I read an interesting report recently that pointed out that when mobile phones were first introduced it took 12 years to reach 50 million users. The internet on the other hand only took 7 years to get to the same point. Facebook reached 50 million users in four years; WeChat, one year, and Pokémon GO, the augmented-reality gaming app from Niantic took just 19 days.
As consumers we are enjoying the results of technology saturation. We are also very close to the turning point where more businesses will have completed their digital transformations than not. Digital-era technology, which began as a differentiating advantage years ago, is now expected from every business.
As the co-founder of Europe’s first social media agency, I can practically feel the speed at which we, as a society, are evolving on the technological front. In a few years time if someone says we are living in the digital era it will seem as antiquated as talking about the age of electricity.
Of course this brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Tech capabilities and advantages are now available to pretty much every organisation, which means that digital itself is no longer a differentiator.
This really sank home to me on hearing that the FT1000 – Europe’s fastest growing companies 2019 – ranked us the UK’s fastest growing social ad company. If we plan to continue growing at this rate, and we do, then we need to define how we will achieve this in this post-digital era.
As I see it, it starts with our mindset around growth.
One of the most insidious mindsets any work environment can suffer from is ‘business as usual’. Yet it is generally accepted that after a period of intense innovation or change, an organisation settles back into BAU.
If, instead, we adopt the approach of continually defining and re-defining challenges, I believe we can more readily identify problems as well as potential opportunities before we need to address them. In other words we aim to continually stay several steps ahead, and this requires a consistently creative approach to everything we do.
Every new technology that surfaces offers up powerful new insights around what consumers choose and this can lead to new market opportunities. The speed at which this involves means we can never afford to sit still. As a consequence creativity must always lead to innovation. Our goal is always to link a great idea to an actual client need, or better still to the needs of an entire market.
Focusing on incremental enhancements is an energetic and exciting process. It requires pushing beyond being relevant to clients and prospective clients, it means re-framing how we each new project is approached.
Once we have decided to switch our mindset to continual growth and expansion, we set about refining how we manage to keep working in innovation mode, without burning out!
Here are four key approaches we adopt:
Each new idea we have, such as our AI-driven audience builder, The Atom, is continually tweaked and improved on. We believe in making incremental changes which we test and then run with. Innovation does not always mean ‘the next big thing’. Iterative changes over a period of time can take you much further.
Ensuring that we have a pipeline of new ideas means regularly brainstorming, often away from the office, to keep our team’s creativity heightened. Innovation is part of our DNA and we actively encourage everyone to share new ideas no matter how far-fetched they might seem at first. Our motto is to listen to everyone without judgement to ensure our work environment is supportive and results in mutual growth.
Breaking down each new idea and stress testing it often gives rise to entirely new concepts. Knowing which ones are likely to be of value and which ones we need to cut loose needs to be a rapid and painless decision. Once again this takes away some of the pressure of having an innovative idea but being tentative about putting it forward lest it not be ‘worthy’. Our mindset is one of continual growth and we all recognise that we need to sift through numerous innovative suggestions before identifying the next game-changer.
Creativity is closely aligned with innovation and there is always a risk that creativity can dry up under pressure. As a consequence we aim to maintain a healthy balance between work and down-time to keep everyone’s energy high. The more flexible we are as a team the more likely we are to deliver outstanding solutions. It is a fine balancing act and we always aim to bring everyone in on the journey as we expand.
Ultimately growth has been framed as a complex and often obscure exercise. It is frequently seen as dependent on the economy which, as we all know, is rather shaky. Yet if we take our own expansion to heart and if we continually strive to improve what we offer, there may be the occasional rocky time, but by keeping a steady course on continually shifting forwards and offering increasingly relevant services and products, we aim to keep moving forward in this fast-evolving post-digital landscape.