March 7, 2022 Content Chat Recap: How Content Marketers Can RE:Think Innovation

A #ContentChat header image featuring an array of flowers with a box overlay. The box contains text that says today's topic is how content marketers can RE:Think Innovation, with guest Carla Johnson.

“Innovation” has become a buzzword for companies vying to attract and retain top talent and position their brand as leaders in their field. But, are most companies truly innovative? What separates an innovative company from the rest? And how can teams implement systems that foster innovation?

In this #ContentChat recap, we’re joined by Carla Johnson, world-renowned keynote speaker and best-selling author, to explore how content marketing teams can build a culture that supports innovation at every level. Read the full recap below to learn about the common practices or frameworks that limit our ability to innovate as marketers, the common qualities of leaders that enable an environment of innovation, and examples of innovation at work.

Order your copy of RE:Think Innovation today to learn Carla’s five-step framework to connect the dots and uncover new opportunities, no matter what type of business you’re in.

Q1: How do you define innovation?

There is no common definition of innovation, which is why many teams struggle to foster innovation.

A1 People have a hard time innovating because we don’t have a common definition of #innovation. We make it complicated, complex and expensive. It’s exhausting! #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

A1d People struggle to #innovate because they don’t understand the #definition of #innovation. We can’t perform something when we don’t know what it is. Could you run down the street if you didn’t know what ‘run’ meant? #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

That’s an issue I really see all over marketing in general β€” we get mixed up on out definitions and end up confusing ourselves and clients πŸ˜… #ContentChat

β€” Liz | Wildflower Social Media LLC (@wildflowrsocial) March 7, 2022

Too often, teams create unnecessary structure around innovation initiatives.

This is so true!

I’ve worked places in the past where innovation required committees and official executive project sponsorship…which kind of sucks the life + potential out of the innovation.#ContentChat https://t.co/Jls1rhbqor

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

Or the “why fix it if it ain’t broken” mentality stops us from innovating.

Not to mention some may be less receptive to innovation. Going with the old thinking, β€˜why fix it if ain’t broken?’ #contentchat #MARK1051

β€” Sheilla Diamse | Social Media Coordinator (@sheilla_diamse) March 7, 2022

It’s like if you’re talking about plumbing in your house and it’s 70 years old. About the same age as many #management approaches. It’s important to fix it BEFORE it breaks! #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

Let’s get on a better path with a shared definition of innovation. Per Carla and the community, innovation involves the ability to consistently come up with new, great, and reliable ideas.

A1b I #define #innovation as the ability to consistently come up with new, great and reliable #ideas. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

A1c A #new #idea surprises and delights people because it’s unexpected. A #great idea inspires and excites you. And a #reliable idea makes you money. Consistently coming up with ideas that have all 3 makes you #innovative. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

A1: Innovation, for me, is setting out to consistently create new + better ideas that deliver value to you and your community. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

A1. #Innovation to me is doing something different that creates better results β€” often through reframing the problem you’re trying to solve. #ContentChat

β€” Liz | Wildflower Social Media LLC (@wildflowrsocial) March 7, 2022

A1. Out of the box mindset that increases efficiency of your process, your brand’s relevance and ROI.

β€” Sheilla Diamse | Social Media Coordinator (@sheilla_diamse) March 7, 2022

A1. A practical implementation of ideas i guess, that gives birth to new product and/or services. #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) March 7, 2022

A1: a new idea that creates a multi-beneficial solution ~Julie #contentchat

β€” Nimble (@Nimble) March 7, 2022

That sounds like the Nimble platform! And a big reason why I love it. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

Q2: What common practices or frameworks limit our ability to innovate as marketers?

We limit our ability to innovate when we only look to see what other marketers are doing, instead of learning from people outside our industry.

A2 We’re used to looking around and only seeing how other #marketers do things and don’t #learn from others outside our industry. This is where true #innovation comes from and actually lowers #resistance to #change. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

If we only listen to marketing podcasts and just read marketing books, we are likely to just come up with a lot of iterations on other people’s ideas, which is not what innovation is all about. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

A2c EXACTLY! The best #ideas come from #inspiration from different places. @TimWasher takes inspiration from his work in comedy. @JasonMillerCA from music. We all have something that inspires us, we just need to connect the dots into our work as marketers. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

A2: We forget to reframe our thinking and pull from outside sources. It’s so easy to go in our own bubble — especially if we’re always around other marketers. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/DYbkmGJ5zR

β€” Liz | Wildflower Social Media LLC (@wildflowrsocial) March 7, 2022

We wait for BIG ideas that will drive significant change, but innovation happens in small, consistent steps.

