Technology Is Not Innovation.

[The following is a version of a talk I delivered to HQN members on 17th May 2023 on the subject of blending old and new approaches to create meaningful improvement and change]

Digital evangelists often imply that technology will solve all our problems. By slavishly following this advice we risk embarking on the worst kind of technological solutionism that ignores the richness of skills, assets and sheer talent that exist already in our organisations and communities.

We can focus on technology as a solution when at best it is an enabler.

Technology is not innovation. Innovation is not technology.

Innovation is only a small piece of what happens with technology. Innovation is often what comes after technology. Today you will use your smartphone in ways never dreamt of by its inventor.

Of course the technology is important, because we will come to rely on it more and more in order for our communities and organisations to continue to thrive in the future.

The UK has a declining birth rate, exacerbated by the housing crisis.

The average age at first marriage is now 31, compared with a 20th century low of 23 in 1970.

There are currently around four working-age people for every pensioner in the UK.  But based on current projections, in just one generation’s time – in 2053 – there will be fewer than three working-age people for every pensioner. 

If you want to imagine where this could be heading look at Japan where the median age is 48 and by 2050 over half the population will be over the age of 53.  In Japan the newest technologies have inspired public and private sectors in the fields of health policies and innovation, to provide older people with a better quality of life. They have had to, there simply aren’t enough people to go around otherwise.

So we are going to see a continued acceleration of attempted technology solutions to all sorts of problems, and we risk being swamped by them. The challenge as always will be how we integrate successful new technologies with legacy business models.


AI is nothing new and we all use it everyday without ever thinking about it. Tools like ChatGPT, that can increase efficiency and reduce costs for businesses, are now available free to everyone. Getting new technologies into the hands of those best placed to make a difference with it was always a barrier to bottom up innovation – it was high cost and hard to use. That has all changed.

So what would a digital counterpart of our organisations look like? What would it tell us about how we work? How it could be improved?

A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical object, process, service or environment that behaves and looks like its counterpart in the real-world. Tesla creates a digital simulation of every one of its cars, using data collected from sensors on the vehicles. In Singapore they’ve made an alternate copy of Changi Airport that updates in real time.

However, whilst every car that rolls off the Tesla production line has a twin tracking its lifecycle from birth to death almost every house constructed in the UK has none of this technology built in. An investment that will last between 70-100 years is being handed over to the resident in the same way it was in the 1960’s.

Digital twin technology has now been democratised to the point where just about any organisation can tap into the benefits. So why aren’t we doing it?

It’s almost ten years since comments I made about the potential use of drones in the housing sector nearly caused the sky to fall in. However, my assertions have proved to be correct albeit a little premature: drones working together can create large 3D-printed structures made of foam or cement. The experiments are paving the way for a future where swarms of drones could help construct extremely tall or intricate buildings.

As a minimum every building surveyor should be a trained drone pilot. Sending a surveyor out without a drone in 2023 is a missed opportunity.

The blending of reality with artificial intelligence and offline and online social networks is genuinely exciting. In Amsterdam they are a creating a city selfie that brings existing policies, projects, initiatives and
start-ups together with stories, histories and images from diverse neighbourhoods. Overlaying this with visions, proposals and new initiatives for transforming the city creates a genuinely participatory economy accessible to all citizens.

The young woman in the photo has never existed. The pane of glass she is looking through was never created. The lighting never switched on. None of it is real, it’s an image created in Midjourney – a text-to-picture artificial intelligence (AI) service developed by an independent research lab of the same name. It is putting huge creative capacity into the hands of non-creatives. I love the idea that generative AI could help non-experts visualise unusual social and housing projects, in such a realistic way that they seem buildable.

For all the talk of technology, let’s remember we are human businesses and we exist to help other humans do better in life. It’s our only real purpose. So let’s think how we can use technology to leverage the huge talents and skills lying within our communities. Putting it directly in their hands will yield far better results than putting a firewall around your organisation or outsourcing to consultants.

Finally, let’s go back to Japan. We are often implored to be more like Google, or Amazon or Apple. For the social sector a far more relevant north-star exists in Nintendo. They are a legacy organisation that were formed in 1889.

One hundred years after their birth a video game designer called Gunpei Yokoi changed the world with the launch of the original Nintendo Game Boy. It took gaming out of the hands of geeks and paved the way for the industry to become the most profitable and popular form of entertainment.

However the Game Boy was far from best in class. Its black and white display was made up from old technologies well past their sell by date. Gunpei called his philosophy Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology. 

Withered: mature technology which is cheap and well understood.

Lateral thinking: combining these ideas and technologies in creative new ways

Innovation doesn’t actually need to be cutting edge. Rather it needs to be simple, useful and to make someone’s day that little bit easier.  Our sector has loads of withered technology, it just needs a little more lateral thinking.

Be more Nintendo.


Work Is Mostly Mundane. And That’s Not A Bad Thing

Words seemingly lose their power through overuse, and nowhere is this more proven than in the workplace.

The average corporate strategy or plan is full of what are known as crutch words – that collection of phrases we fall back on when we’ve lost our footing while speaking. We grasp for familiar words to fill some space.

These crutch words include things like customer experience, agile working and high performance used in contexts in which, if you scratch the surface, you’ll see mean absolutely nothing. Arguably though, no one word is as used and abused as innovation.

Things are labelled as innovations that are nothing of the sort: every strategy is in search of it, the thought of being seen as not particularly innovative is career threatening.

So is innovation overrated?

Jason Fried maintains exactly that in one of his excellent provocations, saying the unsayable. The unsayable being the thing that deep down everyone knows to be true but saying it out loud would render them as a stick in the mud, a blocker or a relic.

“Innovation should almost never happen. It’s incredibly rare. It mostly happens by accident, not by intention. It’s wonderful when it does, but you merely fluctuate in and out of it, it’s not steady state.

Work is mostly mundane. It’s mostly maintenance. It’s mostly local improvement and iteration. Work is mostly… Work. Any innovation is an outlier, nearly a rounding error.”

Some of this is spot on. Innovation is incredibly rare, so the constant talk of it being common place, something our organisations do everyday is disingenuous. As I tweeted, ‘innovation’ is too often someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about avoiding doing the job they should be doing , and distracting everyone from the things that would actually make a difference to customers in the process.

Bruce Nussbaum declared that innovation died in 2008, killed off by overuse, misuse, narrowness, incrementalism and failure to evolve.

That’s why you get people here, here and here (quite understandably) calling for us to ‘just get the basics right’.

