INBOX INSIGHTS, July 19, 2023: Innovation Prerequisites, Twitter vs Threads

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What We Get Wrong About Innovation

“Never have a good conversation behind closed doors.”

Last week, someone on LinkedIn quoted me as posting, “Never have a good conversation behind closed doors.” This post is now 7 years old, but the comment stuck with her. You can read her full post here.

If I got back in time to where I was 7 years ago, my guess is that felt frustrated by the leadership team. They would have closed door meetings to try and solve problems that they were out of touch with. Come to think of it, this is a very common issue at a lot of companies. Good ideas can only come from the top, right?

I used to work at a company that was very strict on hierarchies and would often tell me that certain conversations were, “above my pay grade”. While certain conversations were, indeed, above my pay grade, solving customer issues was not. This same company would then hand down half baked solutions with no supporting data and ask my team to execute on it with no further conversation. Forget the fact that my team and I were closest to the customer, but the leadership team didn’t want our input. Needless to say, the solutions often flopped and leadership would be furious about the time and money that was being wasted. Then the cycle would start all over again.

This is why I said what I said. Everyone, and I mean everyone, at any given company has thoughts, feedback, and ideas. Some of the ideas need more exploration, some of the ideas might not see the light of day, and some of the ideas are exactly what’s needed.

What we’re really talking about is getting to true innovation. Innovation is taking a product, a service, or an idea, and breathing new and refreshed life into it. It’s putting a new spin on an old thing. And this is where my statement comes into play. If leadership is so confident that only the executive team has innovative ideas, they are already failing.

There are a few different pieces needed to have true innovation in a company. Innovation needs collaboration, communication, cooperation, participation, and ideation.

Please don’t groan at me for rhyming. I thought it was pretty clever.

Ok, back to the point…

Before you can get to innovation, you need more than only you. You need collaboration. To get to collaboration, you need communication. To get to communication you need cooperation. To get to cooperation you need participation. To get to participation you need ideation.

Here’s how it works. Someone in your company, regardless of role, has an idea that they want to explore. They start talking to their team and their manager. The team and the manager agree to participate in this ideation. The manager takes the idea to leadership and they also agree to participate in this ideation. Now we’re cooperating as a company. With this cooperation, we see that the original idea is being communicated around and different people from around the company are collaborating. This has now gone from one single person’s thought into true ideation with the goal of collaborating on an innovative solution.

That’s overcomplicated, isn’t it? But I really, really liked my rhyming.

The point is that you should never have a good conversation behind closed doors. Why? Because you can’t truly innovate alone. You need the voices and input of others to make your idea the best it can be. Shake off the constraints of a corporate hierarchy. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of the source.

To that, it’s not enough to take the ideas from across the company. You need to let people participate and collaborate in the communication. You need to cooperate with the staff and dig into the conversations.

If you’re part of a leadership team that doesn’t take input from the rest of the company and only has “good” conversations behind closed doors, I challenge you to change that. Not all at one, change takes time. But maybe once a quarter you bring in your directors or managers to have a more collaborative conversation about what’s going on. Maybe once a quarter bring in your customer support team to hear directly from them what customers are saying. But don’t think that for one second you can innovate in a vacuum.

Are you gathering ideas from across your company? Reply to this email to tell me about it, or come join the conversation in our Free Slack Group, Analytics for Marketers.

– Katie Robbert, CEO

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Data Diaries: Interesting Data We Found
In this week’s Data Diaries, let’s take a look at whether Threads has had any material impact thus far on Twitter. Threads was clearly intended to be a competitive service for Twitter. Now that it’s been almost two weeks since its launch, has it had an appreciable impact on Twitter? Let’s find out.

First, there’s no way to know in real-time just how much impact Threads has had globally on Twitter; we can only make that assessment from the accounts we have control over. Because of this, your mileage will vary; some Twitter audiences are firmly loyal to Twitter, while other audiences will want to participate elsewhere for any number of reasons.

So, how would you go about determining Threads’ impact? Essentially, you’d conduct a retroactive A/B test, where you export your Twitter data for the past few months and use a statistical technique called propensity score matching to find tweets with similar performance (to rule out co-variates), with the differences being what’s happened.

You can do this in a programming language like Python with its Causal Inference library or in R with the MatchIt library. The way these software packages work is that they look at the treatment period – the period you want to measure – compared to other similar periods of time, based on variables you provide. This allows you to control for things like other activities, other promotions, other interfering data that could otherwise contribute to an anomalous test result. That’s what makes it a retroactive A/B test and better than simpler tests like taking the average of the post-Threads period versus the pre-Threads period, or using a t-test.

So let’s take a look at three different Twitter accounts to see how they’ve fared since the launch of threads. First, we’ll look at the Trust Insights account:

Trust Insights Twitter
What we see is… unexpected. Instead of a decline, we see pretty significant gains across almost all metrics. Okay, that’s unexpected, but that’s a sample of 1. Let’s move onto my personal Twitter account:

CSP Twitter
As with the Trust Insights account, we see an increase in many metrics for Twitter. All right, let’s move onto the third account:

Warrior Nun Substack
This is a significant change; in this account, since the launch of Threads, almost every metric is down substantially compared to the previous period.

So what gives? Why does this look so strange? Every audience is different. Every audience participates on social networks for their own reasons, to be parts of communities that serve their needs. In the case of Trust Insights and my personal Twitter account, these are established audiences that have, in many cases, built up long-time followings of people who have been on Twitter for years. They may have some inertia – certainly, many have tried Threads, but they may still stick with the network they know, especially if they’ve built up a following. Some may even be doubling down on their Twitter activity.

Conversely, the Warrior Nun Substack Twitter account is very new, established in January of this year. Its audience is also far less loyal to Twitter; often, you’ll note in people’s bios sayings to the effect of “I’m only here to save Warrior Nun”; they have no great loyalty to the platform itself. As a result, other options may be more appealing.

The key takeaway here is not to look at any one result, but to run the same tests yourself, on your own data. Your audience might be more engaged or less engaged, and your results likely will differ from even industry peers. Check your own data, then set your strategy appropriately.

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