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Lessons on innovation in AV

Chuan: ‘When you generate trends, talent is attracted’

The AV industry is highly innovative compared to other industries, but has a tendency to “confuse innovation with novelty” that in turn means significant resources can often be squandered on short-term competitive gains.

This was one of three key findings of a survey conducted by InnoQuotient CEO Fran Chuan among ISE 2023 visitors and exhibitors in the lead-up to the show. 

The aim of the survey was to find out more about the innovative culture of AV organisations by measuring the maturity of development of their innovation journey. According to Chuan, who presented the results during his keynote on Thursday, rival AV companies compete to “have the bigger screen”, for example. “But is that innovation? Is that what the market needs?” he asked. 

Chuan has been asking executives what innovation is for 20 years, “in several hundreds of situations”.

“Innovation is a concept that we use easily. But we are not thinking and behaving in the same way. We are not understanding what innovation is in the same way”

Organisations need to ask: ‘what is innovation for us?’, he said.

Continuous improvement is innovation if it is focused on one topic. A lot of small steps make a big change, he added.

A second key insight is that the AV sector has “incredible talent”, but does not utilise this talent in an optimal way. Chuan suggested that there is too much focus on generating news and less on getting things done. “When they detect opportunities, they don’t jump into the field to solve this issue,” he said.

The third finding is that the industry does not “systematise innovation. There is no clear definition of what innovation is,” said Chuan. While the industry is incredibly good at generating ideas, there is a bottleneck when converting these ideas into opportunities.

Chuan, of course, has some suggestions as to how the AV sector can improve its approach to innovation.

“My recommendation is to create a lingua franca,” he said, in order to establish some common understandings at organisations and across the industry. He noted that it is important to define strengths and weaknesses “to develop a real culture of innovation” and drive greater efficiency. 

“When you are more efficient, what you create is trends, and when you generate trends, talent is attracted by this area. Then suddenly, you have more and more talent generating more and more trends in an efficient way,” Chuan said. 

Other recommendations are to build cross-departmental teams as opposed to working in silos or in a vertical way. “If you are in marketing, and I am in programming, it’s no problem, because we have a common language,” Chuan said.

He pointed to one “nice discovery” about the AV industry: “Age doesn’t play a role” when it comes to innovation, certainly once people have moved beyond their 20s. 

Furthermore, Chuan found that regions with fewer resources, such as Africa and Asia, tend to be more innovative than richer parts of the world, with this “scarcity” stimulating innovation. 

Chuan said more than 1,000 ISE attendees took part in the survey. “The participation was good enough to have 95% confidence and 2.95 margin of error. The conclusions we have are very accurate,” he said.