Creative Techniques: What is The Focus Fail?

Thanks to Lifehack

Innovation and creativity are two of the biggest business buzz words of today. Companies are paying enormous amounts of lip service to becoming more innovative, and many are actually putting processes into place to move them selves beyond mere rhetoric.

Sadly, too few will succeed.

In my mind, innovation is a by-product of creativity. The primary product of creativity is awareness. Creativity opens our eyes to possibilities, and innovation is born out of that new awareness.

From a corporate perspective though, innovation is perceived as being the core product of creativity. Companies form creative teams with very strict guidelines and goals aimed purely at specific innovations. “We need to become more innovative with our distribution methods. Create a process to improve distribution costs by 10% and reduce delays by 8%”.

While I am a firm believer in having well defined goals, the problem comes when the innovation team becomes too focused on the end result, the innovation.

That’s the Focus Fail. The board, the CEO, the manager or team leader push the creative team to think purely around the problem. They consume swathes of of information about distribution channels, brainstorm relentlessly around tweaks and improvements and eventually design a a new system that achieves their goals. All good. The board smiles, the manager collects a bonus and the world turns.

The problem is, by focusing purely on the problem, the ‘innovation’ is often just a cost cutting or minor procedural tweak, rather than a true leap.

Creative teams need the freedom to lose focus. They need to be able to keep the end goal wedged in the back corner of their brains while they explore and absorb different snippets of information. Externally, the company may see inefficiency, or even laziness. But if they’ve hired or engaged the right people, they should trust that they’ll get the right result. A great result rather than a stopgap.

One of the biggest blockers of creativity is success, and that’s why the Focus Fail is so dangerous. It makes your team look efficient, it provides a measurable result, and it creates ‘innovation’ that management can easily understand.

If your company truly wants to embrace innovation, then embrace creativity first. Set up an open brief Skunk Works program. Like Google, give your teams time to play. Put a process in place that will build true innovation, rather than a makeover masquerading as a masterpiece.


Brand Power personified

Red Bull. You know… that energy drink company.

Actually the Mobile Network company…

Will that be a hard proposition for the great unwashed to grasp? I think not

In the not too distant past, marketers (including me) would have questioned the extension of any strong brand into differening categories. Words like “Dilution” and “Compromised Focus” would surface with rational, expert arguments to back them in. But times have changed (how often and how frequently is that phrase used now??)… the average consumer is now completely comfortable with this. Look at the Branson empire… Music, to Airline, to Money, to ??

The defining ingredient is the BRAND. What the brand stands for. In Branson’s case he was the crusader for a better deal for us, his friends. He created an ideal that we easily connected to any product bearing his brand.

Red Bull is enjoying exactly the same halo effect. Red Bull Mobile will succeed with a healthy niche of Red Bull afficionados purely based on the fact the BRAND is in sync with their personality.

So if you are building a company around a product, consider carefully what your brand is saying about you. Is it compelling? Does it add value to someone’s life, even in a simple fun way? If it dissapeared tomorrow would anyone care?

These indicators will define your company’s potential for real growth.

But it can’t work for everyone… I’d love to see a bank in its consumed arrogance attempt to introduce cool surfboards or their own mobile network. The results should be hilarious…