Should Your Digital Team Lead Business Innovation?

There is a buzz cycle happening right now in all kinds of businesses from marketing to healthcare and education, around terms like “Scrum”, “Design Thinking” and “Failing Fast.” They describe how busineses are responding to the escalating pace of innovation required to keep up with the pace of change being created by digital technology. It seems that digital technologies, like mobile communications, the interactive web and big data, are underpinning organizational change in many businesses.  In some cases digital marketing teams are reaching outside the walls of their department to lead this change.

Digital teams leading innovation within traditional organizations makes a weird kind of sense. Digital people are early adopters of online tools that help them collaborate and communicate in fast-paced and complex situations. They work in a field that changes so rapidly that daily focused learning is a priority. These skills have inadvertently equipped them to foster and direct organizational change.

Analyzing the cultural and work processes essential to the ways digital teams structure themselves may provide valuable insight for any organization striving to gain a competitive edge by nurturing an innovative culture.

To that end, here are some ideas from Innisfree’s in-house digital marketing agency that are adaptable for any organization.

Fail Fast, Fail Hard, Fail Forward.

Twitter Founder Biz Stone tells his team to “fail so hard it cracks your spine.” Good digital teams get rid of bad ideas fast by using real-time customer data to optimize and iterate their campaigns. Quick changes require agile workflows, which are made possible with great digital project management tools.

Strong digital teams encourage iterative development and support the idea that important lessons come from trial-and-error. Technology start-ups understand that their teams must be comfortable pitching bad ideas and fearlessly challenging the status quo.

Lean Management

Lean is a management theory geared to making innovation less risky. It favors experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over large-scale development. The key concepts are “Minimal Viable Product” and “Pivoting.” New ventures of all kinds are attempting to improve their chances of success by following the principles of failing fast, continually learning and avoiding financial waste.

Lean organizations believe all leaders are entrepreneurs who must take on the associated risks and rewards and who have the autonomy to manage their teams as they see fit. They test everything and think that a dogma is antithetical to iteration. Lean managers believe there’s no such thing as “this is how we do things,” and their organizational mantras are “build, measure, learn” and “done is better than perfect.”


Scrum refers to a rugby tactic in which a team packs together and then disperses with a plan to get the ball from one end of the field to the other. Software developers use it to describe project management processes focused on the team rather than individual tasks.

Key aspects are frequent check-ins, during which teams identify and resolve roadblocks. Daily scrums meetings happen quickly. Team leaders are asked to explain what they have done since the last meeting, what they are planning to do next and if they foresee any roadblocks. All team members attend the meetings, but only the core members are allowed to participate. Scrum meetings happen in the same time, at the same place, and are strictly time-boxed.


Interactive technology makes us aware of what everyone else is doing all the time. It therefore creates a distraction, false urgency and anxiety about what we should be doing. Essentialism refers to the practice of using project management and business practices to create time for managers and their teams to get “in the flow” and leverage the “magical power of focus.”

Being “in the flow” means being completely focused on the task at hand, forgetting about the world around you, losing track of time, feeling happy, in control, creative and productive. Business strategies that help employees get “in the flow” include things like off-site quarterly retreats, accountability through defined systems of task management and company respect for focus and mindfulness.

The challenges of staying focused have spurred an “Essentialist Movement” in many technology companies – such as Twitter and Google – who are promoting mindfulness with innovations such as sleep pods and meditation rooms. The goal is to clean out the closets of our overstuffed work lives and give away the nonessential items, so we can focus our attention on the few things that truly matter.

Design Thinking

The myth of innovation is that brilliant ideas leap fully formed from the minds of geniuses. The reality is that most innovations come from a process of rigorous examination through which great ideas are identified and developed.

Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to problem solving that helps people and organizations become more innovative and creative. It means designing everything from operational procedures to buildings and websites with processes that leverage deep empathy for customer needs and statistical insights into customer behavior.

In a Design Thinking process, iteration is facilitated through intensive immersion with users. It conducts real world experiments to observe behavior and measure intent and “releases often.” Design Thinking is not just applicable to creative industries or people who work in the design field. It’s an approach used by organizations like Kraft Foods, who employed it to revamp their supply chain management processes.

Social Business

This term underpins the idea that there is no such thing as social media or digital objectives. There are only business objectives. This approach asks what do we want to accomplish as a business that digital marketing can influence. The concept is supported by a belief that the ROI of social media can be optimized to promote great internal and external culture and community.

The idea is to use digital media to help an organization provide the best possible service to its entire ecosystem (including consumers, employees, owners and financial partners) by embedding collaboration, information-sharing and active engagement into all aspects of operations and culture. The desired result is a more responsive, adaptable, effective – and ultimately more successful company.