Today, we’re beyond excited to announce the launch of Corporate Punk. We’ve been working on this for months with a range of friends, family, colleagues both new and old, creatives, partners and clients. It feels great to be able to break cover.

For this first post, we wanted to describe what we’re trying to do here – and why. And it feels only right to launch our manifesto with a quote from someone who knows a thing or two about punk.

“A guy walks up to you and asks ‘what’s punk?’
So you kick over the nearest bin and say ‘that’s punk’.
He kicks over another bin and says ‘that’s punk?’
And you say ‘no, that’s a trend’.”

Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day

This is the right place to start. Businesses that need reinvention often kid themselves that they’re ahead of the game. Actually, they’re just kicking over another bin. Or holding workshops about ‘bin-kicking behaviour’.

They bear all the hallmarks of the establishment. They’re complacent, bureaucratic and plodding. They’re out of tune with their customers, and out of step with their markets. They do what they’ve always done. They’re followers, not leaders.

What happens to these businesses over the long-term? An almost total lack of effective innovation often leads to depressed share prices, disengaged workforces, and the real possibility of disruption.

Chances are, you’ll know a business like this. You may be working for one. Or you may be worried that your business is on the fast track to becoming one.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Businesses don’t deliberately set out to forget the challenging spirit that made them great in the first place. Most don’t lack talented people, insights or good ideas. But with growth, complex structures, processes and politics can change organisational culture and make even incremental innovation all but impossible.

Inertia is often grounded in marketing – the business-wide process of anticipating, identifying and satisfying consumer needs profitably. Innovation in marketing is what helps many great organisations get ahead and stay ahead. In the digital age, it’s more important than ever.

But where can senior marketers who are struggling with inertia turn for help?

  • Management consultants are trained to gut businesses for efficiency, not build for innovation
  • Ad agencies are locked into a fundamentally broken outsourced service model that adds little value
  • Brand consultancies tend to change the wallpaper, not rebuild the foundations
  • Innovation consultancies often provide product solutions, not wide-ranging business change
  • Executive coaching only concerns itself with those at the top, and takes time to bear fruit
  • Most training doesn’t address the root causes of inertia, and is easily forgotten once the day’s over

Look at traditional sources of innovation support and it becomes clear: there is no guru, no method, no teacher.

So what’s the answer?

We believe four things.

  1. Innovation is fundamentally about how people act. Behaviour is a real and tangible thing: it can be described, measured and modified.
  2. When helping businesses to become better innovators, you can’t bypass the question of organisational behaviour. Innovating outside the firewall can feel great in the short term, but it doesn’t lead to sustainable change. The host will usually reject the donor organ.
  3. Changing behaviour to enable innovation requires a holistic approach to management. It’s a question of context creation. The answer isn’t to be found in workshops. It’s about embracing a new form of organisational design and process development that addresses fundamental issues of politics, structure, operations and culture.
  4. Managing this process of change often requires an organisation to seek a wholly new type of consulting, coaching and mentoring to what’s currently available in the marketplace.

The business we’re launching today here in London has been created to help other businesses innovate, and deal with the challenges that a return to innovation can often create. Our unique approach combines strategic planning, structural and systemic development, and people and culture change initiatives. Together, they help to transform how marketers work and what they deliver. Our methods have been developed through years of partnering with businesses all around the world. They’re fundamentally different to what the rest of the supply chain offers. They work.

We’re calling ourselves Corporate Punk. That’s because we want to work with businesses who think there’s more to innovating than just kicking over the same bins as everyone else. Most people go to work hoping to do something at least a tiny bit radical each day. We believe that every business has the potential to be radical in its own way.

In the end, punk is an attitude, accessible to anyone regardless of maturity, specialism or legacy. In 1991, the alternative rock group R.E.M. released a relatively sombre, mostly acoustic record called Automatic for the People (it sold a few copies – you might know it). Michael Stipe, the band’s lead singer, was roundly derided in the press for calling the record ‘punk rock’ when, of course, it sounded like nothing of the sort. As he later qualified, Automatic… was punk because of the ‘spirit in which it was made’. He was right.

So here we are, then: Corporate Punk. And we’re excited to see where we can take it.

Learn more about us here.

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