BIMA Scotland – Incubating Innovation, 25 May 2017

By Anna Doyle
26 May 2017

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It was the 25th May, hottest day of the year to date, and we had a lively and bustling room at the BIMA Breakfast – Incubating Innovation. Thank goodness we didn’t opt for an evening session as we may have lost people to the glorious Glasgow sunshine (we do get nice weather up here too!). But this was not just a breakfast panel session but also the re-boot of BIMA Scotland.

Following on from a roundtable dinner the evening before, bringing together the heads of Glasgow agencies and key digital practitioners, Gerry McCusker, CEO, Dog Digital and Chair BIMA Scotland opened the breakfast. Gerry shared with the room, issues discussed around the table which were largely anchored around talent and collaboration to improve business opportunities for the Scottish digital community. BIMA operates under the ethos that we do better together. We will be building a programme of events and initiatives and working with like-minded partners to deliver upon the priorities raised over the dinner and also responding to industry trends as they happen. Gerry then handed over to Nat Gross, BIMA President who had flown up from London, keen to meet Glasgow’s vibrant digital community.

Nat explained that BIMA has done a lot of growing up over the last 6 months and part of that has included the formation of 21 Councils and Think Tanks across the country. The vision is for BIMA to work as a “crazy matrix of people structures” supporting each other geographically, creatively, commercially and technically. In short BIMA Scotland means delivering events and initiatives on your doorstop and plugging into a UK network of communities and think tanks (such as our AI and Immersive Tech groups) to knowledge share and drive digital excellence.

We then moved onto the main business of the morning which with a panel of an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman and 2/3 german, sounds like the start of a bad joke from the 1970’s. While there were a number of humorous highlights in the session, the theme was no joke and all about looking forward not back: four great speakers sharing their own take on incubating innovation and what it means for the UK digital community.

First up was Lawrence Weber, Managing Partner, Innovation, Karmarama and Chair of BIMA’s Immersive Tech Think Tank.

Lawrence focussed on how to define what innovation in the creative industry means to you and how to deliver it. He opened with some examples of what could be considered innovation, from Under Armour’s transformational business shift from sports to data with Healthbox, to Nivea’s sunscreen-pooping seagull drone (main stream press hated it): you decide!

Lawrence categorises innovation in three types:

– incremental

– transformative

– disruptive

The challenge is not so much having innovative ideas but overcoming the challenges to deliver them (this is a theme that Nathan picks up on). Whether the challenge is making things happen inhouse, or is taking your client on a journey that far outside their comfort zone you need a strategy in place to deliver this and for this Lawrence invokes The 3 P’s:

– partnerships. We don’t need to be artisan bakers and re-invent time again. Choose the right partners to work with.

– pilot. Don’t launch and hope. Test.

– persistence. Learn from Jurgen Klinsman….

Next up was David Haggerty, Head of Strategy and Planning, Dog.

David’s insights anchored around ensuring innovation has a purpose. Keep your client’s and your client’s client’s need at the forefront of intent. This resonated with a recent roundtable in London on client collaboration which honed in on the importance of knowing your client’s customers at least as well as your client does (preferably better). David demonstrated this beautifully with a clip from the TV show Silicon Valley. The laughs around the room at the focus group spoof were full of knowing. David’s simple venn diagram captured the importance of his message and is a handy visual to keep your innovation on track.

David also used some case studies from Dog where they have looked deep into the end customer’s need to deliver innovative solutions, this included how to communicate with your end customer, understanding their logistical challenges and vulnerabilities. He also addressed the importance of how small step innovation can ultimately lead to business transformation – which in some ways also harks back to Lawrence’s point about client comfort zones. Small but clever changes can be easier to implement.

Nathan Fulwood, Co Founder, Create Future and recent graduate of the Cross Creative Programme.

Nathan shared some brilliant experiences with us from his trip to the real Silicon Valley, which apparently, according to his contacts over there, is pretty much the same as the TV show. Ideo, Dropbox, Facebook and Google Ventures were the four big innovators that Nathan shared insights with us. For each he gave us three key learnings and also talked about how he applied them to his young and growing business. I have picked out a few below.

IDEO, pioneers in human centred design: The key take away here was understanding who you are innovating for which echoes the words of David.

DROPBOX: After getting over how ridiculously cool and lavish the offices were, Nathan captured two key takeaways. Eat your own dog food. Test it yourself. If it isn’t good enough for you why would it be so for anyone else? Through their programme of massive Hackathons, Dropbox believes collaboration, working fast, breaking and fixing should be the norm to constantly innovate and improve.

FACEBOOK: The ethos at Facebook is our desire for stability and organisational structure holds us back. We must be honest and constant with our feedback. They hired a therapist for the team to ensure human optimisation (which is an interesting echo of the TV show Billons in which a pyschoanalyst has a key role in the hedge fund company).

GOOGLE VENTURES: Ask the biggest question first and get the right people involved. Be inclusive as everyone has the capacity to innovate and contribute to the process.

Finally, after a big hug with Sully at Monsters Inc, Nathan walked away with some key tenants to delivering innovation: practice your positivity; be confident; embrace feedback; collaborate.

Last up, Alisdair Gunn, Director, Framewire self-styled newbie and the oldie all in one and present to address opportunities for the innovative creative community of Scotland. One of Alisdair’s core messages was we must innovate to maintain relevance. He referenced the Ford case study of moving from car manufacturing to being a financial services company. A classic example of disruption and transformation. Is it successful? A nice strap line: “a name you can bank on just entered savings” is either enhanced or spoilt by a message stating that due to unprecedented demand their regular saver account is not available. Bad planning, moving too fast or brilliant popularity?

What is clear is that the landscape is constantly shifting. Our clients change who they are (Under Armour and Ford are two examples), the pace of change is rapid and we need to seek out the opportunities. Alisdair is clear we need to “go deep with tech” and “connect with our ecosystems”. Immersive tech, AI, VR and AR, and data are all key components of the digital tool kit but what will be next.

The Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy for Scotland has recently been released and whatever you may think of the detail, Alisdair is clear there is opportunity for Scottish digital agencies within it. And finally, invoking Nathan’s point about positivity and confidence, there is some truly amazing innovative tech going on in Scotland but we are not promoting it hard enough. We need to tell our story and increase the profile of the ground breaking work that is happening here.

A short Q&A followed, moderated by Rebecca Stewart, Reporter at The Drum. A few final points arose to close the morning:

– Address the big problem your client has and then they can’t ignore innovation

– We don’t need to working out how to be the next FaceBook but focus on, and talk about, the truly innovative work that we are already doing

– Scottish universities are world class in their tech departments – we need to work closely with them

– The UK is a world leader in health and AI – we are well positioned to seek greater opportunities in these markets

– We need to work together

Huge thanks to our wonderful panel and moderator: Lawrence; David; Nathan; Alisdair and Rebecca. And a special thank you to The Drum for supporting BIMA’s first Glasgow-based Breakfast Briefing.

Further reading recommended by Nathan: Sprint! by Jake Knapp

To find out more about this event or BIMA Scotland contact


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