LAVIDGE: Our strength lies in finding new ways to solve tough problems

Are you fostering an environment where innovation can flourish?
By Stephen Heitz, Chief Innovation Officer

LAVIDGE is known for tackling tough problems and making the solutions seem elegantly graceful or simple.

It’s only possible because we’ve taken the time to cultivate an agency culture in which innovation can flourish. Without it, our creative writers, artists, photographers, analysts, media specialists, publicists, marketers and others within our unified agency would not have the freedom to envision breakthrough possibilities for our clients—let alone do so with precision, often at breakneck speed.

So, what exactly is innovation?

For the purposes of this discussion let’s use Webster’s first definition which states that innovate means “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.”

Let’s take a look how an innovation-friendly environment plays out daily at LAVIDGE, to see how you can cultivate one of your own.

Factory illustration

Don’t buy into misconceptions

When you hear the word “innovation” you most likely envision shiny new inventions driven by some new technology. Innovation, however, is not about technology. It’s about doing things better. We often forget that improving old ideas can be just as valuable. The smallest changes can make the biggest difference, as evidenced by the one-degree effect. Just as a slightly modified flight path can cause a plane to veer off course by several miles, a business plan that’s creatively dialed in can effectively point your organization in a more profitable direction.

LAVIDGE core values light the way to better ideas

So, what does creating an innovation-friendly environment look like? For starters, it can’t be done alone. Leadership must be aligned and unified in support of innovation. At LAVIDGE, several of our core values clearly apply here: people should be treated fairly, do the right things, exhibit integrity, actively contribute to our company’s culture and maintain a positive outlook.

Internally, that means bringing together everyone from mass media to our tech experts under a unified framework. The impact to clients is that we’re better equipped than we would be otherwise to find new and better ways of meeting their needs. We believe we don’t use people to get “work done,” we use work to get “people done.” We provide the tools and processes and creative thinking to make that happen. This requires supporting creativity in all business units which collectively make up our agency as a whole.

What silos can you break down to more fully integrate employees across multiple disciplines to innovate and better serve your clients?

Innovation begins with a foundation of trust

Any change, however, can be scary. To build and maintain trust:

  • Talk things through before and after each client project
  • Consider potential benefits before diving in
  • Do a post-mortem to assess progress
  • Realign based on insights
  • Begin process again as many times as needed

Afterward, determine as a team whether you’ve moved the ball down the field. If so, each iteration that helped get you there can be embraced as a positive. Incremental innovation in software, for example, has to begin with version 1.0. No one jumps to version 5.0 without numerous stops along the way. The same holds true for any change you implement in the workplace.

Frequent introspection leads to better insight

Recognizing meaningful takeaways from each iteration is critical, especially for employees who grew up with positive reinforcement as their key communication model. Their skeptical views of corporations and businesses, as evidenced by events such as Occupy Wall Street, reveal a common mindset that corporate profits don’t matter.

Those of us in business leadership understand that corporate profits are amazing. They are the result of meaningful work opportunities available to people by way of the jobs they are hired to do.

Why does this insight matter?

When innovation or changes are announced, if employees just believe you are trying to lower costs, you and the business are seen as the bad guy. To overcome this perception, we  create teams where people feel safe enough to trust positive criticism. When employees see it as being beneficial to their growth and to the success of not only the company, but their individual careers, they will be more willing to embrace change.

Productive habits lead to innovation

Our core values foster innovation.People are the sum of their daily habits. We believe in quality over quantity, we assume nothing and recognize that we have the opportunity to make a difference. Each of these core values contributes to building good habits.

Built into the daily habits of our people, for example, is asking after each project what went right, and what went wrong. What was missing, and what was confusing. While we previously introduced this concept under building trust, making it into a daily habit for each employee leads to personal introspection and increases opportunities for innovation.

Benchmarks don’t need to reach moonshot status to be considered a success. James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” teaches that every time you complete a process or develop a system, it only needs to improve by 1%.

”When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it,” according to Clear. “Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”

In other words, big changes aren’t made overnight. Consistent, incremental improvements which keep good habits in play add up to significant improvements over time.

Support innovation by growing your teams and skills

To be a visionary in terms of always finding ways to do things better, one must recognize creativity. Having fun ideas isn’t enough. Useful innovation must also solve problems. Our values statement puts it this way: “Effort is appreciated but results count. We’re all on the same team so we win together and we fail together.”

And we take it to heart.

The learning process allows employees to grow their skills as they become increasingly effective at flexing their creative muscles. We truly enjoy facilitating growth among our team members. Leadership frequently advocates on their behalf to help them do just that. We take on the new and the next together.

Creative innovation leads to profitability

No business, no matter how avant-garde or groundbreaking, can succeed unless its efforts lead to profit.

A recent study revealed that innovation leads to profitability.

“The key variable that predicts successful innovation across these companies is ideation rate: the number of winning ideas generated per 1,000 active users,” an article published by MITSloan explains. “In this context, winning ideas means employee-generated ideas that were finally selected by management for active development and implementation.”

Furthermore, MITSloan writers Dylan Minor, Paul Brook and Josh Bernoff reported finding a “significant correlation between the ideation rate at these companies and growth in profit or net income: The more ideation, the faster they grew.”

At LAVIDGE, where we celebrate our agency as an idea factory, our final value dictates that “our profitability is shared with employees.” This is exhibited in the form of annual profit sharing, participation in the LAVIDGE Employee Stock Ownership Plan, bonuses tied to agency performance, and more.

And when you take care of employees, they take care of clients, who in turn take care of you.

Bring us your toughest

Ready to bring innovation to your firm, but not sure where to start? We can help. LAVIDGE is a full-service advertising agency with more than 35 years of industry experience assisting clients with identifying and achieving their potential. Our unified marketing approach encompasses advertising, public relations, and digital marketing.

Stephen Heitz
Chief Innovation Officer
Winning "Innovator of the Year" and Forbes "Best of the Web" awards, Heitz led the Interactive team as Managing Director for more than 12 years before being named Chief Innovation Officer in November 2017.

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