• Transform magazine
  • June 02, 2020


Opinion: Imitation, invention and innovation


Pierre Lategan, Bellwether Brand Consultancy

It’s hard to believe that in the 17th century, being called an innovator could result in a fair bit of time in prison or the loss of your ears. In fact, ‘innovation’ as a word only trumped invention in the late 1970s. Now it’s a word that peppers our conversations more and more.

But why? And why now? Compare a list of most valued brands of 15 years ago to today and you will see that much has changed. In fact, only 24% of Fortune 500 companies who were on the list in 1995 still exist today. According to John Chambers, CISCO’s CEO, around 40% of the Fortune 1000 companies won’t exist in the next five to 10 years if they don’t innovate.

A key insight is the global study by McKinsey & Company of senior execs that asked, “How important is innovation?” While only 6% were happy with their innovation performance, 84% said extremely important.

Closer to home, three of six GCC countries need oil to be at $100 a barrel in order to balance their budget. With the sharp drop in oil prices last year, governments and quasi-governmental organisations are searching for new revenue streams and are looking to innovation to help them achieve this goal.

The UAE has been the bellwether in this regard, putting a stick in the sand by committing to being ranked in the top 10 (by 2021) in the Global Innovation Index, where it is currently 36.

We live in a time and a region where innovation has never been more important. But why should we, as brand people, care? For many reasons, but two in particular are entirely relevant.

A McKinsey study over five years analysed innovative companies to find out how they operate; one thing these companies have in common is a clear purpose of how they were going to make the world a better place. This was identified as the most important of eight attributes defined as keys to innovation. Our role as brand people is to develop brand strategies that provide clear purpose.

Furthermore, what is innovation? It is creativity plus delivery. Creativity is all about ideas that have value. As branding professionals this is our space and we will have to focus more on generating ideas that lead to innovations and in doing so, set our brands apart.

So how do people come up with great ideas of value?

There are numerous studies on this subject as people search for the so-called secret sauce.

Most agree that the key is feeding and then engaging your unconscious mind. Ever wonder why you get your best ideas in the shower or sleeping or doing some mundane task? It’s because your unconscious brain kicks in when your conscious brain zones out. It’s a powerful thing – the unconscious mind processes data 500,000 times faster than the conscious.

Some of the best innovators of our time have spoken about engaging their unconscious to overcome a block. Edison would hold a ball bearing in each hand and fall sleep in a chair. Once asleep the bearings would fall to the floor, waking him. He then wrote down whatever he was thinking. Einstein played the violin, Steve Jobs walked and talked (with a whole team in tow).

A study by Stanford University found that people who walk and think are on average 60% more creative than those who sit and think. By walking, your conscious brain starts to zone out and your unconscious takes the opportunity to spark a gem of an idea.

Finally a productive reason to zone out!

Pierre Lategan is partner and lead strategist at Bellwether Brand Consultancy

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How does innovation affect your brand? Pierre Lategan, partner and lead strategist at Bellwether Brand Consultancy takes on the question.

Join Pierre at The Middle East Brand Summit on 2 June, Dubai to find out more. Book here.


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