BLOG published on 22 Sep 2020

5 key steps to make bottom-up innovation work

People often believe that innovation is something for the happy few. Visionaries with bright ideas. Smart people that see around the corners. Steve Jobs stepping in the spotlight and announcing the iPhone. Elon Musk chasing his dream of human missions to Mars. These stories are fascinating and inspiring but not necessarily very helpful because they reinforce the myths that innovation is about rare strokes of genius and chasing high-risk ideas that are set top down. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Everyone can innovate

Innovation is so much more, and it is there for everyone. At its core, innovation is about solving problems in new ways. And there are as many ways to innovate as there are types of problems to solve. A first step is to start looking for innovation beyond new products. Can you rethink how you work with partners? What innovative processes could give you an edge? How can new formats unlock interaction with hard to reach audiences? One framework that is particularly helpful to stretch the boundaries of innovation in this way is Doblin's 10 types of innovation framework, which ranges from business model to structure to brand and channel innovation among others. 

The value of bottom-up innovation

The great thing about breaking the traditional mould of innovation and widening the approach is that suddenly everyone in the organization can be involved. This kind of bottom-up-innovation is not an exception anymore. Some of the most successful tech companies like Google and Amazon have made this way of innovation part of the fabric of their company. Invention is core and it is fueled by many ideas initiated by employees, driven by intrapreneurs and supported and stimulated by top management. By doing so they move the needle from execution to creativity, gaining hard to copy advantages in the market.

The EBU Media Innovation Fund

At EBU we believe innovation is vital for the survival of public broadcasters. Our Members have some of the finest and most respected innovation departments in the field but ultimately our organizations will only be able to keep up with the pace of change if innovation becomes an integral part of the whole company. For that reason, we have launched the Media Innovation Fund this year, to encourage innovation at every level of our Member's organizations. Not just the teams who are working in digital or innovation. 

5 key steps to make innovation work

When thinking of how to set-up this fund, there were two clear objectives for us: the project has to be innovative, and the project has to be sharable. And to be clear, we’re not after the big innovation projects that might normally be up for EU funding, but for the smaller catalysts that could have the potential to inspire change within the organization. A good example is “The Smart Radio, Smart Conversations Project”, a proposal we received in 2019 from BR. They wanted to optimize the conversations between audiences and BR’s BAYERN 3 radio station hosts through digital voice assistants. Once complete, the project’s source code was made available on GitHub exclusively for other EBU Members to use. German broadcasters NDR and SWR as well as the BBC got in touch on using parts of the code. 

Making bottom-up innovation work starts with having a conversation internally and allowing for ideas to flow more freely. Here are some key steps to make it work.

  1. Establish a vision and urgency: Make it clear why innovation, in the wider sense is important for your organization. Set objectives that everyone can work towards. 
  2. Focus on the user: Avoid chasing technology opportunities by asking and testing what really matters and adds value to your audience, organization or the wider ecosystem.
  3. Involve everyone: Spread innovation as a culture by lowering the barrier for entry and empower intrapreneurs.
  4. Connect people and ideas to go beyond the obvious: Good ideas happen not in isolation but through unexpected connections. Look for opportunities to network, share and spark inspiration.
  5. Have clear mechanisms and criteria to evaluate and harbour innovation: Iterate, drop or accelerate ideas when they are fresh and make sure you have room to grow what works. 

Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing them. EBU is here to kickstart the process, unlock new connections and share the value. So, don't hesitate: Apply here for the Media Innovation Fund, deadline 30 October.

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