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Channel your light bulb moment

PUBLISHED: 15:10 09 October 2018

Nik Venios, CEO of BEAF (c) Antony Thompson / TWM

Nik Venios, CEO of BEAF (c) Antony Thompson / TWM

© Thousand Word Media

Nik Venios runs BEAF, an innovation agency dedicated to helping companies like yours dream up the next big thing. Here, he explains why the question – not the answer – is crucial

There are no barriers to innovation. Companies just need to build up their creative Myelin and then seek the right question to answer.

I run BEAF, an agency that creates, proves and launches new ideas to market.

Part of our offering is that we create idea decks from challenges we are set by companies and we also hold workshops that help the largest companies in the world think like small companies, and build up their team’s Myelin.

For those of you who are not neurosurgeons, Myelin is the fatty substance which wraps itself around neurons in your brain which are most frequently used by the body.

Over time, this insulation builds up around neurons, meaning that the messages sent from the brain to the part of the body you wish to use are sent quicker and more efficiently.

The more you practise, the more Myelin wraps around those neurons, and over time, it is this insulated network of superfast neurons that allows you to return that 160mph tennis serve, to score that goal – or try – or think of that next killer idea.

By working with companies to look at problems differently, it allows teams to react quicker to market shifts, to go beyond their own industry and disrupt others.

I know it may seem like a bit of a cliché, but smaller companies have the capacity, appetite, flexibility and time to build up their Myelin. They are constantly looking at ways to serve your customers more efficiently than you. They are well-versed in developing their own ideas, picking up new technologies and integrating them into their offering because they are not looking over their shoulder.

The world moves so fast that even the most innovative companies, like PayPal, are getting disrupted by two 20-year-old brothers from Ireland.

See Stripe vs. Paypal.

How can you keep up? Good news! You don’t have to keep up. You just have to look at your market in a different way by asking the right question to answer.

Most recently I was with a retail chain that has well over 2,000 bricks and mortar stores across Europe and the US. I was asked to come up with ways that they could increase the amount of impulse purchases in-store.

Impulse purchases tend to be those products which are on offer as they are new to market and displayed on a cardboard stand (called a Point of Sale or POS stand). They are usually situated at the end of an aisle. Retailers charge brands that want to flog their latest products a premium for this space in their stores.

Rather than look at how the retailer could sell more impulse purchases, I asked how could we make an impulse purchase relevant to a customer.

By integrating a tiny bit of tracking technology beneath their shelving in-store, which looks at the shoes of consumers (gets round GDPR) and can tell with a 92% accuracy the gender of consumers, we were able to track navigation of consumers in-store.

We were then able to deliver a heatmap to the retailer which told us that when the weather was over 22 degrees, women in their 20s and 30s typically came into store and walked directly down aisle three before getting to the suncare aisle.

Suddenly the retailer is no longer just selling random store space to brands – they are now selling data to brands and being able to justify the brand’s marketing spend on a POS with statistics.

Just by changing the question from ‘how can we sell more products?’ to ‘how can we make impulse products more convenient for our customers?’ they were able to sell more impulse products, to a specific audience, who take a specific route through the store. And sell these spots along these routes within the store at a massive premium to brands. They were also able to sell brands the heat map and telemetry data too

So, in closing...Innovation is not this esoteric, elusive, God-like process that only the most creative coding geniuses working away in their bedrooms on the next Uber will ever taste. It’s something that exists in all teams within all businesses. They key is knowing the right question to answer.

For more information on BEAF, visit the website here or read our interview with Nik Venios.

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