Innovation is a collective phenomenon

For us who work in media and communications, especially online, this is second nature; anticipating change and accommodating innovation are facts of life.

We rarely stop to think how innovation occurs. What produces paradigm shifts that change our environments at once and forever? If we analyze the intellectual leaps in humanity’s evolution, we will find that many of them are connected to exceptional persons whose names are etched in history: Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, and our contemporaries Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. This confronts us with an important question: Is the lone genius or brilliant creator essential to promote change?

This was among the questions addressed recently at the IMS Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. During the four-day conference, major Latin American media executives gathered to reflect on this and related subjects. A question present in every conference room was how to produce innovations that would add value to media marketing strategies. In this context, I heard an inspiring answer from Jonathan Mildenhall, Coca Cola’s Creative Vice President

Mildenhall, a leader of probably the most important consumer product company in the world, made a statement that could not go unnoticed—that innovation is the responsibility of a group, not of just a few persons. He said that to generate change in patterns of thinking, you do not have to wait for a genius to deliver magic solutions. On the contrary, interdisciplinary teams are required that can attack issues from multiple perspectives and collectively produce novel solutions. 

“It is really important that executives become aware of the need to continue their education, to stay curious, and to remain open to new things emerging in the industry,” Mildenhall emphasized during his lecture at Stanford. But above all, he pointed out, it is essential to share experiences among different regions in the world and be exposed to different ways of thinking and problem solving if we want to facilitate change and nurture creative perspectives. 

In an era when online media invite us to take advantage of collaboration, and where the flow of information around the world is richer than ever before, encountering activities such as this one, promoted by IMS Corporate, is encouraging. Gathering agencies, brands, and publishers in the same place so that together they can contemplate pathways for innovation and creative change in the media market put Mildenhall’s words into action.