A2b We think that #innovation has to be about BIG #ideas or #change. When in reality we should look at consistent little ways to innovate. That doesn’t require approvals, only our own willingness to #test and #learn in baby steps. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

Anyone can innovate. You do not need an expensive consultant or your entire C-Suite to be the catalyst for innovation.

A2: Too often, we think innovation requires an expensive consultant, the entire C-Suite, and a SiriusDecisions framework. So, we basically put a bunch of obstacles in our way to even getting started. #ContentChat https://t.co/TIRmJ35buk

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

A “we’ve always done it this way” mentality limits innovation…

A2. One common limitation i always see is ‘we have always done this way’ which hugely limits our ability to innovate or encourage those who want to! #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) March 7, 2022

And when we are complacent in our routine and results.

A2: I think complacency in a routine/reluctance to try new things limits innovation. Complacency prevents us from challenging ourselves and looking for new and better ways ~Julie #ContentChat

β€” Nimble (@Nimble) March 7, 2022

Lots of marketers pride themselves on being data-driven. But innovation rarely comes as a result of data you have in hand. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

A2: When marketers feel their current efforts are “good enough” they think there is no need to be innovative or try new things. This complacency is what can lead to a lack of innovation and possible failure. #ContentChat

β€” Rosemary Twomey (@rosetwomey) March 7, 2022

It’s natural to fear that your innovative idea will be rejected, or that it is not innovative enough. Do not listen to this self-doubt.

A2. The fear to be treated the odd one for coming up with unique ideas. The fear of rejection.

β€” Sheilla Diamse | Social Media Coordinator (@sheilla_diamse) March 7, 2022

That’s such an interesting perspective. I do tend to get stuck in a rut of if it’s not THAT different does it matter? #ContentChat

β€” Liz | Wildflower Social Media LLC (@wildflowrsocial) March 7, 2022

It’s all-too-easy to listen to that internal critic’s voice instead of being bold and taking a chance. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

Carla hosts a “Worst First” brainstorming competition to take the pressure away from idea-sharing.

Isn’t that the truth? We’re our own biggest critic. In workshops, I have people start with a little competition called “Worst First”. It’s a challenge to see who can share the WORST idea! It takes away the pressure and gets people to laugh. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

It really takes around 200 ideas until we get to truly innovative ideas. Between #1 and #199, there’s a lot of awful ideas that happen. Let’s have some fun with them! #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

One final consideration: We lose our ability to innovate when we lose touch with our prospects and customers, whose needs and challenges should inspire innovation.

A2: Not staying in tune with our prospects / customers and using data to drive our content ideation, creation, distribution, and measurements. These are basic principles that build the foundation – if that foundation is unstable, so is everything built on top of it. #ContentChat

β€” Patrick Delehanty (@YouGotDelehanty) March 7, 2022

Q3: What examples can you share of how companies enable innovation?

Carla explains how to provide feedback on an innovative idea to encourage similar thinking:

A3 A great way to enable innovation is being more thoughtful and specific about #feedback when someone shares and #idea. Feedback commonly feels like judgement of a person, rather that something that truly grows an idea. #contentchathttps://t.co/9n9TUYAXas

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

A3b I teach people to give #feedback on an #idea using 2 statements: 1) What I like. If someone is brave enough to raise their hand and share, recognize that! There’s always more to acknowledge. 2) What I wish. What’s the idea missing that would make it better? #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

I like thisβ€”it’s a positive, “yes, and…” type approach.#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

I really love this idea! Not only does it promote respect but knowing that you’ll be treated with kindness instead of scrutiny when presenting will encourage more innovative minds! ~Julie #ContentChat

β€” Nimble (@Nimble) March 7, 2022

Yep. And people feel that kindness. It helps them relax and be willing to have courage when sharing ideas. They feel less vulnerable. At the end of the day, #fear is the biggest hurdle to #innovtion. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

Agreed. The ideaβ€”and its feedbackβ€”absolutely need to be separated from the person proposing the idea. This is where external facilitators and blind submission processes can help in organizations that struggle with this. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

The community shares two examples of innovation below.

