Interactive Innovation in Highly Regulated Industries – MIMA 01/2013

One of the enduring perks from Metro State is my MIMA membership (which makes up part of my NY’s resolution…go to more MIMA events!), and while I don’t necessarily work in interactive marketing, I always learn things that are applicable in some way to my job.

Today’s session–“Interactive Innovation in Highly Regulated Industries”–was a great glimpse into how large corporations that most (or at least I) wouldn’t have thought were *innovative* in an interactive media sense of the word. The panelists included:

  • Kelli (@northstar), Collaboration-Strategist VP from Wells Fargo
  • Marti (@martone), Director of Innovation and Strategy from United Healthcare
  • Ward (@wtomgin), Principal Digital Marketing Strategist from Medtronic
  • Missy (@marketingmama), Brand Manager from Allina Health as moderator

While the entire conversation was interesting and engaging, there were a few key takeaways for me. My industry (education) isn’t as tightly regulated as other industries, but as a technically-government entity, there are definitely lessons to learn in how to conduct ourselves.

Kelli was an especially vocal proponent of strategy, saying at one point that innovation and social media can’t live on their own–they need to be built into a strategy–especially as a component of innovation, which should also mean longevity. Her words of advice also called for collaboration between departments, especially with compliance/regulatory, so that communication can move freely.

Marti, as the only panel member with innovation in his title, delivered a smidge of cynicism in his delivery style, questioning purported *innovation* as the term as moved into buzzword/business speak. He mentioned that it’s important to ask the context in which someone works in innovation, saying that it’s about “…fresh new thinking that creates new value,” something which I especially love. It’s not a million-dollar lab that generates innovation, it’s thought and confluence and workspace. Marti gave 3 pieces of advice:

  1. Know the guardrails–what’s possible and what’s not.
  2. Know that regulators exist not to make life difficult, they want to protect you, the company, and your clients (especially applicable in healthcare).
  3. Know where regulations are silent if you want to expand into uncharted territory and create new value (that phrase again).

Ward technically supports web strategists, but is a self-described ‘inbound marketer who saves lives’ (albeit tongue-in-cheek). In a piggyback comment to Marti’s comments about people with innovation in their title or even just the idea of innovation, he noted that it’s not enough or even effective to ‘appoint’ certain people as ‘innovators;’ you want to raise the sea level across the board in the area and make it a pillar. “Innovation should be fun,” Ward emphasized. “You shouldn’t need permission to be innovative, the idea is to just arrive at an innovative office.”

Working in the public sector and in higher education, innovation isn’t a word that gets bandied about. Most of my coworkers are overloaded with constant maintenance of current systems and it’s hard to look ahead and think about a more strategic approach. It’s like when you’re drowning and think that in the future, you’ll take swim lessons. The panelists had it right when they talked about innovation as a culture, something that needs to be a part of the fabric of an organization, and while I don’t think that culture shift is impossible for my workplace, it’s down the road.

I DO think my position can help start those conversations and move into that direction, however. By helping to streamline and improve lines of communication and also build bridges via training, the groundwork can be laid for the confluence that needs to happen between departments.

So with these thoughts in mind, I’m excited to attend next month’s presentation on the Future of Blogging!

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