A few weeks back, Tom Goodwin (Head of Innovation at Zenith Media) wrote a cracking blog on why you probably don’t want innovation. Tom hit’s the nail on the head when he states “nobody really knows what it is”.

Things might be a little different stateside, because whereas Tom suggests that everybody (and he means EVERYBODY) wants it over there, there’s a subtle difference here. In the UK, not everyone wants it – because most people don’t truly understand what it is. There’s still the massive pre-conception that innovation is only about science, technology, products and academic research. Let’s hold that thought for now and get back to Tom’s blog.

Of those who do want it, (as Tom states) everyone does want the reward of innovation without any of the risk. Innovation IS hard. Innovation requires resource, effort, blood, sweat and tears.

Most importantly, innovation isn’t a (single) session, can’t be shipped in or outsources for a sunny Friday. It’s a culture.

Thank you Tom. Thank you so much for saying this.

For me, reading this is similar to the eureka moment I had when reading the Australian government report which stated “innovation should not lie solely within the realm of technologists, scientists and academics – any person in any company can have an idea which contributes to that company’s growth”. And this is where it’s time to bring my thoughts to the subject matter.

At least in the UK, many people have problems differentiating between projects and culture. To most people, innovation is a project based activity – we wheel it out of the cupboard when we need something new – the Heinz Wolff moment (ask your parents!).

This is precisely what innovation isn’t. It’s not a single thing – it’s about developing a culture of continual improvement. Innovation is about gaining benefit by doing something different – over and over again.

So let’s move on to another thought – do we really want innovation, or do we want all of our colleagues and workers to simply have the freedom to think more innovatively? Whereas Tom expresses the importance of searching for those Eureka moments, I’d complement this by stressing the importance of developing cultures where everyone has the ability and freedom to bring their collective knowledge, experience and creativity to the workplace.

Let’s develop cultures where we’re allowed – actually, ENCOURAGED and even REWARDED – to think beyond our job descriptions.

This takes the whole reward and return on investment analysis to a new arena. Whereas searching for the single big idea brings massive rewards, it also comes at risk and with a relatively lower chance of success. Does innovation always have to be groundbreaking and disruptive? Certainly not. By bringing together the collective benefit from the smaller activities and suggestions throughout the workforce, you will have a lower risk series of activities which collectively bring large rewards. OK, they may not have the impact of the disruptive innovation, but you’ll get a better average RoI.

The magic really comes when you combine both. You then have a portfolio of innovation activities within your company ranging from may low risk – low reward activities through to a few higher risk disruptive projects. Whether your strategy is play to stay or play to lead, having the right innovation portfolio is paramount to your success.

The beauty of getting everyone involved in innovation, is that it creates a buzz which drives a culture change – and that culture change results in everyone wanting to get involved in innovation. It’s win-win situation. Staff who are allowed to be more creative become happier, better engaged and less likely to leave. Productivity improves as does the effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace. And best of all, new ideas are developed and implemented on a regular basis resulting in a business that effectively continually improves without the need to extensive management intervention.

Picture a table with your business card on it. The business card represents the knowledge, experience and creativity that you currently use in your organisation. The blank space on the table represents the collection of under-utilised competencies within your workforce that you could be turning into organisational benefits. This is your route to having all the benefits of innovation at a fraction of the risk and cost, maximising your RoI.


Geminus Training provide a range of courses to help your staff think more innovatively. We can help you create a culture of continual improvement simply by using the knowledge, experience and creativity within your workforce. For more information, please contact richard@geminustraining.com or PM me.  

If you would like to read Tom’s article in full, here’s the link: