"BBC iPlayer presents a huge creative opportunity to push the boundaries of storytelling" (by making more telly) http://t.co/a5ecAEKGHp— Kim Plowright (@mildlydiverting) January 24, 2015
Another thing to think about re innovation and large organisations is 'the organising principle'.
For instance, we like to say that Digital Transformation for government means the organising principle shifting from government needs to user needs. We don't always manage it but that's what we're aiming at.
But, it's important to recognise how easy it is for large organisations to succumb to 'principle drift'.
The BBC charter, for instance, says this:
The Public Purposes of the BBC are as follows—
sustaining citizenship and civil society;
promoting education and learning;
stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK;
in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services and, in addition, taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.
And there's this bit.
How the BBC promotes its Public Purposes: the BBC’s mission to inform, educate and entertain:
The BBC’s main activities should be the promotion of its Public Purposes through the provision of output which consists of information, education and entertainment, supplied by means of—
television, radio and online services;
similar or related services which make output generally available and which may be in forms or by means of technologies which either have not previously been used by the BBC or which have yet to be developed.
But, looking at what the BBC actually does and talks about, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it says:
Make telly. Sometimes, put it on the internet.
That's completely understandable. If you've got an organisation that's good at telly, that likes making telly, where all the senior people got to be senior people because of making telly then that's likely to happen.
The BBC was most interestingly digital, for instance, when putting telly on the internet was incredibly hard. When it wasn't really an option. That's when they did all kinds of interesting and useful work and experiments.
But then, when they built the iPlayer, and worked out how to put telly on the internet all their 'innovations in digital story-telling' seemed to shrink back into the shape and size of a media player.
W+K had a similar breakthrough with Old Spice. They finally 'solved' brand advertising on the internet by making it into short films.
If you really work at it, you can always make the internet fit the business model you understand.
I'm not saying this to carp. (Except a bit.) I'm saying this because the biggest challenge in Digital Transformation is not in the initial refocusing on a new organising principle, it's in resisting the steady drift back to the old one.
Or, worse, to something that looks like the new one but is, in fact, the old one.
The BBC did strong, important refocusing work in putting 'online services' right up there in their charter alongside 'television and radio' - with equal weight and status. The inevitable drift back towards telly has turned online services into 'telly on the internet'.*
In our case, for instance, it would be letting GOV.UK and various services drift back to resolving government needs first, while still dressed in the design and rhetoric of user needs. I bet that's happening somewhere.
That's the real challenge of this stuff. Not in innovation, but in sticking to the right course.
*And, actually, I'd argue, there's a real danger they'll turn radio into telly on the internet too.