According to Wikipedia, “in business theory, a disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market-leading firms, products, and alliances.”
While we wouldn’t consider Covid an innovation, it certainly has caused a disruption in the events industry.
Revenue projections for companies relying on live events have been upended. Huge companies have downsized by percentages previously unheard of. Virtual event technology companies with “nice to have solutions” are now “have to have”. And the playing field has been dramatically leveled.
Most of us in our role in the industry don’t get the opportunity to truly innovate. As event and experiential marketers and planners, that exercise usually happens before anything gets to us and then we put on our experienced creative hats and operational boots to ensure the experiences we create effectively deliver on those visions.
So whether you’re working or looking – a large organization looking at how you rescale – running virtual events and planning hybrid or in person – a small boutique agency able to get the attention you deserve – this is your time.
Your time to be creative. To try things you wouldn’t/couldn’t try before. To be wonderfully creative. To be unapologetic. To share your unique experience and expertise in a new”fangled” way. It isn’t rocket science to be sure. But there is most definitely a science to it.
According to research by Hal Gregersen, co-author of the The Innovator’s DNA and executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, there are five key skills that form the foundation for finding ideas that result in value.
1. Question the status quo
You can do this by not being afraid to ask the right questions and to be sure you’re not a victim of the “that’s the way it’s always been done” syndrome. That certainly wouldn’t have worked this year.
2. Observe the world like an anthropologist
Anthropologists view the world through a unique lens. They see the same things everyone else does; they just look at it all differently. The different perspective leads to different actions and different decision-making.
3. Network with diverse people to get new ideas
Don’t just talk to event people! Talk to marketers, creatives, and business leaders. Join groups on LinkedIn that may not be exactly in the same field but whose perspective and ideas can give you some new ways to look at things – and new connections.
4. Experiment fast and small (and inexpensively!)
For example, in these days of virtual events and the technology utilized, you can spend a fortune in a minute – but you don’t have to. There are incredible solutions out there that you can test and learn from before making a big corporate-wide investment
5. Connect typically unconnected insights – those lead to disruptive new business ideas
Take time to brainstorm with your team and ask them to share information with you – social media posts, articles they read that reflect personal interests, peruse youtube videos on things that are creative and interesting, and most of all, challenge your own perceptions regularly.
It’s funny because when we were ideating TBX: Total Brand Experience, we did most of those things without even realizing they were leading us down a path of disruptive innovation.
While companies were failing and flailing, we opened a new one. We scoured the landscape to see who was thinking like us and talking like us and doing what we were doing. And couldn’t really pinpoint anyone. Websites all said the same things, marketing speak was rampant, and everyone had “the perfect solution”. We reached out to our (initially skeptical) collective universe and asked if we were crazy to open an events agency at the onset of a pandemic. Most said, “Yes,” but (thankfully) we didn’t listen. We researched dozens (now there are hundreds) of virtual platforms, tried half a dozen, and then chose one or two that we thought offered the best transition from live events to virtual and would provide our clients with the best experience – not the best “virtual” experience, mind you, but the BEST experience.
And we decided to do what most platforms weren’t doing and most agencies didn’t know how to do – we deliberately took a live events approach to the digital landscape.
We gave our clients comfort and clarity. We dispensed with free advice and solutions to anyone who needed it. We provided unique access to a high level of thought leadership and expertise. We brought an incredible group of talented event and experiential professionals on board. We built (and continue to build) virtual events whose only difference from a live event is the ability to have a drink at the bar or give someone a handshake or a hug. And we took that scary virtual event journey side by side with organizations who rely on events as a critical source of revenue and/or brand awareness.
Now we’re moving into hybrid and in person events that still won’t ever be the same – but we love the fact that they will be different – that they CAN be different. We think it was high time the industry opened up to new and fresh ideas – as painful as it has been for many of us.
And right now, no one can say, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
So do it YOUR way.
And be amazingly, refreshingly, unapologetically, disruptively – innovative.