Innovation success rates are extremely low. It’s always been that way and little has improved, obvious examples of success notwithstanding.

Innovation is difficult. Odds are you’ll fail. Flip that script and use these ideas from the guy who wrote the book on innovation and co-founded the first innovation agency.

Estimates of failure rates begin at 80 percent and run as high as 95 percent, Bryan Mattimore told Publio founder Keith Reynolds during this episode of the Publio Podcast. These rates apply to innovation programs for products, services, as well as organizational processes like marketing and content strategy. 

“We’ve totally flipped those numbers,” Mattimore said. “We have success rates upwards of 70 percent.”  


Mattimore wrote the book on innovation. Published in 1994, 99% Inspiration describes the creative process in businesses and led him to co-found the first innovation agency, Growth Engine Company, with Gary Fraser. Mattimore is the company’s,Chief Idea Guy. How’s that for a great title? 

How to do Innovation Better

Collaboration is the path to successful innovation. “We won’t take on a project unless the customer commits to work with us,” Mattimore explained. “We need a clear sense of purpose and mission.”

Purpose and mission are a company’s North Star, which defines what the company does particularly well that helps its clients. A company’s mission comes from senior management, but the work on the company’s values must come from the employees.

Mattimore pointed out two components that help you define your company’s values:

  • The Idea: Poll the employees. All the employees. Thematically organize their responses.
  • The Language: Describe the values – how you talk about them is enormously important.

You’re not done. “Once the values are aligned,” Mattimore said, “we hold creative sessions to figure out how employees can manifest and reflect those values in their daily jobs.”

One of his clients defined seven values that the employee poll identified. Among them: “To be a pioneer.” This served as a North Star. From a content perspective, the marketing team activated this value with lunch and learn sessions, a newsletter devoted to pioneering activities, and shared TEDx Talks and articles they’d written and curated. 

Get Creative When You Innovate!

Often, a client is stuck. Mission and values defined and present in your company’s culture, now is the time to innovate – but how? Different challenges require different techniques, says Mattimore. 

One of his favorites, a joint venture exercise, challenges executives to think about how they can do business differently. Mattimore described how his team used this technique with BNY Mellon. Over a two-day period, he led the firm’s top 200 executives through a simple question: “How would we do business differently if we were in a joint venture with McDonalds?”

The unlikely (and fictional) scenario opened the floodgates of ideas.

“All of a sudden, people are going ‘whoa,’ because it really projects them out of their current models and allows them to think very creatively about how they could reinvent their business,” Mattimore recalled. 

This joint venture exercise uncovered workable ideas for BNY Mellon’s business that would not have become obvious had they not done the fantasy part of the exercise.

Mattimore has dozens of these techniques that empower marketers manifest company values in their work, and help the organization to work differently and innovate better to improve outcomes. 

It’s how you flip your company’s desire for competitive innovation into something that will put your company on the map and become a case study of innovative success.

Innovation Books from Bryan Mattimore

  1. 99% Inspiration describes the creative process in businesses.
  2. Idea Stormers: Techniques that teams can use to get more ideas. 
  3. 21 Days to a Big Idea: A 21-day process for current and aspiring entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs who are looking for a big idea. 
  4. Coming soon – Islands of Invention: How to Create Extraordinary Innovation Centers.

Listen to the Publio Podcast

Jump in on the conversations and some serious real talk with executives and thought leaders on growing your business with digital media. Find us on Spotify, and follow your North Star.

We discuss innovation, marketing, business, events, books, successful must-see strategies, and anything that is positive and refreshing.

If you are responsible for your company’s success, pull up a chair, grab some coffee, tune in and connect with your customer audience.

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