Tuning out, a need for simplification and better value

tuning out 2I have been totally struck by the overwhelming number of webinars being offered to me on a daily basis, all related to innovation and all free. Am I the only one getting overwhelmed in choice, underwhelmed in content value?

This is a bit of a long rant, so turn away now those who love all the free choices you currently have, don’t waste your time reading on.

Those a little more curious, as my friend Michael Fruhling always says in his useful blog “then read on, dear friends….”

What do you get of real value when it is offered free?

You are getting experts offering free webinars or short ‘tasters’ with even offers of “fly me to your destination- no fees just cover my costs”, others offering “join my (global) network” as entreaties. Then you are equally getting software providers giving their take on innovation solutions galore, with the “three lessons learnt” mantra as the takeaways. These all increasinly add up to you being bombarded daily with their knowledge, that often you can’t really decide if it did have value or not, by the end of the hour you had invested.

Then you get the innovation community providers linking up, providing web chats, drawing in different and diverse opinions from practitioners, academics or specialists, under let’s “ask the experts”, all hosted and moved along to stay within the prescribed time period. Yet evewn these are so often totally failing to get to solve your solutions, all you end up getting is their experiences or observations, in someone else’s often unrelated situation, that might even be dangerous to extract and simply apply.

Maybe this is a bad day for me.

I am getting really frustrated by this constant ‘streaming’. I know I can ignore it, click the invite off, I can simply tune out and I think this is where many of us all seem to be heading. Are we really getting the value out of these ‘free’ offers?

You can go on and add in the free mix, different academic courses being offered on innovation from one day, to three days, a week or even longer as on-line courses by providers building their brand for the future. Then you are getting the “upgrade or get left behind” messages from all these. Are these really worth the time investment or just self-promoting?

I’m constantly being told I need upgrading on my innovation skills, nudged to check out the latest software update, and enticed to participate in a debate. It simply goes on and on.

Can it stop? Should it? Will it?

Then we have conference and forum providers for anything innovation, be this open innovation, CEO’s, social innovation, digital innovation. Then you have these consistent meetings offered by the European Union or different institutions, non-profit making organizations etc., etc for half days- are they mad in what this means in invested time, or are we simply mad to go? We have so much time on our hands, really?

I certainly can’t afford the time. And then for what, some long introductions and a few ‘choice’ bullet points. Thank god for streaming these live events so you can tune out much but being there, can you run and hide? Did I mention the radio talk shows, book publicity videos?

Then you have the reading material. OMG! That is me included here! We do need a break from all this, we are all progressively tuning out, not actually in.

Can we afford to miss out- our Kiasu fears– many it seems are saying yes and exactly doing that, others seem caught in this fear of missing out.

Real lasting value or just simply filling in our time?

No seriously, we are so far running ahead of ourselves in delivering ‘something’ as service providers but is it of real, lasting value? We have opened up the spigot to allow a deluge of “anyone” who can simply take hold of an idea or a thought, quickly put it together through a host of technologies and social platforms, so as to deliver their contribution onto the mountain of advice equally piling on, I mean mountains of advice.

Can we call stop, surely we are all gradually switching off or do we just totally tune out? I believe clients, meaningful decision makers in clients are tuning out, as they surely do not have the time for all this.

I just feel we are all getting a little frantic in offering free advice

How can we get back to the basics within innovation, those that can put to simplification back in innovation? Well actually getting back to the basics on anything come to think of it?

I was reading a short article from Ron Asakenas over on Forbes (subject innovation) commenting about “It’s time to simplify innovation”. He prompted this post of mine. His opener I liked:

“Innovation is one of the most popular topics in the world these days, with new books and articles on the subject appearing almost daily. (For example, there are over 70,000 book listings about innovation in Amazon).The problem is that nobody quite knows what the word actually means.

Instead we’ve gotten tangled up in all of the variations, nuances, tools, techniques, models, frameworks, and paradigms of innovation. So what was once a simple concept — the idea of systematically finding, encouraging, and implementing new ideas — has become horribly complex. Unfortunately, by complexifying innovation, we’ve probably started to kill it.

