3 Tactics to Drive Innovative Thinking

Key Takeaways from the La Fleur's Lottery Symposium

As a recent addition to ICF Olson, I am helping shape digital transformation for the California Lottery. I had the privilege of attending La Fleur’s Lottery Symposium in Washington, DC last month, where I heard from a series of fantastic speakers from the industry.

I am new to the company, new to the industry, and new to the client. You bet I absorbed every word like a sponge. 

One thing I’ve learned about the Lottery industry is that habits, routines, and conservative thinking drive decision-making. What struck me at La Fleur’s, though, was the hunger for innovation. The lottery industry wants it, they’re just not used to it. It was an enlightening realization: If we can help clients overcome their “innovation intimidation,” then we’ve won 90% of the battle.

Below are three tactics that help drive innovative thinking in a risk-averse industry.

1. Explore horizontal and vertical expansion.

If you’re in an innovation rut with your client, think multi-dimensionally.

I often set up a grid, with a horizontal access representing new product innovation, and the vertical access representing new formats or activations of a familiar product.

At the Lottery, new scratch game extensions are constantly introduced to keep the games and entertainment fresh. More important, though, entirely new games are coming on the scene (check out Equilottery live horse racing as an example).

Vertically, new formats are augmenting the user experience for familiar products. One particular innovation, for example, turned a scratch ticket into a three-dimensional live animation game when you scanned it with the lottery’s mobile app.

Even something as simple as a structured framework encourages clients to ideate differently.

Key takeaway: Leveraging a multi-dimensional framework helps clients get unstuck from routine ways of thinking and find pockets of innovation.

2. Create an incubator group.

Lotteries tend to be conservative, so it’s often a challenge to get approval on ideas that are too “out there” or don’t index well during research.

It’s okay to acknowledge when innovation is not built into the fabric of a culture. To get around this, establish a special incubator group whose goal is to have laser focus and generate big, bold ideas with little restraint.

By identifying a separate innovation group, you reframe the conversation. You start measuring bold ideas against other bold ideas, rather than against traditional tactics a client is used to.

One of my favorite sessions at the La Fleur’s Symposium was the “half-baked” bake off, where participants presented new ideas, mostly risky ones, in a way that was loose and fluid. This exercise created a quick, ad hoc version of an incubator group that encouraged everyone to stretch their imaginations a little further. It’s a great activity that could be leveraged for any client, lottery or not.

Key takeaway: Acknowledge when innovation is not built into the culture. Create an innovation incubator group to reframe the conversation, and index bold ideas against other bold ideas rather than against a client’s traditional marketing.

3. Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake.

There’s nothing wrong with solid, steady, dependable growth.

In the lottery industry, we do a fair amount of licensing for new scratch properties. One such licensor, Life is Good, was the keynote speaker at the La Fleur’s Symposium.

Life is Good is a bubbly, happy lifestyle brand. A partnership with them opens doors to new venues (like outdoor festivals) and a new demographic (younger shoppers), which brings in incremental customers.

It’s not the most awe-inspiring innovation, but it gets the job done, and proves that sometimes the most effective innovation is finding a fresh new way to do the same exact thing.

Key Takeaway: Innovation is buzz-worthy, but it isn’t the only path to growth. If something works, innovate around it, not instead of it.

As the La Fleur’s Lottery Symposium wrapped up, I was left with a sense of optimism about the innovation I saw, the innovation I know the lottery industry wants, and the arsenal of tactics we marketers have to help drive creative thinking forward.

But the key takeaways listed here aren’t limited to a lottery application. They can be applied to any industry that could benefit from a breath of fresh, innovative air: finance, government, healthcare. You name it, and there’s a way to innovate forward.