Innovation @ Turner - Matthew Drooker

This piece originally was shared on our internal site and we thought it was worth sharing with the rest of the world. Enjoy!

"Innovate!" It’s the battle cry of companies trying to find the next. Those companies that hope to find new ideas as if there was an actual faucet they drip from. As if saying the words is all it takes to have them spew forth and be.

It’s not as easy as saying “Wonder Twin Power Activate”. You can’t just BE more innovative. It’s not a faucet you turn on, it’s not a fist bump that brings on special powers of creativity, and really, thinking up the next big thing is just a single act. (By the way, we should give credit where credit is due: it was those crazy Wonder Twins that invented the fist bump way before anyone knew what to call it. If you don't know what I’m talking about, watch some Superfriends.)

So I get it. We can’t just innovate. But for me innovation is something more. Something more special than turning into a bucket of water and having my sister turn into an eagle. I don’t even have a sister. Which is maybe why I’m sharing this with you. 

For me being innovative starts with the single, uncompleted sentence: “Wouldn't it be cool if...” and it goes and grows from there. Where from there could be an afternoon or an entire season of your life. 

A few years ago I had the distinct privilege to manage a team of people that helped me finish that sentence every time. And during that time, with Turner backing us, we created some products that received two patents. We had the freedom to do those TPS reports, but also to think about the next few words after our uncompleted sentence.

Now, sure, I know you are thinking, a patent, BFD, there are 9 million of those. Big whoop. Who gives a crap? And while I did frame the “Certificate of Authenticity” from the patent office, that ain’t no coin from the Franklin Mint. Those patents are something that was on the other end of “Wouldn’t it be cool if...” and they are something that we created together.

The first idea was: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could take photos from a red carpet event, and get them ready to distribute with all metadata automatically attached?”

So my partner in crime, the unstoppable Brian O’Neil, created imMeta. With the help of our business partner, Christopher Grakal, we designed and wrote the system that implemented a workflow companies like Getty Images would kill for. It would add the attribution, copyright and location information to photos automatically - previously a laborious and error potential wasteland of manual entry. That “wouldn’t it be cool if…” became: Method and system for image and metadata management

The other idea was: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have a single URL that based on location, device, time of day or serving rotation, redirected to different URLs?”

Yea, that one is a mouthful. I’m not sure I even know what it means, and I was there. Here’s a “for example”. Take a URL like ‘www.thedetour.com’ and print that, embed that, display that, have it embedded in a RFID tag, distribute it however you want. It’s a single URL. Single print run. Single URL to manage. It is always the same URL. Everywhere. Anytime.

Here’s the cool part. In NYC, it could redirect to a video with “Watch on Time Warner Cable Channel 145”. In LA, it could redirect to a video with “Watch on Comcast Channel 234”. Because other towns, cities, counties have completely different media, and that’s too much to keep up with. Right? Maybe cooler still -- next Monday, it would say “Watch Tomorrow”, and then on Tuesday, it would say “Watch Tonight”. But wait! There’s more! Just for giggles, rotate the media on a schedule to get the best use of our creative. *mind blown*

It’s more than a short code. It’s intelligent based URL resolution. It’s a really good idea, and one that a business could make more money on. And this “wouldn’t it be cool if…” turned into: Method and System for Logic-Based Uniform Resource Locator Resolution

I’ve created some pretty cool stuff since I joined the company 25+ years ago, and I love being able to say that.  I’ve had great coworkers, great bosses and made some great friends here. Turner is a place that lets you be what you can be. And if you are lucky, be what you are supposed to be. But it's up to you to start it. 

Long story not very short, I still start everyday with: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” Start your day with those words; see where it goes. Find a colleague or a team that will help you finish the sentence, or build your colleagues into people who will help you answer that question. Any job or task is better when you have someone by your side that wants to finish your words WITH you.

So. Just go. Riff. Jam. Build. Create. Think of something that would be cool. You may buy a coin from the “Franklin Mint” with a Certificate of Authenticity, but the pride you feel when what you created was deemed a first? Now that’s pretty ______ing cool.

If you want to have someone to bounce ideas off of, invite the guy you shoot it with at the coffee maker to lunch, or email that person you read a cool piece about and invite her to coffee. Ask someone to make an introduction to that person you’re fascinated by. Go to a meet-up. Start a meet-up. Grab your laptop and work out of the cafeteria, strike up conversations.

Or find a Wonder Twin. They always are there to help.