shorter surveys, smarter systems and a modular process, something other clients seemed to be talking about too.

Lisa Courtade from Merck talked about bringing three to five key innovations into the company every year. She said they were looking in different areas, the main ones being:

  • Cheaper is better
  • Faster is better
  • Actionable is better
  • Differentiated is better
  • Holistic is better
  • Truth is better.

And she had a very pragmatic approach to innovation, telling the audience to just go back to their offices and do it.

Tanya Franklin from Lowes was looking for innovations that were breakthrough, sustaining, in new markets and disruptive. She emphasised taking a personal, agile approach to innovation, and she broke this down into key ‘agile’ personality traits that she said helped foster innovation:

  • mental agility – the mindset that is open to change
  • results agility – being able to inspire others to innovate
  • people agility – self-aware so they can embrace diversity
  • change agility – ability to tinker and experiment.

Her final plea was to remember that organisations do not innovate, people innovate.

So the end of a very successful conference. Previous IIeX conferences have tended to be a maelstrom of new ideas and new companies. This time, not only did we hear about these new innovations, but we heard much more about how they were being put into practice and – most importantly – how these innovations are improving how our clients do business.

Stephen Phillips is CEO of ZappiStore