Google famously forces its employees to spend a proportion of their working week on new projects that are not part of their day-to-day job descriptions.
Back in 2005, Eric Schmidt explained more about this process and introduced us to Google's 70/20/10 programme. This is a simple theory which should aid innovation. According to it, everyone should spend:
- 70% of your time on the core business
- 20% on related projects
- 10% on unrelated new business
Does this explain Google's success when it comes to product innovation? Schmidt seems to think so:
"The test that I apply-and we do this every day, 70/20/10-is to ask how a feature will extend the core, the adjacent, or the innovative stuff to fulfill our mission. That's the sort of drug that we all take, and it works really quite well. So it may very well be that what you said is correct, and it may not matter very much."
Innovative fizzy drinks?
In a similar way, when Coca Cola revealed its new 2020 marketing strategy last year, the 70/20/10 rule was front and centre as marketing head Jonathan Mildenhall explains:
"To help guide this strategic intent we have developed an investment strategy for media and content spend. We call the model "the 70/20/10 investment principle"...The first segment relates to 70% of our communications spend. This goes on low risk, "bread and butter" content. It pays the rent... Next, we have the 20% of our content where we innovate based on what we know works well... Last, we have the high risk content that falls into our 10% segment. This involves brand new ideas. These may one day become part of our 20% or even 70% segments. Equally, these ideas may well fail outright."
Now this really starts to get interesting.
Not only does it convey an approach to innovation that is intriguing in itself (e.g. if all you ever do is focus on the bread and butter stuff, then you will never innovate), it also hints at the agile PR approach that I blogged about recently.
As Mildenhall states, if you accept that your 10% might fail then it takes the pressure off and allows you to try new things that are more radical.
The 70/20/10 PR agency
How could this apply to PR agencies (or other agencies or even in-house PR activities)?
If we apply the same approach to PR campaigns then what would that look like? The majority (70%) of activity would be tried and tested tactics that are proven to work. An additional 20% would focus on innovating within the confines of the 70%. But, lastly, you would have the final 10% of a campaign where you try something totally new and are ready to fail.
Innovation is hard, but if you don't put time aside for it, then it will never have a chance.