An outright focus on innovation, or even worse, agile methodologies, can lead to a lack of focus or even blatant disregard for the basics. 

Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel argued this in a landmark piece written back in 2016:

“Critics point out the peddlers of innovation radically overvalue innovation. What happens after innovation, they argue, is more important. Maintenance and repair, the building of infrastructures, the mundane labour that goes into sustaining functioning and efficient infrastructures, simply has more impact on people’s daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations.”

They point out that the most unappreciated and undervalued forms of technological labour are also the most ordinary: those who repair and maintain technologies or processes that already exist, that were ‘innovated’ long ago.

In a typical company 99% of what people do is maintenance, as it should be. 99% of the time should be spent fine tuning the system. It’s not sexy, but it is necessary.

We need to start praising the importance of the maintainers, those individuals whose work keeps ordinary existence going rather than introducing novel things.

Workers are being sold a pup by being promised jobs that are exciting, ambitious, creative and innovative. Most work is pretty boring.

Even if you are one of the 1% and your role is more specifically around ‘innovation’ and future focus, most of it is grunt work with the occasional flash of inspiration. I had that flash in a one hour session with customers yesterday, but that’s probably it for this week.

Just like the modern world implores that we should be happy all the time (we aren’t and we are not meant to be), the modern workplace wants everyone to be engaged, energised and innovative when they simply don’t need to be.

People just need to be fulfilled

Fulfilment does not come from some fruitless search for innovation. It’s found in the little things – the everyday occurrences that come from our daily habits and interactions that make our world a little bit better, a little bit easier, for someone. Fulfilment because you attended to someone’s needs.

The maintainers of our organisations are hopelessly devalued compared to the consultants who promise a future which will never ever be realised.

So Jason Fried is right. ‘Work is not often very exciting, but it can absolutely be fulfilling. And you can be excited about that’.

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Do You Really Need An Innovation Strategy?

Without strategy you have no direction, without innovation you lose relevance

Greg Satell

Whilst strategy and innovation both play crucial roles in the success of an organisation, they are not applied equally.

A good strategy helps an organisation set clear goals, define priorities and make informed decisions, while innovation enables a company to think differently, create new products, services, and business models to meet changing customer needs.

Innovation is an essential, but frequently underfed, component of strategy as it helps organisations to achieve their strategic objectives by generating new ideas, products, or processes that can differentiate them.

If you Google ‘Do You Need An Innovation Strategy?’ you’ll get just under one billion articles affirming “Yes, you absolutely do“.

Gary Pisano has argued that companies without an innovation strategy won’t be able to make trade-off decisions and choose all the elements of the innovation system. He maintains this is the responsibility of senior leadership.

However, I’m unconvinced and I’ll attempt to explain why.

Over the past ten years I’ve been acutely aware of balancing the need to tie innovation to corporate strategy, while not being so closely bound to it that innovation becomes only incremental improvements to the status quo. I’ll acknowledge that in the past some attempts at Bromford Lab have been too haphazard and disconnected from strategy, and also at times too constrained by it.

However, having an ‘innovation strategy’ risks setting efforts apart from the organisation itself. It risks encouraging initiativitis – with more and more random innovation efforts becoming disconnected from core purpose. Innovation hardly ever works when introduced from the side. Never mind culture: strategy eats innovation for breakfast.

Also – who sets the innovation strategy? Senior leaders? An innovation team? Again that potentially acts as a constraint to bottom up opportunities that emerge from the people closest to the opportunities. Senior leaders are often not the drivers of innovation that they think they are.

The answer I think could be to develop a corporate plan that – in itself – is an enabler of innovation. Embedding the requirement for innovation in your core purpose.

The new Bromford Strategy was developed through the use of ‘adaptive spaces’ – a series of workshops and conversations with an intention to harness a degree of ambiguity within it, as it will require all colleagues to contribute to a collective shift in thinking and doing over a four year period.

Research by Mary Uhl-Bien found that successful innovations emerge from informal/entrepreneurial networks but must be supported and developed in temporary ‘adaptive spaces’ if they are to fulfil their potential for transforming formal bureaucratic organisations.

Adaptive spaces are a way of introducing more transformational thinking into organisations. They are best used for making key strategic shifts where organisations require a new mindset rather than just incremental improvements.

Adaptive spaces occur in the interface between the operational and entrepreneurial system by embracing, rather than stifling, the dynamic tension between the two systems. They do this by organising internal and external networks to spark the emergence of novel ideas and then fostering idea development and sharing.

This leads to idea diffusion across the organisation to gain formal endorsement from the operational system. In this way, novel ideas are more readily introduced, more openly shared and more effectively integrated into formal processes.

So imagine if your strategy actually facilitated the emergence of adaptive spaces for new thinking rather than forming a specific roadmap that can be easily followed almost without thinking.

Imagine if your strategy had the requisite amount of uncertainty so that it outlined some broad strategic shifts that must be made – but didn’t spell out how they would be achieved.

Essentially, we’ve tried to create a strategy that is built for exploration rather than ticking off KPI’s. A strategy that cannot be achieved without innovation.

So, do you really need an innovation strategy?

I say no.

You need a strategy that sets out a challenge and invites everyone to ask questions and go on a journey of discovery.

You need a strategy that is founded upon principles of good innovation management, rather than innovation simply existing within the confines of a room full of beanbags and sticky notes.

As Steve Robbins has said, more than one strategy is actually no strategy at all. You only need one strategy, everything else is tactics.

So you need a really good strategy that enables the right innovation tactics to achieve the end goal.

Will it work? Ask me in four years time.

Cover photo by FORTYTWO on Unsplash

Innovation Doesn’t Happen By Accident

What’s your favourite innovation myth? Michele Zanini started a good Twitter thread on this subject, to which I responded:

Trickle down innovation, just like trickle down economics, doesn’t trickle down very far.

When leaders are implored to innovate they often go for the easiest and most attractive option, innovation theatre:

  • You bring someone in to give an “inspirational talk” on innovation 
  • You hold a one-day workshop to get your company to be more creative
  • You can get a cool space with loads of beanbags and motivational posters 
  • You have a hackathon

Coined by Steve Blank the term innovation theatre is where ideas – arguably the easiest bit of the innovation process – are valued more than the discipline of turning those ideas into profitable business models or concepts. This requires a level of leadership commitment that is often harder to get.

