Corporate innovation festival, I hear you ask? Well, yes indeed, and when I first heard about it, I was impressed, but couldn't for life of me see how anyone could possibly get a business case together to support such a thing.
Let me paint you a picture: get your Head of Innovation to go around the world and find the most interesting people she can. Doctors, political advisers, new media people, web psychologists, and, yes, even a banker. Then bring them all to Australia and let them talk about their work to the whole institution. See if it inspires new and creative thinking in your people.
But don't just stop at internal. Have an event in a pub where local ph.d students can pitch their research on a mic in two minutes of less, and give prizes to the best as voted by the crowd. And then have your CIO decide that everyone deserves a prize and give each struggling student $1000 to roaring applause.
And since you're not just doing internal, how about you broadcast the whole event, including all these expensive internal guest speakers, so that the world can share the inspiration. Do this even though traditional thinking would suggest that allowing just anyone, including competitors, to participate, would reduce any potential competitive advantage you might generate from the investment.
And just as icing on the cake, bring all your top customers and investor in to meet all these interesting people. Don't just stop at confronting traditional thinking in your staff, make sure your most valuable customers get their thinking challenged as well.
Finally, finish it all off with a staff expo where everyone gets to show how off their work in new and creative ways. Have, for example, a mock cave complete with cavemen to explain how your legacy systems have evolved to their present state.
You can understand, being somewhat a traditionalist myself, that when I looked at all this, I couldn't understand the business case. That's because the results aren't obvious when you just look at the numbers. I'm very busy running an innovation function that tries to get all these nice predictable returns from investments, so doing a festival hardly seems a great use of money.
But then I realised this: Amplify09 is the most magnificent ideation campaign I've ever seen. It makes the ones my team and I run internally at the bank look ridiculous in comparison, and we know how to turn our little attempts into money predictably.
Can you just imagine how much differentiation AMP will have as it actualises all that out-of-band thinking it generated from this event?
But the more important point is this one: quite obviously, AMP is an institution that's realised that the real competitive advantage it has is the people who choose to work there. Who cares about technology and products and processes, when you have the ability to invent uniqueness whenever you want?
Meanwhile, the rest of the industry is very busy with dark ages thinking about the nature of competitive advantage. They're all still doing trade secrets and patents, and trying to close down the ability of their staff to collaborate in, and outside, their institutions.
Want to bet which institution I think will really differentiate in the long term?