Is the BBC Connected Studio programme a good idea?

We were very pleased to be invited back by the BBC to attend the second BBC Connected Studio and Alex had attended the first Connected Studio which had focused on Homepage, Search & Navigation. Thanks to their efforts we progressed onto the subsequent Build Studio where our team brought their concepts to life and we’ve just announced that we’ve progressed again to the pilot stage.

This time around Sari & I took the short walk from the Red Badger workshop to the new Google Campus in the “the heart of East London's Tech City”. It’s so new the new car smell (read: "paint”) hasn’t had time to dissipate. The focus this time around was Weather and Travel.

weather
weather

Rather than re-tread Cain and Sari’s already expertly trodden diary style accounts, I thought I’d try and take another angle on the day and provide an alternate view. Given our experience so far, is the BBC Connected Studio programme a good idea?

Are real ideas created in a day?

I have approximately 43.4 ideas a day, most of them don’t make it past my internal monologue to my mouth. The majority of the rest get shot down when it’s pointed out someone has already done it or actually implementing the idea would be too dangerous and/or against the law.

Coming up with an idea is easy. Proving that it’s a good one is the hard part. More to the point, developing the right skills to prove or disprove an idea is something that takes practice and this format is the perfect training ground.

Many people have spent many millions following through with their idea before proving it. The lean start-up movement is about testing your ideas with your customer cheaply and quickly.  Looking your idea straight in the face and truly asking, is this a good idea or not? And if it’s not, move on. The PoC/Concept Lab/Launch 48/lean start-up (whatever you want to call it) is all about failing fast, failing cheaply. Short cycles of trial and feedback, rather than the traditional secret bunker and big bang approach that’s littered with casualties and lost investment.

Who owns the IP?

The BBC have been pretty open from the start that the initial creative studio is very much an open pitch process. If you progress onto the build and pilot stages, these are covered by a mutual confidentially agreement – but you’re still ultimately working on your idea openly alongside you competitors.

In the first creative studio, there was the option to pre-book a closed pitch session for those who were pitching ideas that contained IP they didn’t want to share. Interestingly at the second creative studio they had decided that all pitches should be open.

On the downside you have to show them yours and risk embarrassment. On the upside they have to show you theirs and you get to checkout the competition in an open and healthy manner. It’s fascinating to see what other ideas people are coming up with, and to see the common themes emerge.

We’ve always been pro open and honest, so the Connected Studio process fits the Red Badger ethos rather nicely.

Aren’t you being taken for a ride?

So two of you spend a day working for free, then a team of you spend 2 days working at cost, then another team works for 6-8 weeks after that. All with the prospect that Auntie could say no thanks at any point. Aren’t you being taken for a ride?

Anyone who’s been involved in a tendering/pitch/sales process of any kind will know; stuff takes a long time.™ They will also know that in the consulting game you’re basically selling your ability to do stuff better than anyone else. If at any point your prospective customer doesn’t believe you can do it, doesn’t like you or finds someone else who can do it better and/or cheaper – you lose.

As I’ve said before when discussing concept labs, the idea is not to do things differently, but to distil best practice and fail fast. In that respect the Connected Studio programme applies the same attitude to the pitch process. If anything, the prospect that you get instant feedback is fantastic. If our idea really isn’t up to scratch, then put us out of our misery so we can move on to fight another day. No problem.

Tell me something else

It’s a fresh approach from a huge organisation. It’s a chance to tell the BBC what you think they should be doing, rather than doing what they ask you to do.

I’ve been involved in a lot of Proof-of-Concept-type projects and whilst they’re nearly always fun and enlightening, the toughest part is to do something positive with the discoveries you make.  The BBC have been quite wise in making a commitment up front to an end goal.

Ultimately the proof will be in the pudding as to whether they follow through on that commitment and whether the results from the programme go on to improve people’s lives. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

@dwynne

David Wynne
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