A ideas focused culture is exacerbated by the following conditions:

  • Leadership putting pressure on finding quick fixes and the realisation of short term goals — rather than exploring long term impact
  • Discussing problems, or considering that organisation itself may be part of the problem, is seen as taboo or a sign of weakness, or even as a waste of time 
  • Management falling in love with a solution too easily even if it’s not solving the problem at hand

Innovation will mean different things to different people in your organisation – there is no one size fits all.

  • The colleague on the frontline often just needs barriers to doing their job removing rather than moonshots. Removing that barrier is often all the ‘innovation’ they need.
  • The CEO fears becoming irrelevant and losing market share. They are looking for big shifts.
  • The People and HR functions want to foster an environment that promotes creativity, where people can generate new ideas that build a culture folks want to be part of.
  • Customer services want innovation management that enables them to identify and address changing customer needs and create new value.
  • Finance teams want to develop new revenue streams, or more often than not, just to cut costs.

In an innovation mature company all of these things can uncomfortably co-exist – but it cannot happen by magic. It needs curation and , yes, management. There are no shortcuts in building an innovative and productive culture and it requires operating on different levels and across multiple silos.

Because of these competing requirements and viewpoints any alien idea is usually rejected or resisted by the prevailing system. Therefore ideas that are new and that could complicate or even threaten the existing way of working means creating space where we can protect them.

It also needs protection from the organisational desire to complete things quickly. All the talk about agility is somewhat misplaced. If you work in innovation or design you’ll always see a time lag from inception to implementation. Even in the best organisations, it will take months, sometimes years, for new concepts to be assimilated into the everyday culture. Many (most) never make it.

That’s why there are always questions about how innovation or design teams spend their time and whether it’s worthwhile. When you’re working two years into the future it’s really hard to demonstrate outcomes that fit conventional performance frameworks.

There are some things you can do though:

  • Have a consistent way to define and measure innovation, so that it’s unambiguous in your company
  • Look for good problems rather than great ideas
  • Periodically assess the areas of your business so that you know where each stands in terms of innovation capability and capacity
  • Get senior leaders to identify and sponsor specific initiatives designed to address the key problems
  • Assemble smalls teams to work on the challenges. Use disciplined protocols to help these teams succeed.
  • Document, and track progress and share progress internally and externally.
  • Create a pipeline of ideas that aligns with an innovation strategy or plan. Pipelines enable companies to drive innovation momentum, solve customer-centric problems and engage in a meaningful way.

To be an innovative organisation you need to be great at defining problems, at generating ideas, at selecting and executing them, and at getting them to spread.

Innovation doesn’t happen by accident – it happens by design.

Image by Uday Kumar from Pixabay

The Creativity Productivity Paradox

You can’t endorse a top-down authority structure and be serious about enhancing adaptability, innovation, or engagement.

Gary Hamel

Employers are facing a conundrum: a generational gap in job satisfaction.

Research seems to indicate that while Gen Z and millennial workers report higher job satisfaction, they’re more likely to be looking for new roles. In contrast, older generations are significantly less satisfied at work but will stay put, contributing to so-called ‘resenteeism’. As one of the report contributors notes “the best way to keep people engaged is to create a culture of continuous improvement where their team members are encouraged to seek out new projects and skills.”

Simply put, there isn’t a great deal of joy in most people’s work at the moment.

But why? As Dion Hinchcliffe writes, the typical worker is now able to be more creative than in almost any time before. “While middle managers and team leads of yore might say that strict control and direction is required to get the proper outcome, in today’s far more dynamic, fast changing, and innovation-driven times, this no longer makes nearly as much sense. Work is becoming almost entirely what we make of it. And this is a good thing that will unleash far more personal and professional fulfillment along with much greater innovation.”

If Dion is right, that the future of work is 1:1 personalised and fully customisable, then why does is seem to be that people appear to be working more and producing less.

The problem I guess, is the system itself. The way we work doesn’t work.

As organizations grow, they become more complex, and it becomes harder to manage them effectively without formal structures and procedures. A larger organization insists on more rules and procedures to maintain order and control over its operations and its people. In addition, the larger the organization, the more specialized roles become, which can lead to increased levels of bureaucracy to manage them effectively. The end result : complicatedness.

This desire (and I say desire rather than need) for consistency and standardization, for control and accountability, comes at a cost: reduced creativity and flexibility.

As Gary Hamel wrote in an almost 10 year old but evergreen post; “Most of us grew up in and around organizations that fit a common template. Strategy gets set at the top. Power trickles down. Big leaders appoint little leaders. Individuals compete for promotion. Compensation correlates with rank. Tasks are assigned. Managers assess performance. Rules tightly circumscribe discretion. This is the recipe for “bureaucracy,” the 150-year old mashup of military command structures and industrial engineering that constitutes the operating system for virtually every large-scale organization on the planet.”

As Dr Tim Baker outlines – there is a creativity paradox here too, instead of enabling new initiatives (something everyone says they want) the interaction between manager and employee does the exact opposite – it stops initiatives and makes the employee dependent on the manager.

  • Leaders generally DO want employees to show initiative.
  • Leaders invite initiatives but employees aren’t sure they are serious so they do nothing or they submit ideas that don’t get full backing
  • Leaders fill the void and take control and the employee scepticism is validated

As Tim writes “The process in other words makes proactive behaviour harder not easier. ”  Ultimately , the actions of the manager speak louder than the words they speak.

The productivity paradox: the more investment that is made in technology, worker productivity goes down instead of up.

The creativity paradox: the more leadership support that is provided the more employee creativity is stifled rather than released.

The number one thing I find employees are seeking when talking about their ideas is someone who will listen. Number two is permission to try something out. Number three is budget.

To solve the creativity productivity paradox we need to become permissionless organisations – ones who push decision-making and exploration out to the furthest edges of the business rather than power being maintained with the very people who need to step out of the way.

Image by Robert Pastryk from Pixabay

Turning Constraints Into Innovation Opportunities

As we enter a further period of economic uncertainty we will undoubtedly see a slash and burn approach to cost reduction in many of our organisation’s. An impending crisis often triggers suboptimal decision making that tends to focus on survival and forgets about investing in the future. Talent is lost only to be re-recruited again or passed to consultants at additional cost once the downturn is over.

Watch it happen.

Only 10% of companies emerge stronger from a crisis. Many go under or are forced to merge, a few manage to limp on , but just 1 in 10 become more successful.


According to Todd Ford, the successful companies are the ones whose Chief Financial Officers figure out the balancing act between surviving an immediate shock and protecting the future. They reduce costs very selectively with a focus on operational efficiency, while at the same time using their balance sheet as a weapon to boost vital spend on R+D.

