When thinking about innovation often the emphasis is on finding the new, the never done before and especially focusing on technology. How innovative a development is, is often confused with how much noise is made about it, but by focusing on the razzmatazz surrounding a development rather than the impact that it has, we’re missing a trick.As this recent research into innovations in market research unsurprisingly shows, it is those innovations that deliver real value through leaps in effectiveness and efficiency that stick.
What excites me about innovation is striving to do things better, not so much the desire to deliver theatre. While impactful innovation might come in the form of something completely new, it can also come from looking to the past or to different categories to innovate customer experience and the quality of service delivered. Equally we shouldn’t fall into the trap that innovation must be exotic, we can go to SXSW to study innovation but innovation is all around us and sometimes the most exciting/practical innovations can be found in more workaday and indeed less razzmatazzy locations.
Note for example, developments in tackling the STEM crisis (skills shortage in maths and technology) coming from Nottingham, UK where last week GameCity opened The National Videogame Arcade, the UK’s first cultural centre for video games. The five-storey building in Nottingham repositions the games arcade as a bright, breezy space combining art gallery, museum exhibit and educational centre and hopes to bring in £2.5m to the local economy over the next five years.
The opening was attended by Ian Livingstone, one of the founding fathers of the British games industry and author of Next Gen the landmark 2011 Nesta report, commissioned by the UK Government with the aim of performing a bottom up review of the whole education system relating to games. In the report, Livingstone sets out how the video games and visual effects industries are suffering a skills crisis and one that can only be overcome by, among other things, overhauling how we teach ICT. “ industries suffer from an education system that doesn’t understand their needs. This is reinforced by a school curriculum that focuses ICT on office skills rather than the more rigorous computer science and programming skills which high-tech industries . . . need.”
In the words of Ian Livingstone “I hope the NVA leads children from wanting to play games to wanting to make them. Computer science is the new Latin: it underpins the digital world just as Latin did the analogue world, and games encapsulate all of the ways in which it marries the arts and sciences.”
If you’re going to the NVA, you could jump in a cab and immerse yourself in another innovative experience. Am I about to start singing the praises of Hailo or Uber? Or another app that’s revolutionising the taxi ride experience? Actually no, this innovative experience is being delivered by a small family owned business. Here it’s a case of what they’re achieving with innovation with a small i, not a big I. In a category where the customer experience often leaves a lot to be desired, they apply an old school, personal customer service philosophy to deliver a unique experience. It’s not sexy but applying the customer values of a bygone era/another category is pretty disruptive.