A3: Shameless self-promo here but the Nimble team is all about innovation! Our company culture is about growth and helping others which I love πŸ™‚ Also, the goal for all our product updates is that we never want to make you have to click a ton to finish a task ~Julie #ContentChat

β€” Nimble (@Nimble) March 7, 2022

A3. I always thought the way the @BarackObama campaign connected with potential voters, used data and website testing, but then also tailored those findings to the user experience was one of the best (and first) ways an organization focused on users. #ContentChat

β€” Patrick Delehanty (@YouGotDelehanty) March 7, 2022

Q4: Are there common qualities of leaders that enable an environment of innovation?

Innovative leaders are often curious, humble, supportive, and willing to fail.

A4 #Leaders that enable #innovation in companies are usually #curious, humble (they know they don’t know everything), supportive, and willing to fail themselves. They are perpetual students of life and have a wide range of interests. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

A4: Creativity, attention to detail, challenge/goal-oriented, and faith in others to help them bring it to life ~Julie #ContentChat

β€” Nimble (@Nimble) March 7, 2022

A4: Daring to be a *little* different. I say “little” because in a business context, if *too* different, it can be considered rogue and though leaders have built reputations on this (Musk) they generally have some awareness behind them before they can be that bold #contentchat

β€” Caroline James (@CAZJAMES) March 7, 2022

Further, innovative leaders are willing to invest in their teams and inspire innovation at all levels (talk about a great retention strategy!).

A4b #Innovative#leaders are willing to invest in people because they believe that innovation is everybody’s business. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

And what you’ve outlined here is also what makes their companies great places to workβ€”which is something #TheGreatResignation has put into sharp focus over the past year. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

A4: The most innovative companies I’ve worked with have leaders who are curious and are always learningβ€”and encourage (including putting company resources towards) both of those traits in their teams.#ContentChat https://t.co/TQyEXxUXw9

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

A4b: I mention the resources b/c I’ve also worked with companies who say these things, then won’t give employees time off or budget for conferences, training, or even books! #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

Innovation is not one person or department’s role. Everyone can and should be encouraged to innovate.

Haha it does make me chuckle when there is one department tasked with ‘innovating’ and then you have a ‘Head of Innovation! #Contentchat pic.twitter.com/CIDeG71npU

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) March 7, 2022

Similarly. the Chief Innovation Officer role tells the rest of the company it is not “their job” to innovate. We send such strong messages with our org structures that are unintended (or subliminal). #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

In reality, most heads of innovation don’t have the bandwidth to take on all the innovation that needs to happen nor do they want to. They focus on product and service line innovation.
90% of innovation happens outside of trad innov groups. #contentchathttps://t.co/04K2QtwZ1B

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

Failure is a common and necessary part of innovation.

A4: I’ve found that leaders who encourage failing forward and constructive criticism are best at allowing ideas to flow.

Also, leaders who will pitch an idea and not FORCE an idea they had to come to fruition just because they came up with it. #ContentChat

β€” Liz | Wildflower Social Media LLC (@wildflowrsocial) March 7, 2022

Leaders that allow to fail and fail fast, but then learn and grow! #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) March 7, 2022

The older I get, the more I realize how important failure is for progress in the long run ~Julie #ContentChat

β€” Nimble (@Nimble) March 7, 2022

I’m going to botch this, but there’s a quote that says something to the effect of β€” it’s not about failing less, it’s about failing faster πŸ˜‚ #ContentChat

β€” Liz | Wildflower Social Media LLC (@wildflowrsocial) March 7, 2022

One of my favorite quotes about failure:

β€œI have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” β€”Thomas A. Edison

Hehe. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

We choose to put the label of “failure” and what that means onto our ideas. But we can choose not to. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

The most innovative leaders accept that they do not know everything. They know their ideas won’t always be the best ones, so they welcome ideas from everyone.

A4. Leaders who are confident and collaborative, who do not think they know everything, who do not see others with ideas as threat but as productive team members. #contentchat #MARK1051

β€” Sheilla Diamse | Social Media Coordinator (@sheilla_diamse) March 7, 2022

Humility is huge. I was surprised to learn that a lot of amazing ideas get turned down because ego gets in the way! It’s sadly very common ~Julie #ContentChat

β€” Nimble (@Nimble) March 7, 2022

Q5: Where can content marketers learn more about ways to enable innovation?

