What to Look for in the Next Generation of Talent

Invention trumps innovation

A recent study on Gen Y by Visa found that 49 percent of millennials want to bypass traditional companies in favor of startups. It seems a culture of invention is appealing to our next generation of great talent.

We agree. Today, innovation is not enough. Genuine invention is required to create the true firsts so important to marketers who are increasingly looking for partners to help them make wholly new things that will expand their brand experiences and delight and engage their customers.

But simply having that vision is not enough. How do you mobilize to create an inventor culture? To truly make it real, you have to significantly and tangibly dedicate both time and space to the art and science of making.

For us at Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners, it started with the construction of 6,800 square feet of maker space. It’s work-ready and equipped with all kinds of supplies for rapid prototyping and artistic expression—from simple paint brushes and canvases to a state of the art 3-D printer the agency backed on Kickstarter, piles of Arduinos, soldering equipment and circuit boards.

Accessible to everyone in the agency, the space has quickly become a favorite place to connect and create. But invention is most fertile when it takes inspiration from the outside. That’s why we created our investment arm, KBS+ Ventures, which gives us an early view into the newest marketing and ad-tech platforms being incubated.

So these days, we often find ourselves making something in order to say something —we have begun to approach everything through a maker’s lens. When Google called for submissions to be the first to get Google Glass, we created more than 70 ideas in 48 hours, all linked by the hashtag #kbsglass. Glass will open up so many new interactions among brands, consumers and the world. We want a pair to experiment with, to understand the very edges of its capabilities and then use it to begin inventing.

But most importantly, our invention culture’s purpose is to have impact on our clients’ businesses. We want to approach every marketing challenge with the question: What can we invent to break through the clutter and create real competitive advantage for our clients? It’s important to note that invention is not a replacement for strategy. It’s imperative that invention amplify brand positioning.

For instance, we were recently presented with a marketing opportunity to showcase BMW’s concept electric vehicles—the i3 and the i8. So we asked ourselves what could we invent to put these cars of tomorrow on the roads today? What we came up with was the BMW i Window Into the Near Future. It’s a computer projection and augmented reality installation that transforms today’s real-time traffic into the near future, by replacing today’s cars with i3’s and i8’s.

Our next maker opportunity came with Vanguard. What could we create to emphasize the importance of a long-term investment strategy? The solution was to equip customers with the tools to make their own My Life Ticker. Not comprised of stock symbols, this ticker instead follows motivations for investing—hobbies, sentiments, philosophies, activities and interests—thus taking the emphasis off short-term market fluctuations and reinforcing the importance of the things they are investing for in the first place.

None of us really knows what inventions will arrive and dramatically disrupt and shape our world. However, we do know they will be constantly coming and those that create them will enjoy true success.

With that in mind, I’m pleased the editors at Adweek have recognized the value of invention in marketing and media by honoring the best through their new awards program, Adweek Project Isaac. I am delighted to chair the inaugural panel of judges, alongside Beth Comstock, svp and CMO, General Electric; Joanne Wilson, angel investor and adviser; Joe Rospars, founding partner and creative director, Blue State Digital; and Michael Caruso, editor in chief, Smithsonian. We look forward to selecting winners across 35 categories, including an overall Gravity Award winner which will be revealed at the annual CLIO Awards gala on May 15. The deadline for submissions via Adweek.com is April 12.

Inventing a new future for our clients and ourselves has never been more interesting. Let’s invent together. It’s make or break time.

Lori Senecal (@digitalori) is chairman and CEO, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners

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