As McKinsey point out, organizations that focused on innovation during the 2009 banking crisis, outperformed the market average by 30% and their growth continued to accelerate in the following years.

Clearly innovation should still play a role in your priorities, even in a downturn. In fact, economic or other constraints are great opportunities for innovation, as frugality can actually work to our advantage.

Constraints help you better understand the problem

When any and every option is in front of you, it’s difficult to decide what to do.

In a piece for HBR. Oguz A. Acar, Murat Tarakci, and Daan van Knippenberg find that when there are no constraints, complacency sets in, and people follow what psychologists call the path-of-least-resistance – they go for the most intuitive idea that comes to mind rather than investing in the development of better ideas.

At Bromford Lab we are currently running an experiment with one of our teams where we’ve denied them any use of technology in the initial test. The solution to the problem will almost certainly have a technological requirement but making it harder for them in the beginning helps you understand the problem better.

So constraints are actually a design tool because they force a few early decisions on you.

Innovation thrives when we have constraints – as it shows us where to focus and, more importantly, where not to.

Constraints force you to be creative

We’ll all know what it’s like to start with a blank page – more often than not you won’t start anything.

Dr. Caneel Joyce, has written that “giving people too much choice limits creativity, just as giving them no choice at all does… just enough constraint incites us to explore solutions in new places and in new ways.”

She uses the analogy of a playground as a starting point for understanding the whole concept of constraints. Research found that when a fence is put up around a playground, children use the entire space to explore and play; the fence giving them a sense of safety and security. On the other hand, if that fence is removed from the playground’s border, the limits become unclear and the children stay toward the middle because that’s where they feel safe. Importantly, in team work within organisations Joyce found that the absence of clear constraints actually created conflict stemming from the unarticulated assumptions that people brought to the table.

Even stress has a benefit.  According to research done by Dr. Kelly McGongial and Professor Todd Kashdan, stress has the potential to activate the parts of our brain that are linked to critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity.  Want creativity? Create a constraint for someone.

Constraints can help you innovate in a frugal way

Thinking in constraints is a key element of frugal innovation. ‘Frugal innovation’ means innovating to create solutions that are better and cheaper, from fewer resources. In India , it’s know as Jugaad, a Hindi word that roughly means ‘solution born from cleverness.’ It’s usually applied to a low cost fix or work-around. In a culture where people often have to make do with what they have it’s an improvised or makeshift solution using scarce resources.

In an economic downturn plus a major cost of living crisis can communities harness the spirit of jugaad to solve local problems? The question is whether institutions – often risk averse rather than risk seeking – would get out of the way and allow innovation to flourish.

So will organisations continue to support innovation throughout the downturn?

Depressingly, it’s unlikely.

The archaic business planning of most of our institutions exacerbate short-termism and stifle innovation in my view. The statistics from the last financial crisis back me up: only one in ten emerge stronger and more successful.

The only negative constraint to innovation is one word of just two letters: no.

Photo by Shane Teague on Unsplash

When Leaders Talk About Innovation, Always Be Sceptical

Declare yourself an innovation company and celebrate creativity, by all means. Then treat your employees to a little seminar in business history that emphasizes real-life time frames and the numbing necessity of trial and error, trial and error, trial and error.

Sir Harold Evans

In turbulent times beware the leader touting innovation myths. Myths like: If we just get the culture right and allow colleagues to , you know, be themselves and collaborate more and fail fast, everything will be OK.

Chris Bolton has written a great post on innovation urban myths, citing the invention of the 3M Post-It Note. The myth you’ll hear propagated at leadership conferences is that the Post-It was just a happy accident, a eureka moment when someone came up with a glue that wasn’t strong enough but was great for temporarily sticking bits of paper on walls.

Of course , as Chris explains, the Post-It story has been condensed into a pocket sized anecdote of what is a long and complex tale. It took 5 years of constant rejection for the new adhesive and another seven years in development (and a further phase of rejection) for Post-It notes to finally become a hit.

Most people in leadership positions do not know this story.

The story they know is:

If you get the culture right and allow people to make mistakes innovation will happen.

The true story is:

  • Innovation is a muscle that’s built over time – it doesn’t just happen by accident and the conditions for it need to be carefully curated.
  • Patience, and continued long term support is everything
  • Peer collaboration is vital for innovation and that needs management too

Yet there are scores of LinkedIn articles on a riff of “How Leaders Can Make Innovation Everyone’s Day Job” that seek to inspire confidence that the process of innovation is simply a recipe that needs following.

You can see why the ‘eureka moment’ stories spread – they are hugely powerful and full of drama and inspiration. But the act of creating or improving a product or service is far more often a long, hard, frequently boring slog.

Mainly this is because management just doesn’t get innovation. Managers got to where there are by managing well, not conjuring new things from discord.

So people tend to believe that the process for achieving breakthrough innovations is chaotic, random, and unmanageable, but as Noubar Afeyan and Gary P. Pisano write in HBR, this view is inherently flawed.

According to them the predominant strategy today is the “shots on goal” approach. That entails funding a large portfolio of projects in the hope that the profits from the rare success will more than pay for the cost of the numerous failures. If you invest in enough projects, the theory goes, by the laws of probability (sheer luck) you eventually will “score.” 

Instead they talk about ’emergent discovery’ defined as a rigorous set of activities including prospecting for ideas in novel spaces; developing speculative conjectures; and relentlessly questioning hypotheses.

This kind of discovery requires a culture of continual questioning, where it’s acceptable (even encouraged) to push back against the prevailing organisational dogma.

I don’t buy into the concept of organisations having a culture of innovation but do believe that you can have a culture conducive to innovation.

For me that’s about four elements:

Just enough friction: where there are regular, intense debates. We can have unity of purpose and still disagree more. Discord has to be allowed to take its proper place if we are to solve the problems that matter.

The practice of high standards: innovation requires a set of crosscutting practices and processes to structure, organise, and encourage it.

Permission to be different: a culture where it’s allowable, even encouraged, to push back. Everyone should be OK with questioning assumptions,  calling out inconsistent behavior and challenging old business models.

The ability to think and act experimentally: a tolerance for failure and dead ends through practical experiments that show whether the fundamental assumptions about innovation are correct and what they mean for the business.

And all of this can only be managed in the long term. Embracing patience is the key to creating the conditions conducive to innovation.

