Nice Concept: Sustainable Innovation

Research in Motion founder Mike Lazaridis spoke to BusinesWeek about innovation, management theory and other hot topics of the business day.
Here’s a small part of what he has to say:

If you really want to build something sustainable and innovative you have to invest in R&D. If you build the right culture and invest in the right facilities and you encourage and motivate and inspire both young and seasoned people and put them all in the right environment—then it really performs for you. It’s what I call sustainable innovation. And it’s very different from the idea that you come up with something and then maximize value by reducing its costs. But building a sustainable innovation cycle requires an enormous investment in R&D. You have to understand all the technologies involved.

I see a lesson here for the ad biz. I often think of ads as communications products. But we don’t do traditional R&D in Adlandia (not on our own “products”). Maybe that needs to change. Don’t we want to advance our thinking as the markets we serve advance? Of course we do. But is there one person inside your agency working on this challenge? Is there two, ten or twenty?
It’s been said that an agency can’t all of a sudden become “creative”—that its ability in that area is coded in the shop’s DNA. If you buy that, then there’s either a culture that spurs innovation at the agency, or there isn’t. What do you think? Can the agency biz learn from RIM and improve its product via R&D?

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan in the Pacific Northwest. Chief Storyteller at Bonehook, a guide service and bait shop for brands. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Contributor to The Content Strategist. Doer of the things written about herein.

  • http://www.ianschafer.com Ian Schafer

    Some would say that it’s the independent agencies that are most innovative. They are the ones who have it in their (and their founders’) DNA. R&D gets tough as an independent, though, as you are working on such slim margins, that it’s a total luxury to be able to ‘invest’ in anything (in a traditional sense).
    At companies like RIM, there are departments responsible for innovations. At the best agencies, it’s everyone’s shared responsibility. Literally. Agency employees should be evaluated on that. Otherwise, the status quo wins.