Me? An Innovation Expert? Who’d have thought!

9 04 2010

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. Andy Warhol

It can be fascinating to look back at where you have come from. To sit and reflect upon what you are doing now, and the experiences that have brought you to where you are. Whilst we are busy focussing on the trivial, and sometimes not so trivial matters of the day to day, we tend to lose sight on how where we are going is because of where we have been.

A little profound in the thinking, perhaps, but it is 2 o’clock in the morning. I’m sitting outside, in the cold, with a beanie and a big jumper typing away because of where my thoughts have been over the last couple of weeks.

I was recently introduced by as “an innovation expert”. I’ve been recently suggested as a guy to speak to about innovation. I wonder is this because of where I am, or because of where I have been?

I completed a Graduate Diploma in “Innovation and Service Management”, and throughout the program I often wondered “where is the innovation?” It was there all along. One of the strengths I found throughout this study of “Innovation” was that it comes from doing things differently. From looking at business as a system, and not as a group of individuals. I can look back also at my career and see the moments when I was more interested in doing something differently, rather than doing the same old ‘tried and tested’ things – and at times I was less concerned about what others thought of my approach, as I could clearly ‘see’ what needed to be done (and thankfully those who disagreed were begrudgingly happy with the outcomes).

When I was asked to brief a group of soon-to-be business owners on my business ‘vision’, I started with “Involve, Inspire, Innovate”. I thought it was a pretty catchy tag line, as did the group. Nice bit of validation. And so thus began a journey perhaps not what I intended, but where I seem to be heading at this point in time. When attending a networking event, when asked ‘What does People Motion Do?” I happily sprout that “I collaborate with business owners to inspire their people to become involved in innovation in their workplace”, rather than “I’m a HR consultant”.

I posted recently about the need for development in the area of innovation (Do Your People Trust You To Innovate), and whilst continuing to read and comment on the fantastic responses, I posed a question of my own “So how do we, as leaders in innovation, build a culture that not only encourages creativity, outside the box thinking, and gain buy-in from the front line? Is trust enough?”

I was rewarded with a response by Robin Cook, a seasoned change agent with an extensive background in organizational development/innovation, change management/culture change, strategic planning, and training. To me, he’s an Innovation Expert. But back to his response. Robin pointed me to his research on innovative organisations. I can speak from my own experience  to say that the characteristics he discovered are truly what makes for a supportive culture of innovation.

Excerpt: Lessons Learned From Innovative Organizations: 9 Shared Characteristics

Robin Cook Innovation University Fellow

9 common cultural characteristics shared by some of the most innovative organizations in the world, as identified through site visits during the 1998-1999 Innovation University Fellowship Program.

Perhaps the most striking lesson we learned was just how much these disparate organizations had in common. Virtually every one of the organizations we visited displayed nine shared characteristics:

• Strong, clearly expressed SHARED VALUES

• An appreciation of/for the WHOLE INDIVIDUAL and everything s/he can bring to the organization

• Cultures that encourage OPENNESS and PLAYFULNESS


• A strong, clearly communicated sense of HISTORY


• Clear focus on TRENDS, even those that do not seem to directly effect current businesses


I’d like to share with you the whole article, and I’ll post a bit more over the next week about the above, but for now I’d encourage you to look differently at your business, with the above characteristics in mind, and think about how different you can be.