Shorthand versions of innovation truth that ignore inconvenient facts permeate at conferences or in executive presentations. We promote an untruth that innovation is chaotic, random, and unmanageable and the result of lone visionaries. “If we are just crazy enough something great is bound to happen!”

Instead we need to move to a kind of emergent discovery of loosely managed safe to fail activities that explore ideas in novel spaces. And that takes time.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Society Has Digital Transformed, But It Isn’t Evenly Distributed

We often blame innovations for the way they make our lives faster, busier, more intrusive, but in reality our core human behaviours and beliefs are slow to change.

Marchetti’s constant, named after Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti, is the principle that humans settled on a 30 minute commute time to work long ago, and no matter how much we innovate transport systems we rarely break it.

This nearly universal rule of human behaviour has been observed since Roman times. Whenever a new technology (the horse and cart, the tram, the train, the car, the plane) arrives that gets people to work at ever faster speeds, towns and cities typically grow outward in a donut formation, but not so far that commutes expand past one hour per day.

From Rome in AD 275 to Atlanta in 2010 our commute times have remained stable at 30 minutes, despite commutable distances growing substantially.

Therefore most workers have been tied to the city – until now.

In a brilliant and fateful piece written just before the pandemic Jonathan English writes that the greatest promise for matching technology to the modern worker has always been the idea of divorcing work from transportation entirely: telecommuting. 

The pandemic and our subsequent digital transformation has disrupted this pattern. As the folk at Quartz describe, post-Covid people who work in-person once or twice a week may be willing to tolerate a much longer commute. The 30-minute preference Marchetti observed likely has to do with time-budgeting rather than animal instincts, says English. But if you’re working from home most days of the week, that changes the math for the first time in history.

The fact it took a global health crisis to make us think about the cost of commuting is rather sad, and is picked apart in an excellent Twitter thread from James Plunkett.

I agree with him that this is”the best and most concrete example yet of a society-wide digital transformation playing out”. This is something we need to reflect upon, he notes, as when you do digital transformation in an organisation you use a whole set of tools and mechanisms to design a system and manage the change.

Society was afforded no such luxury. There were no Change Consultants or Project Managers – the transformation happened pretty much overnight. Over a third of us switched to working from home, shops converted to digital payments (in some cases switching off cash completely), a whole new demographic learned to order shopping online. The most basic establishments developed an app. Even QR codes made a comeback.

I rarely use cash but this week I was in Northern Ireland doing a talk on this very subject , and on arrival at the venue I paid the taxi driver with a £20 note. He looked at me quizzically and said “wow, we never use this anymore.” For one moment I thought they’d changed their currency.

Pay the wifi, heat the home or feed the kids?

The problem , and there is one, is this digital transformation has been anything but equal. In fact it has built on pre-existing inequalities, and even deepened some.

For instance, not all children had at-home internet access or WFH laptop parents able to homeschool them . Thousands of children (some suggest 130,000) in the UK never returned to education after the schools reopened. Worldwide the number could be 10 million although that figure seems wildly conservative given 5 million won’t return in Uganda alone.

There are similar inequalities at the other end of the age spectrum. Analysis from Age UK shows that the pandemic has not in fact produced a sea-change in over 75’s use of digital technology. In fact it has now turned into a kind of ‘digital deprivation’ as many services have shifted exclusively online.

Whilst over half of adults in the 25–34 age group say they would be willing to turn to digital means for all their spending, only 20% of over 65’s have a positive view of a cashless society. As ATMs become less used and disappear 50% of people report having problems accessing cash.

Also many of our organisations have still not shown ourselves to be digitally capable. Polling suggests a third of people are unconvinced about the long-term use of digital in the NHS amid a need for reassurance about data security.

So whilst we have undoubtedly digitally transformed our society , it is anything but evenly distributed. Many people were simply not ready to be transformed.

The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated digital inequality and the gaps that still exist in digital access and capability. Therefore we need to begin a dialogue about how can we achieve a more equitable digital transformation that takes in both age and income related inequalities.

We finally went digital, but for some people it doesn’t feel any better.

Photo by Jadon Kelly on Unsplash

How Do You Solve A Problem Like The NHS?

There comes a point when numbers get so big as to become near incomprehensible.

Almost five million people are waiting for health treatment in England alone. Almost 1.2m of them have been waiting at least six months for ‘vital appointments’. Some within the NHS say that in reality that number is far, far greater – perhaps no one even knowing the true number.

I’m currently in recovery following an operation that (hopefully) finishes off my extended exposure to the NHS last year. I’ve been in the fairly unusual position of being an in-patient both at the very height of the pandemic in April 2020, and its low point a year and a half later. By no way am I an expert on the NHS but I would say I’ve now built up a degree of patient user experience that I didn’t have two years ago.

So – as a kind of innovation challenge: where would you start with tackling the NHS problem?

First of all – what actually IS the problem? My experience has been uniformly excellent, only ever let down by a creaking admin that admittedly became much improved through technology during the pandemic. However it seems to be true that once you’re ‘in the system’ the system largely works for you. However gaining access to that system , especially if you’re not an emergency, is a hopelessly disjointed experience. And many of the people working within it are simply exhausted – even before the pandemic NHS workers were taking an average of 14 days off sick every year, compared to 4 for the average UK worker.

Perhaps the biggest problem for the NHS is that you can’t have a sensible conversation about it. If you criticise it in any way the assumption is that you want to privatise it.

League tables have been used to support arguments that the UK health service is one of the best in the world – and also that it is a failing system. For most actual users it is neither of these things, so the obsession with deifying the NHS and its employees is actually unhelpful for everyone. The truth is that the NHS is sometimes great, often not so great and sometimes just plain bad— and it’s nowhere near close to the best healthcare system in the world.

Perhaps because we are dealing with multiple problems we need a multiplicity of solutions. In short though, problem solving should be a priority for the NHS – rather than disruptive innovation. As Greg Satell writes in a different context, we have the power to shape our path by making better choices. A good first step would be to finally abandon the cult of disruption that’s served us so poorly and begin to once again invest in stability and resilience, by creating better, safer technology, more competitive and stable markets and a happier, more productive workforce.

The most famous quote (wrongly) attributed to Henry Ford is “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” We don’t need faster horses is the cry of would be innovators everywhere. But in the NHS, faster horses are perhaps exactly what we need right now.

The NHS is observably an environment where efficiencies desperately need to be gained – and on tight budgets a lot of that will have to be through marginal gains and frugal person centred improvement – a sort of healthcare jugaad. Jugaad is a Hindi word that roughly means ‘solution born from cleverness.’ It’s usually applied to a low cost fix or work-around. In a culture where people often have to make do with what they have it’s an improvised or makeshift solution using scarce resources.

