Innovation or exclusion?

In a recent discussion I was asked how I harness innovation.

My immediate thought – How long is infinity?

A quick internet search shows many countries and many companies claiming to have the upper hand in this domain. For example Periora Innovation has an interesting article targeted for small to medium enterprises, which reflects much of the thinking out there:

• A better-informed team
• A rewarded team
• A better-informed customer
• A high-tech (college) partner

An original original
This ‘systematic ’ approach helps close a loop, for me though this is too stiff.

Business has only two functions – Marketing and Innovation
Peter Drucker

Many articles also talked about the difference with Creative’s, how to manage Geeks for the best return etc. – and here is the central point of this blog –

Everyone has an inner geek, a lingering creative, an innovator par excellence; and as leaders it’s your job to find it and keep it alive.

Supporting Innovation isn’t a separate part of the role it is an integral part of your role.

As leaders we must believe and acknowledge that innovation and creativity lurks in everyone. It is not the exclusive domain of the gifted, the super-intelligent or the ones with the brightest colours or the fastest computer.

If you had 200 employees will you progress further by each making a small innovation, a small gain, or by placing all your bets on the ‘smart ones’?

Allowing innovation to come through is about all the little things, about your agility as a leader and an organisation, about how you listen, and how you respond.

The devil doesn’t need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics.
Seth Godin Creativity

What processes and practices in your company suppress innovation by unintentionally sidelining the myriad of champions in the cheaper seats?

What can we do to encourage the ‘meek’ to be brave?

Personal Growth

Here’s a challenge, shall I write a page or a whole website?

Personal growth is a lifelong quest. At times it’s hard, truly, truly hard, and at other times it’s a euphoric experience beyond measure.

Lessons in life

When coaching I always find it fascinating to observe the challenges that personal growth throws up for the individual.

Sometimes I even feel a little sorry for my clients as I know they are both going to experience some form of enlightenment at one level and a wholly new world of frustration at the other.

When you are ‘growing ‘ you suddenly wonder why others are not!

I put it to a client the other day that if he could now look back at himself 2, 3 or 10 years ago he would probably wonder “ Why isn’t he using his potential, why isn’t he open to change and growth?”

Once we are on the journey of true personal growth it seems such an obvious place to be and as if we always have been there.

As an adult once we begin the journey of personal growth we seldom stop.

In turn this raises in me the question of how it is, or when is it, that as children and young adults we decide to stop?

Does adolescence and university fool us into believing we have reached our pinnacle of personal learning and all that remains is the corporate ladder?

If so they both have a lot to answer for.

Or is it more simply that we hit life’s first real obstacles as a young adult, fail to deal with them, and get off the bus?

And finally is one of the clues to great leadership those who ‘help’ others back on the bus?

I will add to this on future posts, in the meantime I’d love to share with your thoughts.

Reality check – Part 1

When I was first coached one of the key aspects my coach kept me revisiting was a reality check.

What you resist resists
ILLUSION - What you resist resists.
For me this was a reality check of the kind “You’re picturing this worse than it really is, you’re undervaluing yourself…”

Radio “I’m not good enough” was the term used to remind me.

At the time I was clearly going through some difficult changes as the reality was very different to the confidence or rather lack of confidence with which I was carrying myself forward.

It was a deeply personal struggle which few of my friends and colleagues were aware of.

It’s great to be out of there.

There are many people out there enduring the sort of pain such doubt brings about, and previous or even current success is no source of immunity.

So where and how do you get out, what can you do?

There is no panacea, though here are proven ways to progress, explore these and others to get a fit with you:

  • Share with your closest friends/colleagues – you may be suprised to hear they have been there to
  • Seek out inspirational people and realise the only difference is they are ‘doing’ and you are ‘holding back’
  • Keep great company (ditch those who drain your spirit)
  • Break the pattern; take up a new sport, go running, get out, meet old friends
  • Explain – don’t complain, don’t be a broken record, be a record of positive change
  • Set new goals and commitments – share these with your partner or colleagues
  • Get a great coach (I know some!)
  • Seek out a psychotherapist/psychologist – ignore the old social stigma’s about seeing a ‘shrink’ – some of my best friends are psych’s!!
  • Stay above the line

Remember What you resist resists

Fighting it is no solution, finding and forging a way forward is.

(Reality check Part 2 , will deal with the opposite problem – when you are overly confident of your strengths.)

