According to Steven Johnson, “Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly. The city and the Web have been such engines of innovation because, for complicated historical reasons, they are both environments that are powerfully suited for the creation, diffusion, and adoption of good ideas.” The internet is the greatest innovation platform of our time in terms of spurring creativity and adoption at an exponential level. The number of discoveries, solutions to problems, newly developed industries, and communication platforms on top of platforms is incalculable. It has connected people globally and has accelerated innovation in a significant way, transforming the way audiences interact with brands, and the way we communicate with each other. Mass-communication through social media drives brand awareness—for better or worse. According to Phil Simon, in his book, The Age of the Platform:
When companies build platforms, they simultaneously create extremely valuable networks. They also reach a bevy of customers, users, vendors, partners, and even employees. They are more likely to lead to “accidental” lines of businesses, sources of revenue, and innovations. Platforms mitigate risk and enable diversification, build and extend brands, and create virtual barriers to entry to real and would-be competitors. Finally, they receive a great deal of creative input from partners eager to cash in themselves.
The web has also brought about a cloud-based revolution in which new companies can operate completely online, with little to no expenses on business operations. End-to-end business processes can be maintained through servers across the globe through unified connectivity. These virtual networks create even more sophisticated platforms of innovation. The power of application programming interfaces, or API’s have the potential to accelerate innovation even more, fostering ingenuity to take place at many levels that can scale very quickly. Twitter is a perfect example of a company that has revolutionized communications. The founders were clever in the strategy. Jack Dorsey wanted to expose Twitter’s API before they developed the platform itself. This allowed them to leverage the insights of thousands of developers before creating a solid business model. Users naturally followed, which opened up countless opportunities, solidifying their status as one of the pinnacle platforms of social media.
These digital platforms don’t just help the process of innovation. They amplify it. Innovation thrives in these environments because of the way ideas are generated on a massive level. Personal innovation and digital innovation tend to occur simultaneously—through networks in our brains, reflected and extended by virtual networks on the web. This dynamic of push and pull, internalization of stimuli and externalization of output—is fundamental to the process of creativity. This is how chaos in the unconscious transforms into order in the conscious mind. But you have to externalize and refine your ideas. This takes work.
Creativity in the Cloud still speaks to the practical aspects of cloud-computing in business and communications: e-mail usage, social networks, data storage, SaaS, and other functions, but as these tools started to evolve, I grew more interested in the new systems, platforms, and networks that have been created through cloud technologies, as well as the process of facilitating new ideas through these platforms. Phil Simon posits that big companies that fail to establish more focused innovation strategies will be left behind by the more nimble platform-based businesses of tomorrow like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon:
Compared to traditional, inwardly focused business models, platforms require new partnerships—and this ultimately breeds innovation. Because of their enormous budgets, ample internal resources, and historically successful track records, many stalwarts arrogantly believe they just don’t need help from anyone. These types of organizations shun new ideas, models, and partnerships—and struggle as a result. Today, these inwardly focused companies just cannot innovate as quickly or as well as great platforms can.
Platforms are not just created through technology. Platforms are created through anything that has the ability to connect people with one another. Platforms, in this regard, can simply mean “shared space.” With so many ways in which individuals and businesses can leverage online portals, media sites, blogs, and platform-as-a-service solutions, these utilities allow them to approach personal or business challenges with more creativity and confidence. As these platforms evolve, it doesn’t take a psychic to figure out that exaptation will create more uses and opportunities to leverage cloud-based platforms. Audience networks all over the world will cluster in more sophisticated ways, forcing marketers to constantly evolve their skills and domain knowledge.
Marketers are now acting more like media companies in order to reach their goals—participating in social communities, blogging, and creating compelling content that adds value to people’s lives. This is due in part to social transformation movements as well as the rise of content marketing. If you want to grow your brand in meaningful ways, you must leverage these new platforms to create revolutionary ideas through the process of curation, cultivation, ideation, integration, and strategic execution. Create a brand matrix that not only helps your organization innovate and improve existing processes, but also helps you gain a deeper understanding of your business goals and the demand you create with your audience. This is an interactive conversation that takes place—this is your brand innovation platform.
Once these ideas come to fruition, how can you deliver results on a consistent basis, transforming your brand into a sophisticated network of brilliant ideas, new opportunities, and valuable products and services? Your brand in the cloud is part process, part audience, and part content—the form in which you choose to execute this brand platform is another story. I explore this in the next chapter. The cloud is everywhere, so you take your audience network and brand with you wherever you go. Continue to elevate your thought leadership content by staying relevant and driving the conversation toward new frontiers and unexplored territories. If you run out of places to explore, focus your energy inward. This journey will take you a lifetime or more.
Think about your brand. Now think about your identity. Both of you exist in fragments throughout the web but are you succinct? Are you aligned? You have a Twitter profile, numerous Facebook pages, a company site, a blog, various landing pages for your products, an e-mail platform, an Amazon account, and dozens of other profiles on the web. What if you had a system in which you could constantly take your ideas wherever you went? Make the right distinction between your company brand and your personal brand. Perhaps they are symbiotic and well integrated, but you must understand the difference. Your personal brand is you—the value, skill set, and experience you bring with you wherever you go. Your followers are part of your brand. Your audience network is your personal network and more. What about your company brand? Are you symbiotic with the company you work for? Does your service affect your company’s reputation? Of course it does.
This is the benefit of cloud-based solutions, as well as software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. They are also called platform-as-a-service solutions. You could also leverage these platforms to amplify your creativity, utilize your network cloud to garner a wealth of feedback from diverse perspectives. And it could potentially make you more productive and more efficient. You will come up with better ideas, the more you leverage your network. This is also the power in crowd-sourcing.
You have to develop new models of innovation for your personal brand and for your company. Constantly explore new models of achievement. If you build it with passion and knowledge that strengthens your vision, this platform will provide you with a constant stream of inspiration within your stream of consciousness. Learn to gauge your flow of energy. Every action is a reaction. In Steven Rosembaum’s book, Curation Nation, he explores how content on the web needs to be curated through various lenses because of the fact that there is so much useless content out there. In the next chapter, I focus on BrandCognition, in which I show you exactly how to make your brand remarkable and by strategically curating content that is meaningful for your brand in a way that drives even more innovation and creativity.