By Laurie Ingram posted on June 27, 2016 in Innovation, Recent
With Cannes now upon us, there’s been much discussion around the creative festival’s innovation categories and the creation of ideas with the power to change the world. As we continue to seek out game changing opportunities for clients I’m somewhat curious to take my cues from those who’ve managed to turn their ideas into reality, free from the confines of agency powerpoint decks, brainstorming sessions… or award deadlines.
To fully appreciate the level of smarts we can be aiming for, I’ve long accepted that we here in adland are obviously not the sole agents of innovation and world change; lest we all become like the Prius owners of San Francisco from South Park! At the same time, it’s empowering that we as an industry strive to create work that has a lasting influence on the world. With this in mind, I’ve hand picked a selection of brilliant young minds whose ideas have kept me up at night, wishing I’d thought of that…
Meet Taj Pabari, the 2014 winner of The Australian Young Innovator of the Year award. This teenage genius from Brisbane who’s still completing his final year of high school, made his entrepreneurial debut at the teeny age of eleven when he founded his first business, an electronic blogging site for children, by children. Over 300 articles later, his site was sold and is an inspiration behind his next adventure.
In late 2014 Taj launched Fiftysix Creations, a built-it-yourself coding kit for kids. The company aims to ignite the creative spark in all children by allowing them to build and customise their very own tablet, along the way learning what makes it tick. A quick visit to his site sums up his attitude towards innovation with a quote from an unlikely hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that reads: “Break the rules, not the law. It is impossible to be original if you are too well behaved. Think outside the box and break some of the rules”.
My next spur of inspiration comes in the form of another brilliant young Aussie, Dr Jordon Nguyen. A biomechanical engineer, his mission in life is to be a driving force behind positive human and technological evolution. He was the subject of an ABC Catalyst double episode ‘Becoming Superhuman’ that examined how he built a technological bridge for Riley Saban, an amazing teenage boy with cerebral palsy, so he could control objects around him using technology.
Drawing on his own experience of having almost broken his neck, Dr Jordon developed a mind-controlled smart wheelchair for people with high-level physical disability. This wheelchair uses cameras to view its environment and provides autonomous navigation assistance to the operator whilst they control it purely by thought. He has also applied this kind of thinking through founding Psykinetic, a social business that creates inclusive technologies to improve quality of life for people living with a disability.
While it’s clear both these innovators have a deep understanding of and background in technology, we don’t all have to be futurists or technologists to come up with inventive solutions that create change for good. The final example I leave you with comes from the minds of two 20-year-old mates who recognised a widespread social problem and came up with a simple but effective solution.
Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett launched Orange Sky Laundry, the world’s first free mobile laundry service for the homeless. A crazy idea they shared back in 2014 saw the boys put two washing machines and two dryers inside a van, driving it around to do homeless peoples’ washing for free. The idea sparked a catalyst for conversation and in the one-hour’s time it takes to wash and dry someone’s clothes was borne a genuine conversation between everyday volunteers and friends on the street.
Orange Sky Laundry received ground swell support in its hometown starting in the streets of Brisbane, and has now grown to nine services across Australia and over 5.8 tonnes of clean laundry per week for those who need it most. It also generates over 1,200 hours of positive and genuine weekly conversations between the public and the country’s homeless community doing it tough on the streets.
Even though I appreciate we’re all restricted by our client list, I still believe in the power of creating ideas that create conversations that create change. To do this, we need to go out on a limb and trust the relationships we’ve built with savvy marketers interested in investing in ideas that test the boundaries or, as Schwarzenegger puts it, break the rules. By starting these conversations, we are allowing ourselves to be the agents of change we want to see.
There are some truly revolutionary ideas being developed by individuals in isolation everyday; thus moving the race for innovation outside agency walls. And some of those creating these ideas are becoming younger, like Anvitha Vijay, the youngest developer to win a scholarship to the recent Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference. She’s nine and already developing her second app GoalsHi, designed to help kids have more confidence in the classroom. At nine I think I was trying to work out how I could become the sixth Tracy son in the Thunderbirds.
So, as we grapple to decide whom best to partner with, determining those who are most capable of closing the divide between comms and tech, we are admitting the greatest improvements are usually borne from those who dare to think differently. Let’s continue to cheer on the next Clever Buoys and Gals of advertising who continue to test the limits of agency thinking and award show category definitions, ultimately pioneering new ones as we go.