I’m not saying that we should rule out innovation altogether and only focus on the basics; but a greater emphasis needs to be placed on harnessing and developing ideas and spreading them across the system. NHS employees will tell you of something working on some wards that have been shut down because it doesn’t fit in with the overall ‘plan’. In any complex system there is often a drive to scaling up which destroys some local innovation. ‘Small, localised and spreadable’ is often more sustainable.

It’s also clear when talking to staff that many are victim to the very large number of administrators in the NHS and the urge to keep changing things. Many talk of process changes ‘all the time’ – something that has , necessarily, accelerated during Covid. The effects of this constant change trickle right through the system: employees wake up wanting to do something good and then find there are new regulations and new rules that act as a barrier.

Of course there is a whole other set of problems outside the immediate control of the NHS.

If the primary problem is demand, then that needs to be tackled. We’re living longer, getting fatter and people now have more chronic and complicated diseases. The Office for National Statistics attributes just 5% of total UK Government healthcare expenditure to ‘preventive healthcare’. We need to remove the politics from healthcare and have a sensible conversation about how much of GDP we are going to commit to not just treating problems, but preventing them in the first place.

The NHS has myriad innovation programmes, challenges and accelerators. It’s not for me to judge any of these. However it’s clear that right now there’s a capacity issue meaning the people, services and systems who would stand to benefit most from innovation end up missing out.

So perhaps it’s time for the NHS to focus employees on becoming better localised problem solvers who can work on existing real-world issues that staff and patients face every day.

Revolutionising the NHS is less likely to come from some grand plan and more likely to result from local trojan mice changing small things in big ways, attacking new problems, and spreading new ways of working. Not winning wars but infiltrating new territory.

All of that requires a less abrasive form of politics, a more forgiving internal culture, and a little less hero worship. Not easy to achieve, but absolutely worth fighting for.

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Remote Work Is Always Efficient But Efficient Isn’t Always Effective

There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.

Peter Drucker

This week marked my return to in-person facilitation after 16 months. I’m not going to lie. As I began the week with a 5:30am start and a 90 minute commute, I was hardly overjoyed after a year and half of tumbling out of bed onto Teams.

Real life workshops can be expensive, inefficient, bad for the environment, and bad for you.

And they can be far, far better than collaborating online.

I’m going to risk upsetting the tech enthusiasts here – but when it comes to user experience – face to face workshops are the difference between watching a movie on an iPhone and seeing one in IMAX.

What was missing from workshops I’ve taken part in during the pandemic – although I was always looking at them, never actually in them – is the free-flowing, back-and-forth-and-sideways exchange of ideas that happens in person.

People just behave differently. They mess up. They swear. They spill drinks. No matter how much we’ve gotten used to being on screen, we’ve never actually forgotten that we are on screen. Days literally spent looking at ourselves.

It wasn’t just me saying this. Other people commented it felt like we were a team again.

The chance meetings – I literally had half a dozen in about four hours – don’t happen in our transactional world of screens.

Do chance meetings at the office boost innovation?

There’s no evidence of it, according to a piece in the New York Times.

“The idea you can only be collaborative face-to-face is a bias,” says Dan Spaulding, chief people officer at Zillow “And I’d ask, how much creativity and innovation have been driven out of the office because you weren’t in the insider group, you weren’t listened to, you didn’t go to the same places as the people in positions of power were gathering?”

As we take part in the return to the office we are seeing divergent thinking about the benefits of in-person work vs remote.

“Innovation isn’t always a planned activity,” says Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, about post-pandemic work. “It’s bumping into each other over the course of the day and advancing an idea you just had.”

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, goes further – saying working from home “doesn’t work for spontaneous idea generation, it doesn’t work for culture.”

I think people are in danger of conflating three things: innovation, collaboration, and culture.

What Tim Cook is talking about is serendipitous innovation and the randomness of accidental insights. I had at least a couple of these insights this week based on what I overheard people say – this absolutely would not happen on a Teams or Zoom call.

When Jamie Dimon says remote work doesn’t work for culture, I think he probably means the ability to get to really know what makes a person tick. The ability to act authentically and unguarded. The mistake I think people are making is equating offices as being the only way of achieving that.

We can all think of remote first or remote only companies who appear to have great cultures. Buffer for example and (maybe until recently) Basecamp. However, both of these do international get togethers or retreats that bring people together on a semi-regular basis. That is – they recognise that remote work has its limits. No offices, but purposeful about culture.

The Impact of Loneliness

When it comes to innovation there’s a power in working alongside people. As Tristan Kromer writes – being alone is hard. “Innovating should be a joyful process, best shared with people whose interests and goals align with yours. But in a more practical sense, working alone makes it hard to spot our biases and misconceptions.”

This is a one size fits no-one problem. As I’ve written before the new world of work has to integrate some very different personas into the workplace.

  • The people that are raring to get back and be around people.
  • The ‘office resistant’ employees who would quit rather than return.
  • The group of people who have a fear of re-entry back into society because of Covid.

Innovation isn’t one thing to these people.

Collaboration isn’t one thing to these people.

And neither is culture.

Every employee may be experiencing your organisational culture differently. However, if we get the culture right for the individual, then most of the other stuff we do, like delivering great service, building an enduring brand, or innovating will just be a natural by-product.

Working from a screen is efficient (if you conveniently ignore the carbon impact of back to back video calls). But when it comes to culture, efficiency isn’t everything. We’ve all had very efficient colleagues who are total arseholes.

This isn’t about requiring people back in the office. It’s about letting them influence where they can do their best work and knowing where your best work happens.

And that’s about being efficient and effective.

Photo by Dstudio Bcn on Unsplash

Why We Fail To Predict The Future

The emergence of new infectious diseases is unpredictable but evidence indicates it may become more frequent. In light of evidence from recent emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika, the likelihood of this risk has increased since 2015.

UK National Risk Register 2017

A lot of money and time is going to be spent on corporate risk registers in the year ahead. Following a crisis, regulators and managers naturally take steps to prevent a recurrence. There’s a danger of retrospective risk management: believing in and using a strategy that has been successful in the past but is no longer a relevant tactic in the present, never mind the future.

