local media insider

Innovation has no constituency

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After attending the RadioInk conference this week, I did an informal survey of "take aways" from the attendees.

Most had great things to say about the keynote address by Nolan Bushnell - founder of Atari - who seemed to have a prescient understanding of the radio industry.

One radio exec pulled his notes out of his pocket and read this line: "Innovation has no constituency."

Any executive who has tried to lead a company via customer surveys understands this dilemma. The entrepreneur may have great ideas for things that customers don't even know they want... yet.

So how do you create real innovation inside the company? This is something that downtrodden media companies have been really, really bad at doing. Because innovation not only challenge cultural norms and institutions, it also requires a failure rate ... and a different attitude towards failing.

Failure, in Bushnell's book, is education. A team with a number of failures under its belt is better situated to formulate the next plan. But if the project is shut down and the newly educated person terminated... he or she will likely take that education and provide the benefit to someone else's's company.

Often, their own.

Bushnell advises hiring technical people with great passion, make it safe to fail, keep the failures inexpensive.

Bushnell also gave the stunning prediction that auto-driven cars will become prevalent enough in five to ten years to make an financial impact on radio. Passive radio listening, something that people who drive now need and enjoy, becomes a thing of the pass when the car is essentially driving itself, as many now are.

What was more interesting is that speakers from both Toyota and GM agreed with his theory and the projected timeline.

Other takeaways from the conference: Many of the executives said they found the RadioInk conference more valuable than NAB because of the focus on digital. Also on the "to do" list: Hiring a digital specialist. Markets with even one digital specialist are seeing double the digital revenues per rep.

And finally, heard in the hallway; "The first thing I'm going to do when I get home is to write out the digital strategy." Many companies think they have a digital plan but are essentially winging it.

And there were some amazing initiatives from radio executives I talked to that will be featured on this site in the weeks ahead. Thanks to RadioInk for a great conference and for inviting us to share.

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