Creating the conditions to innovate

I did some work with a new client which offered some fascinating insights into what is required to get people to participate in sharing ideas.

I had the opportunity to launch the initiative at our new customer’s conference – their top 100 managers were in a luxurious hotel in Scotland for two days. Innovation was a key theme.

I did a short presentation to follow-up on the keynote from a Board Director and introduced the task which was to use the TalkFreely software to respond to some strategic challenges with ideas, comments and votes. I then showed them how to do it. Every table of 10 people had an ipad and instructions on how to use their smartphones or laptops and asked them to enter, comment and rate some of the existing ideas before the next session the following morning.

Before I reveal the results, I need to introduce a model that we use to explain what we call the Adoption Challenge.


The graph above basically says that if you offer people the option of doing their day job AND participating in idea sharing or just do their day job, most people will just do what they are paid to do and adoption is likely to be low, ie, most people will defer and do nothing (none), some people will View, a much smaller number will Rate, an even smaller number will comment and very few will offer ideas. The left hand activity (none) is easy and by comparison and the further right you go, the harder it gets. I think this model works for all corporate comms, not just ideas.

The graph below shows what happened in the first morning. Remember, they were sitting amongst their peers of the most qualified, highest paid managers in the business. The numbers are per table, so out of 10 managers, there were 15 page views so each person looked at just over one page before they gave up. There were just 11 ratings (the strategic challenges had some ideas against them already), 5 comments were put against these ideas, and 3 new ideas were offered.


The following day I had another opportunity to present, but this time we got completely different results as you can see from the graph below. There were three times more views, more than ten times more idea ratings and more than three times more comments and ideas.


What was the difference? The difference was simple, but provides a powerful lesson in what you need to do to motivate people to participate. The second time around I;

– Had the CEO introduce it, make it compelling and give it context

– Made it fun and rewarding (I had a range of prizes – mostly fun)

– Made it collaborative (I gave them an introduction to some innovation techniques and they had time to work together)

– Carefully showed people how to do it so as to remove any barriers (perceived or real)

The last nugget of insight I got from this experience which I believe is useful to share is the same graph, but just showing the activity from the person that offered the most ideas – 7 in total in one session. But notice that they didn’t rate or comment on other people’s ideas. They were very creative, but also very selfish. This is quite normal.



Brilliant Idea. Free workspace in Government buildings for startups and charities

thinspaceforgrowthNow this is a brilliant idea…from the UK Government!

Small businesses, start-ups, charities and social enterprises can now hire work space in government buildings for free!

They call it Space for Growth and have a website where you can view details of the workstation spaces currently available, book or simply register to be informed of future developments.


More information here

Brilliant Idea. Re-thinking the global postcode systems

I’m writing this blog from the UK where we have a postcode (the equivalent to a zip code in the US) that comprises a two letter code for the nearest postal city then two numbers and two letters that locate my town and road. My postcode is shared by perhaps 40 homes closely packed on a suburban road. Postcodes in rural areas however can cover many miles, and big buildings can have one postcode at one end of the building and another at the other end.

Most of use are more likely to use a postcode to help us find a location with a GPS devise than we are to write a postcode on an envelope so postcode aren’t terribly useful! have re-thought that and produced a global system that can describe any location to the nearest two meters with just 3 words!

Here’s where the Queen lives;


And here’s where the World famous Eden Project is using the w3w system.


Ireland, interestingly doesn’t have a postcode system, so here’s where the famous Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is located using the W3W system


I’m clueless as to how they can turn this idea into a business that truly disrupts the many systems around the World, but it really is a truly Brilliant Idea

Check it out here,

The Innovation Paradox


One of our clients is a large engineering firm. They are market leaders in their sector and rightly proud of their processes and disciplines around running projects. They are ideal clients in as much that innovation is a strategic priority and are investing time, money and energy into their innovation programme. What’s holding them back then?
They are a good example of what is called the ‘innovation paradox’, a term coined by Salaman and Storey which in a sentence is this;

“Survival today requires coherence, co-ordination and stability. Survival tomorrow requires the replacement of those erstwhile virtues”

The reason why this is so relevant to them is that they’ve instinctively applied the same practices and processes to ‘doing innovation’ that serves them so well in their core business. The front-end of the innovation process of course NEEDS variance, risk and the acceptance that there is likely to be more failure than success. Those things REALLY go against the grain!

The lesson is that the people, tools and disciplines that might make you World class at building bridges or digging tunnels don’t automatically lend themselves to idea generation. It’s a different discipline altogether. Those disciplines, skills and techniques can be learnt, and seeking help, facilitation and training could make the greatest impact on your innovation ambitions.

Brilliant Idea #42. Idea Creche Service

Lots of large businesses have recognised the benefit of opening a creche for their worker’s children. It improves the work-life balance, increases productivity and loyalty and presumably gets new Parents back to work quicker.

Brilliant Idea #42 is an Idea Creche service.

The reality is that if you are reading this and you work for a large business, it is likely that someone in your organisation is taking what they know and have learnt from your business and developing an idea for a new start-up and in all probability they are working out how to get funding in order to leave your organisation to exploit the idea.

Why not provide a service where employees, rather than feeling as though they have to hide their idea and work on it out of hours (or worse, when the boss isn’t looking) get the ability to work on it at work?

Some of the most innovative organisations in the World – Google and LinkedIn being the most well known for offering employees the opportunity to work on their own projects for 10% of their time. The downside of this is that most ideas don’t come to anything so a lot of the 10% of time doesn’t result in a viable idea. This isn’t time wasted – it’s essential to go through the iterations of failure before finding that nugget of Gold, but this will be a BIG step for most organisations. The Idea Creche is actually about providing the space, support, mentoring and funding for employees to work on their ideas before, after and during lunch. If the idea passes the viability test, then can then request funding to extend the innovation activity further.

In the same way that in a Creche there are specially trained childcare assistants, the idea creche will offer specially trained ideators that will look after and nurture the ideas in their care (forgive the other childcare metaphor) – a business incubator.

Funding will come from the business (or businesses that potentially share an office building or park) because;
– nurturing and up-skilling innovative and entrepreneurial staff makes sense (rather than loosing them)
– it’s a great story to tell investors / customers / suppliers
– some of those ideas will provide a ROI
– it addresses the no.1 problem that organisations have around innovation – what I call the Innovators Paradox, “Survival today requires coherence, co-ordination and stability. Survival tomorrow requires the replacement of those erstwhile virtues”. We are simply providing the opportunity to focus on ideas away from the day to day business.

Brilliant Idea#37. “Keep this photo on my phone, just make it smaller

My iPhone has run out of space – too many photos, videos and music. The crazy thing is that it’s all backed up so most of the photos (I had >500) can be deleted apart from the fact that I like to be able to share them with friends.

Brilliant Idea #37 is blindingly simple. When it backs-up my photos it leaves a low res photo version on the phone – literally screen size on the phone.

Wow. This is one to watch and listen to

In blogging so frequently about technology I’m possibly guilty of re-enforcing the myth that innovation is about gadgets and gizmos. But here’s an example of the contrary that blew me away.

Humans have been making music and dancing for as long as we have been Human Beings. How come this is the first time I’ve seen a performance like this? To me, the dancer is having a conversation with the Harpist both through his body, but using his feet as a percussion instrument.

It goes to show that you can innovate even one of the oldest Human activities. Brilliant.