Innovation is the singular force that drives sustained business growth. But it’s an elusive force. While every company — and the customer-obsessed marketing minds within — may aspire to innovate their space in profound and impactful ways, only a select few blaze those trails.
What are the differentiators? Which qualities define the organizations and individuals who consistently push the envelope and hit the mark with their visionary ideas and execution? Carla Johnson decided to investigate, and her findings inspired a bold ambition: “to personally teach one million people how to become innovators by 2025.”
She lays out the blueprint in her new book — available tomorrow — and recently shared with us her inspiration and intentions behind the upcoming work.
Marketing Book Worth a Look: RE:Think Innovation: How the World’s Most Prolific Innovators Come Up with Great Ideas that Deliver Extraordinary Outcomes, by Carla Johnson
Carla is a brilliant marketer, veteran strategist, and long-time friend of our blog. In the past she’s dished on storytelling tips among other things. We were curious to learn more about her latest project, which details a practical framework for activating innovation throughout an organization. So we asked Carla a few questions about RE:Think Innovation and what she hopes to get across.
LinkedIn: What inspired you to write RE:Think Innovation?
Carla Johnson: After Robert Rose and I wrote Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing in 2015, I had so many people say that they love the idea of story-driven experiences and found the Content Creation Management framework very helpful. But the one thing they still struggled with was coming up with an idea that was truly unique for the experiences they wanted to create. As I dug into this, I found that most marketers were doing one of two things. The first was rehashing something they had already done and only making it look slightly different. They felt they had to keep new ideas recognizably the same as others that had been implemented so as to not rock the boat too much. The other scenario was that they were copying and pasting something that another brand had done. They didn’t understand the essence behind what made the idea successful for the other company, so it felt out of context. It was disjointed and failed miserably.
The one question I sought to answer with this book was this: Is coming up with a great idea that has a big impact a process people can learn? It turns out that it is. By researching some of the world’s most prolific innovators, I was able to uncover the process they use, whether they realize they use it or not. This 5-step framework is a simple, scalable process that anyone, at any level, with any experience, can learn and use to consistently come up with great ideas. In realizing this, it’s now my goal to personally teach one million people how to become innovators by 2025.
LI: Why is the book important for today’s marketers?
Carla: The ultimate purpose of innovation is to serve customers. The only department in any company that’s purely focused on customers is marketing. Our contribution to innovation goes well beyond the products or services a company sells; it’s the way business is done. It’s impossible to grow market share, revenue, and anything else by focusing purely on product innovation. For any company to thrive, especially when we think about the last year we’ve had, it has to focus on finding opportunities and solving problems for customers, which consistently evolves the way business is done. We’ve always been innovators, we just haven’t given ourselves credit for this work. It’s time this changes.
LI: Is there an overarching takeaway that you feel is most important for readers to draw from this work?
Carla: Innovation must become everybody’s business. Ninety percent of innovation happens outside of traditional innovation departments, yet that’s where companies invest 75% of their budget. If companies are truly going to live up to their potential, they must rethink how they look at innovation, who owns it, and how it’s done. This is the only way that they will become genuinely nimble, passionate, revenue-generating powerhouses that deliver extraordinary outcomes for the long haul.
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