News & Blog

Innovate or die

Written by: Mark Shayler, Founder of Ape & Rebel Cell

Innovate or die.

Yes, true, but how?

Well there are loads of ways to innovate:

  1. Innovate by history. What did we do last time? Well let’s do that again but make it a bit better. Not too good though, just a bit better. This is the route to the 12 bladed razor. Also known as incremental innovation.
  2. Innovate by competitor. What are our competitors doing? Well let’s do that. This way opens your market up to radical innovation as you’ve all grouped together.
  3. Innovate by reaction. Shit, we’ve got to do something, anything. This is desperation. Occasionally you can be lucky, but it’s rare.
  4. Disruptive innovation. This usually means applying new technology to your existing market. The technology may not be disruptive per se but will seem so in your market.
  5. Innovation by diversification. Taking what you and applying it to a tangential sector. NASA’s development of memory foam is such an example. Developed for medical purposes it now sits on millions of beds across the UK
  6. Radical innovation. This is what most of us see in our minds eye when we hear the word innovation. This is the developing of new technologies or approaches. The automobile is one such example.

But how do you “do” innovation?

Well you could bring in the “experts”. These are people that do innovation for lots of other people. The flip-chart and post-it note brigade. And there is nothing wrong with this approach at all. Sometimes you need a shot of external thought and this is a great way to do it.

Or you could do it internally. Well, this can also work but why haven’t the internal team already solved the problem?

Because they haven’t been asked to? If so you’ve, maybe, got the wrong people.

Because they haven’t been given the time and space to? In which case you need to have a word with yourself.

Because they’ve been stuck in a river of thinking around point 1 above. Then you need that external kick after all?

I really don’t care how you innovate, just as long as you do. Innovation and creativity are like muscles, if you don’t use them they tend to waste away and if you do use them then they tend to get stronger. The best way to do this stuff is to create a culture that embraces it. A culture that encourages the team to look sideways, that creates safe space to play and experiment. A culture that gives permission.

Creativity is the key skill to have in order to get recruited, it’s the key skill an organisation needs to grow, and with the march of automation threatening/changing traditional jobs it will be the skill that separates people from machines. It is the number one skill I see in demand in the workplace right now. And yet, and yet, our education system is slowly crushing the creativity out of students, our culture of presenteeism, of risk adversity, of quarterly reporting, all fail to reward or recognise creativity until it is too late. Where are all the creative thinkers? Doing their own thing, it’s way more exciting.

This won’t help us in the long run. We need to make our businesses, our organisations attractive by allowing them to, no ensuring that they, embrace creativity. You are only as good as your last idea. You need better ideas. Better people have better ideas, better ideas make for a better business, and better business makes for a better world. Embrace creativity, take yourself off cruise-control and embrace different: may be a different route to work; maybe different friends; maybe ask a better question.

The current focus on rapid innovation and sprints works really well. Collaboration and co-design are really powerful tools also. But the thing that you need to remember is why you are innovating? Always start with a user need. Always start with a clear purpose. And always work with people that lift your ideas higher rather than put them down. Collaboration is a strength.

Together we are better.

If you want to hear more from Mark, he will hosting our Circular Glasgow: Get Inspired event on 29 November at the Arches on Argyle Street.

To register your space, visit our events page HERE.

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