Anyone attempting to update their LinkedIn profile while also monitoring their Instagram ads; responding to a group chat about an upcoming surprise birthday party; telling Siri to set a reminder to pick up the drycleaning before the place closes tonight; and scanning a YouTube video about how to fix something in Keynote so the deck is perfect for the big work thing tomorrow can attest to the concept.
We are overloaded.
So how does a brand stand out amidst all that noise? What does a company do that wants to stay innovative? In other words, in the age of overload, how do you stay relevant to your people?
Mah is the author of NeuroPreneur, a book that delves into the traits of successful entrepreneurs. He coined the term "neuropreneur" to describe the way successful entrepreneurs can understand the "sensory feeling" of their clients. In other words, many have an intuitive sense of what consumers want, and design strategies around that. And in today's world, a lot of that has to do with knowing how to get and hold someone's attention.
It's no secret that attention spans are short, and getting shorter. Millennials are known for their short attention spans, and Generation Z (the generation behind Millennials; currently ~3-23 years old) may be even worse. According to one study by comScore, Millennial attention spans require ads that are only 5-6 seconds long (a fifth as long as traditional 30-second TV commercials).
There's no quesiton that concepts and trends are coming and going faster than ever, and it can be hard to keep up.
"In today's disruptive environment," Mah says, "businesses can disappear faster than they appear. Innovation is paramount for driving success." He then poses an important question: "[C]an a business have sustained success with a fixed mindset and occasional innovation?"
Put another way: Can you go along as you've been doing, with a pretty fixed mindset, and just occasionally innovate -- and still be successful?
In a word, no.
Where innovation used to be a "nice-to-have" for a few select companies and entrepreneurs, it has now become a requirement if you want to succeed at all. Things are simply moving too fast for anything else to work.
"The global economy depends on innovation to evolve, but this evolution also makes businesses irrelevant," says Mah. Unless--you guessed it--that business innovates.
The solution? There are a few, but one that can be instituted immediately is building actual time to innovate into the structure of your everyday routine, and that of your employees. Mah suggests having a "10 percent innovation time" rule.
In this model, 10 percent of your own time as an entrepreneur, and 10 percent of your employees' time is spent strictly on innovation. Not on replying to emails; submitting expense reports; updating the KPIs in the deck; or writing the next blog. This is time carefully set aside every single week to use on big-picture, "crazy ideas," no-holds-barred concepts on how to disrupt your industry--innovative thinking.
Imagine that for a moment. Imagine that for several hours a week, you get yourself and your team out of the mire of the mundane. Imagine regularly-scheduled time to really reflect on the future of your industry as a whole, of your customers, and of the world at large. Imagine setting aside any limitations around feasibility and just enjoying the process of thinking up new things.
Innovation is now a requirement for success, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun.
One easy way to institute this at a company is to have it occur at the same time every week. Google allows employees to self-direct around their "20 percent projects" but there are other ways to do it.
For example, it could be that every Friday morning is innovation time. There are five workdays a week, so a half-day of one of them is 10 percent of your week. If you spent that time solely on innovation, then you will have fulfilled your quota. Plus you'd all be doing it together, so the spirit of creativity would be especially vivid.
According to a GE survey of 2,800 senior executives, 92 percent agreed with the statement: "Innovation is the main lever to create a more competitive economy."
Gmail, Google News, and Adsense (which now brings in 25 percent of Google's $50B annual revenue) all came out of their 20 percent innovation time projects.
We all agree that innovation is important. Now it's time to put your money where your mouth is in terms of prioritizing it.