First, be clear about what you need ideas for. Create an objective statement that explains why you need ideas, your constraints, and your goal. Carla shares her three-step formula below.

A5 The best way to learn to enable innovation is to be clear about what you need ideas for. Create an Objective Statement first so you’re specific about why you need ideas, what impact (value) you want to have and what constraints you have. #contentchathttps://t.co/19rLQH9lXl

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

A5b i use this formula..
We need new ideas to…(what are you wanting to accomplish?)
So we can…(what value do you want to deliver?)
With these constraints…(list 2-4, i.e. budget, deadline, industry situation, etc.)#contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

Starting with an objective is critical to everything we do in #contentmarketing. Yet it often gets left out of the innovation conversation. Love your formula, Carla! #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

Speak to your customers to understand their challenges and aspirations.

A5: One thing I’m doing right now is #MarketResearch where I chat on the phone with my ideal client and ask them questions to try and reframe the problem from their perspective to find new solutions. #ContentChat

β€” Liz | Wildflower Social Media LLC (@wildflowrsocial) March 7, 2022

A5: Really get to know your audience and listen to what they have to say because chances are, they have amazing ideas for you! Look at innovators of the past to study their thought process as inspiration ~Julie #ContentChat

β€” Nimble (@Nimble) March 7, 2022

Yes! Your customers are an often untapped source of innovation. that’s why customer advisory boards are so helpful + important. They shouldn’t just be used to validate decisions companies have already made. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

Shruti shares a few questions to ask to enable innovation.

A5. Ask yourself the ‘W/H’ questions, to enable innovation;
πŸ‘‰Why you doing it
πŸ‘‰Why do you need it
πŸ‘‰What will it solve
πŸ‘‰How is it different
πŸ‘‰Will should anyone consume it! #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) March 7, 2022

And Carla’s book is a great resource to learn more.

A5c I also know a great book on this… πŸ˜‰https://t.co/4M5mnDxk34#contentchathttps://t.co/19rLQH9lXl

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

Q6: What questions do you have for Carla or about enabling innovation in your content marketing team?

What inspired Carla to write RE:Think Innovation?

Carla, can you share what inspired you to write the book? #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

I’ve had so many marketers tell me “I’m not creative” or “I’m not an idea person” and I believe in my heart everyone is! I spent 5 years researching highly successful innovators and it turns out they all follow the same process whether they realize it or not. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

How do you deal with a superior who isn’t open to new ideas?

How do you deal with a superior / owner who isn’t open to new ideas? 😊 #ContentChat #MARK1051

β€” Sheilla Diamse | Social Media Coordinator (@sheilla_diamse) March 7, 2022

I am sure Carla has a more productive answer, but I’ve most frequently dealt with it by finding a new job somewhere that values my bringing new ideas to the table. B/C I’m impatient!
;)#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

This is where drawing inspiration from other places helps. You show how it works in other industries, tell how it relates to your own work and because it has already been successful, it feels less risky. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

How can you enable innovation if you don’t have a team to brainstorm with?

What is your best advice for someone who doesn’t currently have a team, but also does not want to think in a vacuum so they can innovate? #ContentChat

β€” Liz | Wildflower Social Media LLC (@wildflowrsocial) March 7, 2022

I break this all down in a 5-step process in my book RE:Think Innovation. #contentchat pic.twitter.com/EonGmrwgHP

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

Purposely seek out experiences that are different from your norm. Music, art, restaurants, what you read, etc. Then dig into what it is that makes it work, such as building community, something unexpected, etc. Then think about how that relates to your own work. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

I listen to a TON of food-related podcasts and I get so many content marketing ideas from them. Tickles a different part of my brain. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 7, 2022

How can you innovate if your schedule is packed?

What if you have everything you need just the lack of time! It’s so hard to innovate in a short amount of time – how can we optimize around it! #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) March 7, 2022

Practice! Thinking like an innovator and coming up with ideas is like any other skill. You have to practice to make it an automatic habit. Olympic athletes get there because they consistently practice. World Cup players get there because they consistently practice. #contentchat

β€” Carla Johnson – Keynote Speaker (@CarlaJohnson) March 7, 2022

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