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?



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.