So you’ve decided to focus on content marketing this year. And why not? Good content marketing can help you reach and increase your target audience and drive traffic to your product, all whilst positioning your brand as a category leader.
The social and political events of the times are unsettling to many. But despite the regular dose of misery that comes from the news, there are great things happening. Between the various tech, research, and innovation hubs in the world, the beneficial application of cutting edge technology is flowing into the wider world. Three areas of particular importance are energy, information, and health.
Most startups begin with an idea of a useful product or service. Plans are drawn, teams are formed, funds are raised, and a startup business is born. This takes a lot of work, but despite the attrition rate, the number of new businesses are on the rise.
According to a 2014 PwC report into breakthrough innovation and growth, 43% of 1,757 executives interviewed saw innovation as a ‘competitive necessity’ for their organisation.
Who drives this innovation? Aside from the tech wiz kids, it’s the individuals and teams with the ability to think creatively. The benefits of creative thinking for businesses are well-known: enhanced productivity, innovation and growth. Demand for creative thinkers in every sector reflects their importance. But what are the processes behind creative thinking and idea generation?
A great little book I stumbled upon in the office, James Webb Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas, claims the production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Ford cars. Written over 70 years ago in the Mad Men-era of Manhattan advertising, the book still resonates today and provides some valuable insights (despite its questionably sexist undertones).
Young states the two general principles of idea production are:
i. It’s nothing more nor less than a combination of elements
ii. This depends on the ability to see relationships.
We all, therefore, have the potential to think creatively and generate ideas.
Young then puts forward his 5-step method for idea production:
1. Gather raw materials and note them down
2. “Masticate” these materials by viewing them from different angles, trying to bring them together in synthesis
3. “Digest” the subject by distancing oneself
4. Experience the “Eureka!” moment where the idea will appear
5. Develop that idea into something practical and useful.
So, what can we take from this?
The first step, gathering the raw materials, marks the start of an idea and the most important aspect of creative thinking – getting the ball rolling. Even for just 10 minutes every day, setting aside time to getting thoughts on to paper helps visualise ideas and provide coherence to thought processes. A fantastic idea would have started as a vague one that’s been fine-tuned over time. Getting into the habit of noting down observations, inspirations and ideas in a journal provides an encyclopaedia of passing thoughts, one of which could be your most successful.
The second step to Young’s method, mastication, can be done by an individual. An easier way to chew the fat, viewing an idea from different angles, is collaboration. If you’re lucky enough to have just one other person to bounce ideas around with, you’ve got double the chance of creating an innovative solution to any given problem! Affording a non-judgemental space to brainstorm ideas can be an enjoyable, productive and relationship strengthening experience.
With 78% of the most innovative companies managing innovation efforts in a formal way, creative thinkers are in high demand. This in mind, it’s easy to see the worth of getting back to basics and understanding the process behind where ideas come from.
The next step to generating ideas, of course, is implementation – so go ahead and test them out!
I recently read an article in HBR about how storytelling is a great way to explain a business’s purpose. I couldn’t agree more.
To me, purpose is about understanding and aligning a business’s values (who you are and what you stand for) and value (what you do and how it benefits others).
To activate purpose, you need to set a narrative. As with any good story, you need a beginning, middle and end.
You need to tell a personal narrative, focusing on real events in the founder’s life and explaining how these incidents established the personal values that will later link to the values of the organisation.
You then need to connect these values with broader shared values of the audience, clients and employees. You can aim to do this through sharing values, experiences, hopes and aspirations. By doing so, you can create a common narrative.
Once a connection has been established, you then need an urgent call to action for those who want to share the business’s purpose.
A great example of activating purpose can be seen with Kickstarter. They use storytelling as an impactful way of asking people to join their team. Their narrative begins with the founder telling the story of the company. Their website then includes pictures and short descriptions of each company employee. Finally, the narrative finishes with a call to action, asking the reader “Love Kickstarter? You’ll fit right in.”
Although the process of storytelling can seem daunting, it’s a powerful tool that builds passion, motivation and buy-in for the stakeholders of any organisation.
Image: FlickrCC/BY/2.0 Jim Penucci
London Tech Week is a yearly gathering boasting hundreds of events and pitching opportunities for techies within and across many industries: retail, education, cyber security, marketing and advertising. Industry-specific offshoots of Tech Week have also emerged, the next being the world’s first Food Tech Week, running from 16 October 2015.
The week will bring together talent to collaborate and showcase technological trends disrupting the food and agricultural landscape. There’ll be events fronted by industry game-changers, a hackathon, a pitching event for food tech start-ups at the Google campus, and a Hackney TEDxTalk on the future of food.
Food and drink start-ups have enjoyed a significant boom of late. Incubators such as The Kitchenette and The Grocery are tickling London’s taste buds by helping start-ups grow, and pop-ups are finding spaces to succeed all over the city.
Food technology has particularly capitalised on this boom: delivery giants HungryHouse and Just Eat have become household names, Deliveroo are bringing the nation’s favourite restaurants straight to our doors for just £2 a pop, Graze are delivering personalised healthy snacks through our letterbox, and Hubbub are challenging tradition by offering home delivery from small businesses in efforts to triumph against the supermarket monopoly. In short, industry innovators are changing the way we buy, think about and consume food.
As the founders of Food Tech Week state, the week’s purpose is “to unite the food tech community for the first time, in a meaningful way, to forge vital food tech partnerships and foster collaboration for the good of all.”
In my opinion, it’s about time technology is put to good use in an industry so intrinsically linked to public health and wellbeing.
Photo by Moyan Brenn Flickr // CC BY 2.0