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Innovating the Boring!

Innovate the boring

The Air NZ in flight safety videos have moved a boring necessity into a famous brand experience.

‘Innovating the boring’ is a term I heard when Gary Bertwistle interviewed Dan Gregory from the Impossible Institute for the Mojo Radio Show. Dan is famous for re-inventions and innovation initiatives for the likes of Coca-Cola, Unilever, and News Corp along with appearances on the Gruen Transfer. 

Gary was probing on where to start to if you want to create a culture of innovation in your business. Dan’s reply was – “innovate the boring.” By this he meant not necessarily investing in grand, new attempts to wow audiences or to go viral. It was about finding systems, processes, products and services that are often ignored – and to start there.

So I believe there is a massive opportunity with your events, to look at some of the basic touch points and experiences that you provide, and just by playing around with what you currently have, you can make your events even more meaningful.

Ultimately all of our resources are limited, so we all need to look for creative solutions. 

Making the essential more exciting

If you look at the potentially boring functional touch points that we need our audiences to go through, we can potentially uplift their experience, by innovating and amplifying some key moments.

Look at the things you ask your audience to do, and take some time to think – what if?

Finding the boring in the world of events

One thing I think we have become very good at in our events is making experiences seamless. And I think it is now time to bring the magic back!

As we know, events offer many highly emotional, exciting moments, but also involve many necessary logistical and administrative aspects for our participants.

We don’t need to compromise, we can still have a high baseline in our levels of service, but we need to take some risks, and create moments of impact. After all, events are by definition something different to everyday life!

Seamless is boring. What are you going to be famous for?

More, with less (or at least the same)

The beauty of this strategy is, you ticking off something that you needed to do anyway, and will require time and investment of your behalf. If it is a touchpoint your audience need to go through, we may as well make it a great experience for them!

How you can innovate the boring?

Innovating the existing experience is something I take people through in my workshops. Once we map out the typical fan participant/attendee journey, we can see where there are moments that matter. If they feel a bit stale, we can make sure they serve a purpose, and have an more emotional connection or meaning.

We constantly focus on a participant’s journey in the design of our programs, storyboarding the experience to make it as personal, engaging and seamless as possible. It’s a great exercise which I use in workshops, and has created some innovative results.

An example…

I remember the first time we did this ‘innovate the boring’ thinking when we created the Nike She Runs campaign, and we were looking at ways to make a more meaningful and personalised experience. We wanted to create a seamless customer experience, and, surprise and delight at the same time. The specific challenge we were focused on was how might we facilitate the movement of thousands of consumers across the site and into their respective starting areas? Across a big park, in the dark.

In what was a ‘mash up’ of an idea, merging the worlds of sport and entertainment, we approached Coldplay and the makers of their famous Xylo bands, to see if we could adopt them for our purposes.


The bands are radio-controlled wristbands that light up when cued by event organisers. We distributed these seemingly innocuous bands to participants race packs, and on race night we activate these at a defined moment to capture attention, creating that all important wow factor. 

The Xylos ability to ignite and flash by a remote cue provided a stand out solution for notifying and grouping runners, but also created a genuine ‘wow’ moment in the show and on the run. They were activated pre race to capture everyones attention en masse, and around the course, giving the runners a spark in their journey.

The result was amazing, with the functional becoming fantastic. 

Fast forwarding to todays world, and I’ve seen plenty of examples of innovating the boring. 

Toni Knowlson from Amazon shared some of their work in the F1, NFL, and MLB at the Sports Tech Conference last week. Great examples of making data interesting! 

Borrowing ideas from the world of entertainment, we know Disney focus on making made the boring better by engaging with customers as they queue.

Innovating some of your basic boring systems behind the scenes will also pay you big dividends on event days.

Cycling champs Team SKY’s famous ‘marginal gains’ approach sees them innovate on basic things that may have a big impact. Like taking riders mattress on Tour!

Team NZ’s innovation behind the scenes won them the Americas Cup. Bringing bikes onto the boat, replacing the traditional source of power, the grinders, with ‘cyclors’, cyclist sailors!Innovation is the productive application of our creativity.We often think we need to think of new, unheard of elements to add to our experiences, and whilst that is often the case, we can also be looking at the foundations, and playing around with the basics.

As we all strive to do better for our audiences and clients, I feel like ‘innovating the boring’ is a pretty strong place to start.

If I can help with that, let’s chat.

Let’s Chat

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