To reverse this trend, we need to simplify how we approach innovation – by better defining what it is (and isn’t), what it takes to carry it out, and what is needed to enable truly new thinking to thrive”

Personally I really am not so sure we can reverse this trend but we do need new thinking.

The technology is becoming so pervasive, it just seems to get easier to ‘knock out’ a presentation, offer a webinar, or write an article. We are in a ‘swamp’ of material ‘up to our necks’.

We are making innovation complex, needlessly complicated and increasingly unattractive. We are failing in really “moving that innovation needle” because we are getting more and more people simply “tuning out” and the more we try, the more they reject this and then seemingly tune out even more. We are simply the dog chasing its own tail and enjoying it because we know no better.

The real art of engagement is being lost.

Like buttonI’m noticing it more and more, poorer engagement by everyone, we are in the deteriorating engagement cycle. Where are the meaningful dialogues instead of the ‘like’ symbol?

It is harder to grab someone’s attention, hold it sufficiently long enough to move through an issue onto the next one. We are all becoming so distracted and I’m struggling with an answer to how we collectively can pull back and recalibrate around innovation knowledge and its meaningful exchange?

I’m all for seeking simplification but for innovation to really return and begin to move ahead again it needs this engagement but it needs equally for me, every time, context.

For me Context is King

Maybe it is the one real arbiter of success; it really provides the need to simplify. In an innovation process, context becomes the most important arbiter of success, it is the point we gather around to understand so we can see and understand our role and contribution.

Sorting through for simplification and worthwhile engagement for all concerned

Here is my first attempt to recalibrate all this current flow of (harmful) innovation ‘intensity’. Just an opening suggested of context framing, for sorting through this deluge of workshops, webinars and getting them more personal in simplification, solving needs and offering value.

It needs more work but goes like this for all the multitude of organizations (and individuals) offering innovation advice that need to reconsider what they are offering and need to ask a set of pre-qualifier questions:

One If the idea, approach or value proposition isn’t aligned with the needs of the firm or the corporate strategy, (also context) then it will most probably be ignored and tuned out by those we are in need to actually engage with. Do we bother?

Two How can these ‘open’ webinar sessions be aligned PRIOR, otherwise we end up with a service providers generic offering? It is up to the provider to understand the client’s needs, to perhaps work a lot harder on these, otherwise is not time relevant and valuable; it simply stays generic and less valuable. It simply is ‘casting around’ without knowing if there is any catch in this. A scatter-gun approach and not client targeted. Is this really worth all the effort?

Three Once an idea, theme, specific need is identified and ‘fleshed out’ and these have to be more client or issue / problem specific for clients to consider then they need clear deliverables not just boring ‘takeaways from mindlessly listening’ – what problem will it solve that is relevant to my issues, how can it be applied, its benefits and impact understanding. Can we deliver on this?

Four Without this ‘need related’ information on the idea or concept delivered through a workshop, or webinar then it becomes too disconnected to adequately consider, evaluate and convert into useful consideration, then it is not worth it, unless you are want the simply curious how can afford the time but don’t make decisions. Is that worth all the costs involved?

Five Surely as service providers if we fail to get through these ‘points of client relevancy’ then there is no new product or service connection or consulting engagement that most of this current activity is trying to generate. Then we should find another, perhaps those that are certainly much harder, to engage, as this easy route is not yielding a ‘reasonable’ return on all the ‘invested’ time. Well is it?

Stepping back to move forward.

There is nothing rocket science here in these five points to be considered but we do need to turn all this innovation advice, this deluge of stuff into something clearer, with more specific value and context.

We do need to define this upfront far more. It means working innovation a little harder before we rush to offer these webinar’s, conferences, half- day meetings.

It might mean less “bums on seat” for the webinar, so be it. If we can get ‘real engagement’ because we are closer to understanding specific needs and not opting for generic solutions, the quality of the material automatically lifts as the group tuning into it has a very specific interest that can have higher chances of leading onto ‘something’. This automatically raises the engagement game, from the discussion and reduces the ‘also runs’ who don’t have the meaningful insight and knowledge that clients are actually needing to make this engagement really valuable to them..

