Would you say the Communications function you work for is innovative? Do you consider yourself an innovative communicator? Do your boss and your organization encourage innovation? Most of us probably aspire to be more innovative as communicators and come up with new in kind communication solutions to problems. Easier said than done right… often the pressures in our environment, too many demands on our time, and maybe not enough examples of innovation around us, these are all things that hamper our ability to innovate (as CEC’s research last year found, half of employees that are naturally agile in personal life fail to bring that agility to the workplace).
So what can we do to encourage more innovative thinking and acting in our work as communicators? BBVA is one organization where Communications has made great steps ahead.
Now, probably most of us would not put banks and innovation in the same sentence :) but BBVA’s Communications team has made innovation its key mandate and has set up an effective structure for helping communicators think creatively, come up with new ideas to solve problems, and send the message both within the comms function and to the business that, yes – Communications can be the driver of smart solutions to business problems.
BBVA’s Innovation in Communication Lab is more of a virtual “lab” with two key parts to it: an Observatory and a Laboratory. The Laboratory is what you would expect in most innovation R&D labs – ideas are pressure-tested for business applicability and found a home. But what’s really interesting is the Observatory part – this is where the cool stuff happens…anyone can participate and creativity is not restricted….the Observatory is the place to let loose and come up with as many cool ideas as possible that could apply in Communications. However, for this to work effectively, BBVA applies a few smart principles:
- Think outside the box: this one is common-sense but in order to come up with creative solutions and not just another boring idea, you need to be inspired in unusual ways. BBVA communicators constantly monitor blogs, publications and innovation thought leaders outside typical communication professional publications and events – sources like Mashable, FastCompany, TED etc. Check out some of their sources of inspiration to start creating your own bookmarks to follow weekly or monthly. Do these look familiar? Do you regularly frequent these sources? What other sources have helped inspire you? (I personally think TED has some fascinating ideas and presentations!)
- Narrow the scope of participation: CEC has found in our previous research that, in order to motivate employees to action, they need some clear guidelines on what to look for. We are smart, creative people, but just being told to “innovate” doesn’t help us know where to start. BBVA defines 5 areas of exploration for communicators that each person on the innovation team is assigned to – from metrics to social media or content. What would you pick as your assigned areas of exploration? Would you have some of the same categories? How else could you assign ownership across your team?
- Amplify the coolness factor: BBVA socializes cool ideas across Communications and the business through a weekly opt-in download called Sukumo (Swahili for inspiration). Before you say “not another newsletter!” here is why Sukumos are fun and appealing: they ask thought provoking questions to get the audience thinking about how they could apply an idea in their projects, they use fun, playful language and catchy images, and they are a call to action to try these ideas out. The Sukumo is highly popular and half of its readers are outside Comms.
CEC members, check out the full case study to see some cool examples of what the Innovation lab has come up with!
What do you think about BBVA’s approach to innovation? How could you adapt this to your communications function? How might you reward your communicators for innovative ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Now, I’m off to bookmark those inspiration sources myself and start exploring!
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