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  • Writer's pictureZaine Venter

The Innovation journey

Our mission to become the brand experience trailblazers is key to the remodelling of iD – an agency where courage and invention has been well established in over 25 years of challenging work and development.

That said, innovation doesn’t come easy. It requires a huge effort to rise above the day to day, the difficulty being finding the physical time and mental space to challenge the way we work. We knew that to continue to deliver as the agency that dares to experiment and defy the norm, a complete overhaul was in order to nurture a new approach to every aspect of our work.

Step 1 – find the time. By being more selective about the clients we are working with we can divert more time to developing talent, expertise, innovation and research. Straight forward enough.

Step 2 – changing the way we think about how we work, and the industries we target as an agency. More of a challenge somewhat…

We needed guidance and looked to friend and entrepreneur Matthew Cushen. He’s a director of Uprising an innovation consultancy and has knowledge of iD from the grass roots - his spare bedroom was the birth place of the agency all those years ago.  Matt’s consultancy has helped the leadership teams of some of the most recognisable companies across the globe including IKEA, Waitrose, SABMiller and Tesco. Pretty safe hands you’ll agree.

For me though, while excited at the new approach, I’ll admit that I was apprehensive. Having progressed within the retail team from Account Executive to Senior Account Director, my role at iD has always been one that is focused on the practical. Hands up - I’m a logical person and an enthusiast in all things statistical. Someone for whom creativity hasn’t always been easy. And I was called upon as part of the innovation team to lead by example.

So how to cultivate innovation in someone like me? Matt held regular innovation breakfasts at iD. Throughout the sessions, Matt showed us that everyone can be creative. The key would be to rediscover the creatively we have all had in our early childhood - taking calculated risks and injecting a whole load of relentless curiosity - something I have in abundance! There was hope for me yet. I learned that unless we are constantly striving for insight in new and unexpected places we are never going to be able to innovate effectively.

Our journey started by exploring our ‘rivers of thinking’ and asking us to challenge what and why we do things the way we do. We explored 2 different ways of thinking - Expansive v’s reductive and how to effectively signal how we want people to be (and with which way of thinking) in any situation.  We were taught how to Suspend reaction, Understand and Nurture ideas – or ‘S.U.N.’ – as a way of encouraging the expansive thinking rather than our more usual reductive approach. It is after all, only when S.U.N. is shined that we find the value in and can build ideas. Once we mastered the behaviours, we created some processes to allow for successful idea generation.

Our new home

Like training any muscle, a change of behaviours calls for regular exercise and its only with the innovation team leading from the front, that we have been able to encourage this behaviour and ensure this runs right throughout our agency. As well as a change of language and behaviour we have made a number of physical changes to our office space to allow our new culture to breed. We now have well signalled meetings in an environment that matches the tone of the meeting, which create efficiency and ensures no idea is left stifled. Anyone who doesn’t play by the rules gets shown a yellow and then red card! We’ve even added ‘walk’ to our meeting locations in outlook to encourage expansive meetings to take place standing up in the fresh air, a perfect setting for generating ideas beyond the normal scope.


The innovation training has taught me that not only can I be creative, but I can be innovative too. Looking for simpler and more efficient ways to do things are equally as important as generating new ideas and everyone can use these practices in not only their work but in their life outside of iD. 

As an agency we are having more interesting conversations, looking at things from a different perspective and learning about the world along the way. Our mission? To continue to be bold, inventive and relentlessly curious for the benefit of our clients and our business. In doing this, others will naturally follow.


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