Proactively Reactive: a new kind of innovation mindset

Agent of change or adaptor to change?  Proactive or reactive? The business world tends to like rhetoric based around these binary labels. It’s the idea of leaders and laggards: market challengers innovate, market leaders perfect, market followers optimize, and market nichers refine. Everybody is given their specific title to summarize their business position, and everybody is happy as a result, right?

Well, no.

Whilst humans have a tendency towards simplification, the fact is, life tends to be more nuanced and complex than that. Many businesses – many good businesses – recognize the benefit of a hybrid approach.

But how does a company go about combining a market leading approach with one that can also take stock of a situation and adapt accordingly? Delivering vision and flexibility? Creating change whilst also being able to react to it?

The answer is: proactive reactivity. 

Proactive Reactivity: what is it?

A proactive approach in technology often means the development of an entirely novel capability; bringing technologies to the market that consumers and users had no idea they needed, but can’t live without once they’ve discovered.

Conversely, a reactive approach often means analysing how the market is currently using products – often by directly consulting with them and asking about their needs – and then adapting existing capabilities accordingly. 

Therefore, ‘proactive reactivity’ combines these two elements. It isn’t just about engineering, or even re-engineering, but often about rethinking at the business and strategy level. It isn’t always about making new things, it can be about looking at or using things in new ways. 

It still involves anticipating and staying ahead of customer needs (the proactive part), but through a process of analyzing their future needs, the market conditions and the untapped potential latent in existing products, rather than engaging in revolutionary (and often blind) transformation for the sake of it.

Practiced correctly, it’s a much more subtle approach that has the potential to bring much greater, more considered benefit to the customer, with much less risk and investment on the part of the company. It’s a case of working smart with the tools you have – adopting an analytical innovation mindset, rather than one based on unfettered creativity and bravado.

Applying a ‘Proactive Reactivity’ in Media Asset Management

We’re probably all tired of hearing about ‘the unprecedented events’ of the last two years, but there can be no denying that they’ve created a paradigm change in the way things are done – not just within the broadcast industry, but across a range of businesses. And for those that practice proactive reactivity this provides a real source of opportunity.

In the field of Media Asset Management, there are three key changes occurring that are worthy of some investigation.

Firstly, some companies are in-housing their media production, even if they had no media-based skills previously. This means that they suddenly have a huge number of assets – both pre-production clips and finished post-production outputs – and need a place to store, catalog, sort and access their material in a way that goes beyond the basics of traditional file management (which quickly becomes unwieldy and convoluted) –allowing for effective and automated categorization to maximise efficiency.

Secondly, some companies are outsourcing their communications media to external production companies, meaning that those production companies need a way to ingest, standardize and manage initial materials from many clients, as well as a way to allow easy-but-secure third party client access to finished products.

Thirdly, with a general trend of upwards media consumption, content producers who once handed over their assets to content aggregators (and thus handed over a huge proportion of their value) are now seeing that they can keep all of that value internally by providing a dedicated distribution platform. This means that they need a way to apply complex metadata to their assets in order to facilitate subscriptions, distribution rights, customer personalisation, search optimisation, as well as to incorporate marketing and advertising activities and gain greater insight and feedback from usage metrics.

With these cross-industry changes occurring, how can proactive reactivity be implemented to meet the (both conscious and not-yet-recognised) needs of these markets? It’s this question that VSN have been aiming to address.

Proactive Reactivity in practice 

Whilst VSN are no stranger to revolutionary innovation (take for instance the integration of AI tools for metadata detection), a huge part of using a ‘proactive reactivity’ mindset involves working to widen the usability and potential of the core of the existing product range. It’s a process of continuous development – working to both refine and expand, tinkering, tweaking and looking at the product from a number of different angles, making things both more simple whilst extending their potential with every iteration. 

It’s this kind of thinking which has led to the seamless integration of VSN’s full suite of products to create a joined-up, end-to-end media management system, from asset storage to scheduling to the management of advertising. And it’s this kind of thinking too that has resulted in VSN’s ongoing development of APIs in order to create seamless integration with customer workflows. It’s a process of ongoing evolution.

But where VSN has most heavily applied its proactive reactivity is in contemplating the three points above relating to changes in who is using media, and how. There is suddenly a significant extension to the markets that can benefit from effective, intuitive and efficient media asset management. As such, VSN’s current goal is to ‘democratize’ its very powerful MAM tool, making it accessible and usable to as many people as possible – even those outside of the traditional broadcast market.

This doesn’t mean taking a one-size-all approach – it’s not an attempt to squish users into the traditional broadcast user box, but instead squeeze the benefit of the product so that its benefits flow over into other fields. And as with all forms of proactive reactivity, it requires key underpinning skills; the ability to truly listen to the needs of clients, analytical strength, creative thinking, exceptional technological know-how, and a deep understanding of business strategy. 

The net result has been an uptake of the VSNExplorer MAM by a whole host of ‘non standard’ users; production and post-production companies, commercial entities with huge internal media resources, marketing firms, state and governmental organisations, social media platforms, content hubs and distributors, VoD providers – essentially anyone who wants to take a large and unwieldy media library and create order and efficiency in order to leverage maximum value from the assets within.

Necessity is the mother of all invention

Proactive reactivity isn’t just a process applied to the field of product development. It’s also a process that should be applied internally; looking inwards to see how innovation can shape the core of one’s own business.

And again, the events of the last two years have called for this more than ever. The loss of trade shows has been profound; events such as IBC and NAB were significant not merely in the case of securing immediate deals and sales, but more generally in growing reputation, awareness and relationships.

And it’s been positive to see just how many companies have been ready to make the changes needed in this field – with many companies quickly looking for ways to replicate at least some of their in-person communications with a more virtual approach. But some companies were certainly more reactive than proactive in their efforts, which unfortunately resulted in a saturation of tedious webinars with straight-to-webcam low quality production values, when what was really needed was something that captured the dynamic nature of in-person interactions. Content that is varied and dynamic, packed with relevant information and professionally presented.

It’s with this thinking that VSN created their virtual keynote VSNWired Spotlight, that you can enjoy again here on the company’s VoD platform, VSNPlay. Those two are good examples of solutions designed not only to keep customers informed of VSN’s development, but to act as a hub for a wide array of stakeholders, covering developments within the industry as a whole. As with so many of the innovations that arise from a proactive reactivity mindset, it’s something familiar but entirely different.

Go your own way

In English there’s an expression: there’s more than one way to skin a cat (though perhaps ‘there’s more than one way to peel an apple’ is a little less graphic). Every business will have their own strategy for remaining competitive in the market. For VSN, an approach of proactive reactivity has been key to the ability to develop products that are responsive to existing consumer needs.

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