It also stops the random roaming, the needless cruising around, the mindless listening to the droning on, that is taking place today. We begin to simplify as the context is clearer for us, the value exchange higher and the potential to advance from ‘free anything’ moves into showing that you (we), the provider of the service, have real value to bring into the conversation.

Today, finding good innovation insights that can be applied to a relevant situation that might be coming from general webinars, is a little like ‘panning for gold’, it is back-breaking work in your investment in time and eventual application. Knowing the ‘needs specific’ means we can all ‘pan smarter’.

Where is the exchange point of money and value?

I always remember a lovely throwaway comment I heard years back when it came to client and consulting / advisory engagement “If you wish to have value for money, would you give money for value”.

Offering anything free I believe you are not offering any real value equation or much in my mind. Does Apple give anything away for free? No, it builds value through its offering or its partnerships and we need to go back and do this for the knowledge we are offering into prospective clients.

Where we are today with this “free” approach provides very little apart from sucking up an awful lot of everyone’s time and screwing up client- provider engagements into this “race to the bottom”. We are sacrificing much in quality and carefully considered advice. I believe real decision makers are tuned out from this channel to market approach mostly.

Now I’ve had my little rant I better go back and check out the value within my own webinars. Do they stack up to offering real value, of addressing specific needs? I’d like to believe so but this also does give me my own pause for thought and by the way, they are actually not free.

4 thoughts on “Tuning out, a need for simplification and better value

  1. Hi Paul,

    That was a good old fashioned (and likely quite cathartic) rant. Also, thank you for mentioning me. Your message is quite right. The market is flooded with innovation marketing messages. They take different forms, use different platforms and vehicles, but they mostly boil down to the same thing: We’re wonderful. Hire us.

    You astutely point out the challenge and the frustration associated with this deluge of messaging. In order to attract the most potential customers, the message is purposely broad. However, breadth without specific context and relevance makes the information less useful. So, there must be a balancing act between providing sufficient enticement to build interest and attract prospective customers and providing adequate specificity so as to make the message useful and practical.

    This is why I use my blog for “branding”…i.e. giving folks (at least the ones I choose to reach) an idea of how I think and who I am…and then using direct marketing efforts to focus on the needs of individual customers and how to interest them in having me help solve them. I am reasonably successful at it. I continue to work to be more successful at it.

    Ultimately, what I am describing is at the heart of niche marketing. Establish what you stand for, and focus on the customers who are likely to be most receptive to the message, being careful to do sufficient homework that it is designed to be RELEVANT.

    The customers want what all customers want. Either to learn how to do something that needs doing, or to have it done for them…and in doing so, make themselves more valuable to their internal stakeholders. The value for them is what the service provided will help do for them, situationally or professionally, or both.

    I doubt very much that too many folks are willing to pay for “innovation enlightenment” without relevance or specific context. But, who knows…I could be wrong. It happens from time to time.

    Again, thanks for sharing.

    Best regards,



    • Paul, absolutely… innovation overkill. What I see is that all of a sudden there are so many experts in innovation…. I always thought that experience was a quality that is necessary in this “business” but looks like any college graduate that has done a course in innovation can set up shop.
      What bugs me most is the free advice handed out by people who have never done any innovation in their lives…. and its patently obvious from what they are saying.
      Innovation is about execution and when it comes to that there are few left to hold the baby…

      What would be interesting would be to have some statistics on the success/impact/influence of these webinars………
      Where would you put open innovation on the Gartner hype curve today ?


      • Overkill is right Campbell. Even known experts focusing on one or two specific topics within innovation are moving out of their zone of expertise and making it more universal and that equally has its concerns.
        I get increasingly disturbed by half day sessions, covering three or four topics and suggesting lots of open dialogues- what will be the take aways from that, apart from the presenter making contacts but would these be deep enough to move a enlightening conversation or presentation deck onto the next step of solving real challenges of the participants. It really becomes a nice morning break- nothing wrong with that if its free or at a small costs but real value for the time invested- questionable.

        Open innovation is on the decline within the curve as my bet but with the different collaborating techniques, platform management coming up behind it to keep the open topic cresting the curve for the time being.


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