What success looks like


Just now for the briefest of moments I felt like Malcolm Gladwell or Stephen Levitt. I unwittingly conducted a social experiment which told me way more than I expected.

The experience was such a success I’ve parked the blog I had lined up and gone for a playful theme.

I’ve actually found what success looks like and at the same time discovered that it looks nothing like happiness.

How did I do this?

Well, learning from the better blogs around, including the crafty blogs my wonderful wife follows (like Sew Liberated, Tiny Happy) I realised I needed to put a bit more life into my blog with images and colour, try to show that I have both imagination and style, and perhaps even a little bit of soul.

I went looking for free images on the web and found this site which appealed due to its curious name MorgueFILE.

So what did I search for?

I started with “growth”, “flying”, “learning”.

Mostly these were hohum results but I started to get an idea so I did two consecutive searches:

* Happy

* Success

And the result:


showed page after page of children, flowers, trees, fountains, more flowers, love hearts.


had page after page of bank notes, American dimes and silver dollars.

I’m still laughing out loud.

Is society really that strongly conditioned?

Surely happiness is success?

And maybe that is the clue right there.

Happiness is success, but success, as society traditionally measures it, is not happiness.

Indeed it is the tension between happiness and the traditional notion of success which tears at us much of the time.

For they are intertwined. Probably the original and enduring chicken and egg dilemma.

How do you work with this tension?

What does each mean to you?

I’d like to know…


Good Deeds

Olympic champion triathlete Hamish Carter has just set a great example of leadership.

His former coach was critically ill – Carter visited, placed his gold medal on the TV  in Ralston’s hospital room saying, “That stays there until you walk out”. See: Carter

I see Carter’s gesture as hugely symbolic of the respect he has for Ralston, and of Carter as a person.

As an amateur sportsperson I find this incredibly compelling.

What would be the equivalent in a work context.

Although I can think of a few bedsides I have attended for cancer, heart disease and general injury, I could not readily think of a parallel example in the corporate sense.

What commitment could you make to your staff or colleagues or bosses that would demonstrate complete buy in and dedication?

As leaders, or followers, there must be many things we can do to pay our respect to those we admire and directly or indirectly owe our livelihoods to.

So here is a brief list to kick it off:

  1. Do your job to the best of your ability – that is the best payback possible for anyone who has promoted you into a role or a career. This is what keeps me going as a coach, and if I hit the wall, thinking of those individuals is invaluable.
  1. Ask for help when you need it. Mentors and sponsors are generally ‘for life’. Keep the relationship alive, don’t ride your horse off into the sunset of success, nor assume they will never want to hear from you again (successful or not).
  1. Pay it forward. I was not great fan of the film but the principle is 200% correct. If you’ve been given a leg up, then do the same for others.
  1. Shine. Be proud. Authentically acknowledge everyone from receptionist to Company President.

What else do you think can be done?


Less is More

Starting with a cliché may not seem like a great place to start but I’m not always one for convention.

Reviewing contemporary management systems it occurs to me one of the key messages keeps getting lost – the end goal is less not more:

  • Less waste
  • Fewer steps
  • Less rework
  • Fewer errors
  • Less intervention
  • Fewer ‘things’ to keep an eye on

A healthy system: looks after itself; responds in time; adapts as necessary; looks ahead; learns and understands what is critical to its survival.

Our businesses won’t thrive when they are weighed down with protective systems which shift responsibility and cover so much risk that the main risk is the system itself.  ISO often led to systems defeating the very purpose they were meant to serve – to drive fewer errors, greater reliability, and greater customer assurance.

Hard work is constantly playing catch-up and getting worn down.

Great work is working hard on what really matters.

The talk now, as through the 90’s with the more enlightened, is about Lean principles. Lean is great and the rigour of Six Sigma has plenty to offer. Unfortunately it seems too few are applying these methodologies, which are hardly new.Why?

Have businesses lost sight of the critical few and been caught out by celebrating the manly pursuits of huge quality manuals, board papers and mind boggling financial reports?

How Lean is your organisation?

What could go today?

Who’s leading the charge?

Where is collaboration?

And if this isn’t happening is it because they’ve taken the easy way out – the notion that more is easier, despite all the evidence that less is more?

Will the recent financial crisis lead to even more cumbersome systems?

And the kicker! How does this impact on the way we manage?

Thoughts anyone?