Innovation From Across the Organization

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I recently had the chance to interview Patrick Younge about his perspective and experiences with innovation in the media industry.

Q: Pat, thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, especially within the context of your history with media and the role you played at the BBC?

A: I worked in media, mainly broadcasting, for over 20 years in the UK and USA. Most recently I ran BBC TV production, a $500m annual turnover business with over 3,000 staff who have created and continue to deliver some of the world’s biggest brands, including “Top Gear”, “Strictly Come Dancing/DWTS”, “Dr. Who”, and Natural History landmark programs like “Frozen Planet”. Prior to that, I ran Travel Channel Media in the USA, a cable network in 90 million homes and creator of shows like “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” and “Man v. Food”.

Q: The word “innovation”, in my opinion, is a ridiculously overused term – at least coming from Silicon Valley, I would say – only to be outdone by “disruption”. I would love for you to define the term “innovation” – what’s your definition?

A: To me an innovation is an idea that creates value to an end user. Lots of people confuse ideas for innovation, but many ideas have no value. For me an innovation has to create value.

Q: Let’s talk a little bit about media and innovation – what do you think is the greatest challenge for innovation within media? 

A: The greatest challenge for innovation within media is that the traditional broadcasters don’t see the need to change, because the current paradigm remains highly profitable. As a result. there’s lots of innovation happening in media, but most of it is happening outside of the major broadcasters and producers. You see the innovation in storytelling and storytellers in places like YouTube, Vevo and in content like Google’s Spotlight Stories on mobile, and – as those business models evolve – the current drift of money from traditional media to new platforms will become a torrent… and then the traditional market leaders will try and innovate, but most will have left it too late.

Q: I’ve heard three broad schools of thought around innovation – its Culture, its Process or its Spontaneity/Risk. Where do you stand in that spectrum?

A: To be successful you need all three. A great process that supports risky projects will fail if the culture doesn’t value them. A supportive culture and optimized process will fail if the ideas lack ambition. Even in an innovative culture ambitious ideas will not reach their full potential if there’s no process to develop them. My learning of the past 20 years is that having a well understood process that is designed to maximize the potential of an idea is usually the crucial missing factor.

Q: Let’s switch gears. CO-STAR is a template for businesses to perfect and pitch their ideas. I know you’ve used CO-STAR as a model within BBC for bring great ideas to action and execution. Tell me what attracted you towards CO-STAR in the first place — other than the beloved founders, Lisa and Herman! Can you dive into why you needed something like CO-STAR?

A: I first used the CO-STAR approach when I was running Travel Channel Media. Faced with the threat of digital undermining our existing business model, we needed to rethink and re-engineer our entire enterprise. Working with EDG we introduced CO-STAR because it was easy to understand and helped the whole team speak the same language around innovation. This was vital as we wanted to engage the widest number of people from the broadest range of backgrounds to bring their ideas and help build them into innovative value propositions. CO-STAR enabled us not only to create new shows but also to create new business opportunities and new business models including a digital studio and a prosumer training business.

Q: Can you give us an example of a concrete outcome / show that came as a result of you implementing an open-innovation and CO-STAR process?

A: One example of the impact of CO-STAR is the show “Man v. Food”. Using the CO-STAR model the idea came from an internal team drawn from scheduling, production and sales. CO-STAR helped them frame and size the audience opportunity, explain why existing content was failing to meet the consumer need, identify the team it would require from across the business to make it a 360-degree success and show how why they thought it would beat the competition. Now there were still all the normal TV execution issues to be handled, including casting, narrative devices, etc., but CO-STAR provided the structure for those discussions to take place. After the success of “Man v. Food” another team used CO-STAR to develop what became known as “Bert the Conqueror”.

Q: Is iCreate one of the primary models for sourcing new ideas within BBC today?

A: In 2012 we introduced an ideas crowdsourcing platform into the BBC Production, called BBCiCreate, which was open to all 3,000 staff within BBC production. The online platform enabled all staff in all disciplines to be part of the creative process, and CO-STAR provided the common language that people used to submit their ideas. Do not underestimate the power of releasing all this hitherto untapped human potential, and CO-STAR gave it a framework so that people who’d never met in person could discuss, develop and build the same idea. In its first 9 months the iCreate platform was accessed by over 60% of those invited and over half of these participants either submitted an idea or commented on the ideas of others, and we secured our first content commission. I left the BBC in January 2014 and while I don’t know if the iCreate platform is still being used, people still use CO-STAR to frame and build their ideas.

Thanks! You can join Pat Younge for a webinar on Tuesday, October 21, to learn more about this innovation process.

Vivek Bhaskaran is the co-founder of IdeaScale.

About Vivek Bhaskaran

Vivek Bhaskaran is the President and CEO of Survey Analytics.

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