What multi-million dollar corporations can learn from video game controllers

December 12, 2012

Landor staff
A coworker recently sent a simple question that made my heart race and my eyes grow large: “How would you define innovation?”

As a tech geek and all-around brand nerd, there are few questions that make me more excited than this one. And instead of tackling the answer in terms of traditional brands or products, I prefer the lens of the wonderful world of video games.

Why video games you ask? Consider this: the video gaming industry is facing the most competitive and defining period it’s ever faced. Fifteen years ago, the question was “should our system support a cartridge or a disk?” Ten years ago, it was “should our system connect to the internet?” Over the past five years, the question has become “should we have a system?” Remember when Microsoft blew our minds by making you the controller? That’s what I consider innovation.

These hardware changes are in direct response to the fracturing definition of a “gamer.” As publishers increasingly reach out to casual gamers through smartphones, tablets, and cloud-based systems, the Baby Boomer Words with Friends addict is just as loyal and engaged with their gaming community as their Call of Duty: Modern Warfare colleagues.

This quickly morphing demographic has changed the methods and speeds at which their products are consumed. It’s changed the way publishers create new titles, the make-up of their work force, and how they encourage development of the best ideas. Companies like Electronic Arts, who will probably keep pumping out Madden and FIFA titles until 2050, have been put on notice by the increasingly nimble likes of Zynga and PopCap Games.

Innovation in the tech space has always been an imperative. In their realm, if you’re not thinking about innovating, you’re already obsolete. However, most companies in other industries have the exact same responsibility to innovate, but don’t recognize the necessity since it doesn’t look the same. They create departments and leaders to “run innovation,” but don’t invest in systems, processes, and people that help reward and encourage innovative ideas to rise to the top.

While the large impact of small decisions is noteworthy and exciting, constant company-wide innovation requires more than than a few good meetings in the C-suite. Moving toward an innovation-friendly environment requires investing real capital into unexpected aspects of a company’s infrastructure.

Everyone marvels at Google’s offices, but the concept is paradoxically simple and revolutionary: meet all employee needs first. Likewise with the Zappos, Twitters, and Facebooks of the world. After all, the less time spent figuring out where to go to lunch, the more time can be devoted to figuring out a better way to structure Gmail’s user interface.

My point is not that an awesome office space can breed innovation. It’s the domino effect caused by companies adapting to meet the needs of a delocalized workforce by reimagining what an office space should offer. These companies saw an innovation opportunity in spending the money on slides and full time DJs, which impacted their bottom line. The tangible gains that came from the resulting well-polished brand halo internally (attracting top-tier talent) and externally (constant innovation in the tech space) were huge.

And this brings us back to the original question: How would you define innovation?

The relentless desire to encourage the best for your customers and your company. And making a kick-ass video game every once in a while.


Image courtesy of ze_bear (flickr); permission being requested.

Category: Innovation & new concepts
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