In military terms it’s called fighting the last war. A famous example is when France built a series of concrete fortifications along their border with Germany: the Maginot Line. What was a winning move in WWI didn’t help in WWII, when Germany flanked the Maginot and invaded from the North, from Belgium. A border that the French hadn’t fortified. The line has since become a metaphor for expensive efforts that offer a false sense of security.

It’s one thing to imagine a future scenario and an entirely different thing to preempt it. Pandemics have been top of national risk registers since the end of the nuclear threat, but that didn’t stop most of the western world failing to seal their borders in January 2020. In fact, amidst a global panic many threw out their carefully draw up pandemic response plans and did something entirely different instead.

This week I’ve been at a couple of events where we discussed horizon scanning.

Most executive teams will tell you they scan the horizon on a regular basis. I made a comment the other day that when you probe what horizon scanning means in practice it often equates to just reading the news and following Elon Musk’s Twitter feed. Helena Moore responded “I raise you a HBR subscription and a friend thats a futurist 😀“.

Far from something that is only done randomly, horizon scanning is a structured process designed to capture, make sense of and assess the importance of emerging issues and trends that are often not very obvious today.

In an increasingly complex world organisations need to horizon scan to prepare for future disruption. By the time significant emerging disruptive risks are known, quantifiable and recorded on a risk register, it may be too late to respond effectively.

Weak Signals Getting Stronger

How do you look for non-obvious trends?

According to Vijay Govindarajan weak signals consist of emergent changes to technology, culture, markets, the economy, consumer tastes and behaviour, and demographics.  Weak signals are hard to evaluate because they are incomplete, unsettled and unclear. “Planned opportunism” is his term for responding to an unpredictable future by paying attention to weak signals. Ultimately our organisations will succeed by exploring these weak signals – abandoning them as they fade or focussing investment when they get stronger.

What We Can Learn From Super Forecasters

Jean-Pierre Beugoms is the forecaster featured in Adam Grant’s book Think Again. He has an outstanding record in predicting the outcomes of elections. While regular pundits rated Donald Trump as a joke, with just a 6% chance of gaining the Republican nomination, Jean-Pierre gave him a 68% chance. How? By constantly challenging his own beliefs and biases.

As he says “I would advise people to question assumptions that are unsupported or weakly supported by the evidence. That is the best way to spot potential opportunities to set yourself apart from the crowd. You also need to become adept at evaluating evidence. I would also advise people not to trust their gut. Thinking with your gut is what pundits do and that is why they are so often wrong.”

Most of us don’t have the skills to become super forecasters, celebrated historians or futurists. So what can any of us do practically? I’d suggest:

  • Create a circulatory system for new ideas and provocations
  • Develop the capacity to prioritise, investigate, and act on those ideas
  • Build an adaptive culture that embraces continual change
  • Be prepared to constantly change your mind about what you think you know

No-one can predict the future but history shows us that it often turns out very different than we imagine.  The more our organisations actively think about the future the easier it becomes to close the future gap and put yourself into that future.

And let’s remember the future is not a far-off point: it arrives daily. Our choice is whether to be an active participant in what it looks like or just let it relentlessly unfold around us.

Photo by Paola Ocaranza on Unsplash

Why The Employee Idea Scheme Doesn’t Work

Staff suggestion schemes are where innovation goes to die


The origin of the staff suggestion box is somewhat hazy – but is believed to be at least 300 years old.

Yoshimune Tokugawa was a shōgun warrior who ruled the Tokugawa shogunate in Japan during the 18th century. He is often credited as the first person to introduce a suggestion scheme. A meyasubako (complaints box) was placed outside Edo Castle which encouraged locals to place ideas about how the province could rid itself of debt. Only Yoshimune himself had the key to the box.

The concept of asking employees to share their ideas to drive innovation is always a good one. Unfortunately, the traditional suggestion scheme is, in my opinion, not the way to go about it.

You’re asking people to literally put their ideas into a box. You’re shutting their ideas away in the dark, and storing them indefinitely. Suggestion schemes have become a joke, the perfect illustration of hands-off, out of touch management tipping the nod at innovation without wanting to put in any hard work.

So why are Bromford Lab in the process of re-introducing one?

Well, as Simon Penny wrote – for innovation and design activity to be sustainable at Bromford, we believe that we must democratise it; supporting colleagues and teams with a super light to medium touch in order to undertake their own innovation activity, freeing up our limited resources to concentrate on higher risk, higher yield, transformative and radically different activity.

To do this we believe we need to hand over the management of new ideas to our fifty most senior leaders -what we call Leadership50. Through developing a much wider group of colleagues we can diversify our innovation approach. Innovation thrives on diversity – it’s a team game. It comes from having a culture where everybody can openly challenge and question one another.  

People like to think that innovation happens because of a genius working alone – but that’s almost never the case. For instance, Steve Jobs insisted he would never allow Apple to make a phone. After his team finally persuaded him to reconsider, he banned outside apps and it took another year to get him to reverse that stance. Much of Apple’s success came from his teams pushing him to rethink his positions. If he hadn’t surrounded himself with people who knew how to change his mind, he might not have changed the world. 

One of the first subjects we tackled as part of Leadership50 was about being bold and daring to disagree with each other. How could we, as leaders, become more receptive and open to challenge, welcoming new ideas from our teams and from across the business? 

Well, working with my LD50 colleagues we made a pitch for what we are calling an Ideas Hub, a central place we can all raise bright ideas that save us money or improve customer or colleague experience. It’s high risk.

As Chris Bolton has written – post COVID the suggestion scheme has had something of a renaissance. All of them have a high chance of failure, indeed several reports have attempted to outline the reasons why many schemes fail . The literature, while extolling the many virtues of suggestion programs, makes it clear that achieving the expected results from these programmes is quite challenging. Suggestion schemes will not yield results without the active involvement of everyone in the organisation together with the required
resources and support from top management. It is also evident that sustaining a suggestion scheme is not easy, it’s hard work.

As Chris says over on his blog , it may be beneficial to take a ‘meta view’ of all the small bright ideas schemes which could identify opportunities that don’t work for the individual schemes, but could work elsewhere. And I agree that having lots of ideas is like spreading your bets at a horse race. The more ideas you have increase the chances of winning.

The problem is most of our organisations don’t suffer from a lack of ideas, they suffer from a lack of process that identifies the ideas worth having.  It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.

Perversely, the answer to unlocking creativity isn’t to go looking for ideas – but to go looking for really good problems. That’s the way to select the ideas that matter.

