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Ottawa Business Journal: Jeremy Gutsche on Innovation

— November 3, 2010 — About
Jeremy Gutsche was recently featured in Ottawa Business Journal, providing insight on how to keep companies innovative.

Suggesting a variety of ways to sustain business success while keeping customers on their toes, this interesting article definitely inspires plenty of ideas.

Jeremy Gutsche to bring cool to Ottawa

By Jim Donelly

The Innovators Alliance will host the Calgary-born Mr. Gutsche – a recognized "trend expert" and author of the book Exploiting Chaos – at an evening event at the Empire Grill.

OBJ caught up with Mr. Gutsche prior to his keynote to talk about his top five ways companies can stay innovative during times of change. Here's what he had to say:

1) Have some perspective.

Having a well-defined perspective will help you to innovate, whatever it is you're trying to do. Take the example of Smith Corona Corp., the world's largest typewriter company – in 1989, they were still profitable and still growing because at that time, they could always make a better typewriter. But too often we get caught up in our own success, and that puts companies into a spot where they're not looking for new hills of opportunity.

2) Re-evaluate your culture.

A decent proportion of your creations must fail, and if you're going to find new hills of opportunity you have to constantly be pushing for ways to reinvent. As an example, take the British Broadcasting Corp.. In the late 1990s their ratings were way down, and so the bosses instituted rigid control processes around innovation. And not surprisingly, that caused innovation to narrow. Soon enough, new leadership came in and put in place a "gambling fund," which meant that innovative ideas that failed through the normal screening process could still be eligible for gambling funding within the company. And the first idea that qualified under the gambling fund was "The Office," which went on to become the biggest hit in the BBC's history.

3) Obsess about your customers.

If you really want to understand what you're trying to reinvent, then you need to meet your customers. When I was running innovation at Capital One we set up booths across the company to meet with customers – and what we found was that we had become so technical in our descriptions of products, we'd forgotten what it was like to be a customer.

4) Go trendhunting.

There's no point innovating if you think you already know the answer. But when you think you already know, that's what keeps you on the same hill making typewriters. Innovative companies force themselves outside their industry – I was interviewing a designer for Ferrari one day, and he said he spends half of his time designing fashion and handbags. And what he said was that "You need to be more open to the possibilities of what could be." Even though he was designing for the most macho segment of the automotive industry, if he couldn't be on the cutting edge of fashion, then he lost his effectiveness as an automotive designer.

5) Relentlessly obsess about your story.

We try to figure out why some messages travel, and why others don't travel, and our editors actually compete as to how far their headlines can travel. Word choice, for instance, is huge. When Sarah Palin came out, the first article we wrote was titled "female vice-president." So I then made an article and called mine "hot vice-president." And then we compared how each had been viewed – the first article got 30,000 views, and the second article got 1.2 million views and was sourced by CNN, Fox and the Associated Press.

Read the full article at Ottawa Business Journal here!