Having the idea itself is the easy part. Suggestion schemes on their own won’t tackle a culture of no. Even where organisations purposely attempt to generate creative ideas, such as through brainstorming events, hacks or idea boxes they often kill ideas off too early. Sometimes they even kill ideas during the idea-generation activities.

Most hierarchical structures are uniquely designed to ensure that any decent idea never goes near the top table. Any idea that emerges closest to the customer has to work its way up through a series of managers, any one of whom is likely to veto it. As David Burkus points out, research suggests that there is often a cognitive bias against new, innovative ideas – a “hierarchy of no”.

What do managers do? Typically, managerial work. Not creative work. Not radical, reshaping work. Involving management in the cultivation and protection of early stage ideas changes how managers do what they do.

And that’s why I think our latest approach could work. If it’s the leaders themselves that are publicly taxed with the development of bright ideas then they live or die by that particular sword.

More ideas certainly. Better problems, definitely. However – if we are to shift our innovation efforts across the whole enterprise, we need more management experiments.

Community Is The Most Powerful Unit Of Change

We are less pessimistic about our own lives than we are about larger units. We’re not very pessimistic about our village, we are not pessimistic about our town – but we are very pessimistic about our country, and even more pessimistic about the future of our planet. The bigger the unit you look at the more pessimistic people are about it.

– Matt Ridley

Sometimes, the best way to get traction behind an idea or initiative is to make it as local as possible.

Your own community is the best unit of change. For instance, solving homelessness across the UK is a wicked problem that seems unsolvable. However, making sure no-one on your street is at risk of homelessness seems eminently achievable.

Some of this is just that our brains can’t easily comprehend how to solve massive problems. Counter-intuitively, the bigger the problem the less inclined we may be to help out.

That’s why charity appeals often feature a single distressed child (or animal) rather than featuring thousands. In one study to explore this the psychologist Paul Slovic told volunteers about a young girl suffering from starvation. He then measured how much the volunteers were willing to donate to help her. He presented another group of volunteers with the same story of the starving little girl — but this time, also told them about the millions of others suffering from starvation.

On a rational level, the volunteers in this second group should be just as likely to help the little girl, or even more likely because the statistics clearly established the seriousness of the problem. “What we found was just the opposite,” Slovic says. “People who were shown the statistics along with the information about the little girl gave about half as much money as those who just saw the little girl.”

In my last post I outlined three reasons we fail to solve problems, but there’s an important fourth one: sometimes we simply try and approach them in ways that are too hard to comprehend. We go way too big when we might be better off starting really small.

As Matt Ridley explains in this conversation with Jordan Peterson, optimism plays a hugely important role in innovation. And we are most optimistic about our own community – making it fertile ground for solving local problems.

One of the reasons that frugal – or jugaad – innovation thrives in parts of Asia is because it concentrates on local solutions, solved using simple means, with a spirit of eternal optimism.

Jugaad is a Hindi word that roughly means ‘solution born from cleverness.’ It’s usually applied to a low cost fix or work-around. In a culture where people often have to make do with what they have it’s an improvised or makeshift solution using scarce resources.

Anyone who has been to India or other parts of Asia will have seen examples of jugaad on a daily basis.

In case you’re new to the word I’ll give you four pictures, two of which I took myself in Cambodia.

Building a house with discarded cola bottles:

Making tea using an iron:


Attaching an extra seat onto mopeds (or attaching literally ANYTHING onto mopeds):


Bike + Tuk Tuk + Wifi:

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 06.40.48

Partly this is a result of austerity. In an era of abundance there isn’t much desire for the simple fix. Scarcity drives creativity in ways abundance cannot.

Frugal innovations are extremely context sensitive and it’s understood that local people are the ones best placed to understand their needs and address them – almost the opposite of how large scale change is managed in organisations.

Most organisational approaches to change or transformation are carefully structured. Agile or lean are process frameworks, whereas jugaad is void of process altogether. 

My personal belief is the best way western organisations can adopt jugaad thinking is by directly channelling it into communities themselves. Any frugal revolution needs to be driven by people – not from your boardroom.

As an ex-colleague of mine William Lilley said a few years ago: Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has strengths beneath the conceptions that you have of them. But if you’re curious enough, you may just find that the answers you’ve always been looking for are there, often right beside you.

There is a massive untapped reservoir of skill and talent that we choose to ignore because we think we could do it better as professionals.

It could be that a lot of our problems are sitting there waiting to be solved by our colleagues and communities.

We just need to give them permission, and get out of the way.

Can The Pandemic Usher In An Era of Creative Disruption?

In the long dark days of another lockdown it’s easy to become pessimistic. There’s a danger that we fall victim to recency bias, giving all our attention to the mounting death toll, economic damage, and mental health impact rather than the historical evidence that people have managed to survive far greater crises than Covid-19 and gone on, not just to survive, but to thrive.

A trip out with my 77 year old mother isn’t normally the best way to stimulate any positivity, but this week I took her to get her vaccine. During the journey through the snow, and suffering constant moans about my driving skills, it got me thinking about how the pandemic could unleash a new wave of creative disruption. If we let it.

Bear with me whilst I connect some dots.

The publication of the genetic sequence of COVID-19 in early January 2020 triggered the mobilisation of an international response to find a vaccine. The fast tracking of clinical trials and regulatory processes have achieved in less than 12 months what conventionally takes more than ten years.

Anne White highlights some lessons we should take from this:

More collaboration. In nearly every case, meaningful progress against Covid-19 has been the result of multiple organisations working together with a unified mission.

Rethinking user research. Social distancing measures and the lockdowns could have been a barrier to clinical trials (participants couldn’t travel nor could you go to their home) , but the use of new technology and thinking differently about user engagement meant a wider, more geographically diverse, set of participants could be reached.

Better integration of digital technologies. Existing and readily available technology – video conferencing and chat apps for instance – were used to engage participants and share results. Data analytics were used to speed up vaccine development by enabling more efficient design of experiments and by creating rapid-scale production rollout processes.

Three things: collaboration, user research, digital tech as an accelerant of learning. This should be used as Innovation 101 for all our organisations going forward.

Great Wyrley, a village in South Staffordshire, England is where the tireless work of AstraZeneca, arguably the most innovative pharma company in the world, meets my mother.

It doesn’t start well. For some reason mum wants her vaccination done in Stafford “just like my friends have done”. I explain that she doesn’t have that option, it’s the same vaccine, and there’s an appointment closer to her anyway. We have to abort the journey to the first appointment because of the weather – or rather my mums hysterical reaction to my driving in the snow.

Not a problem, we’ll just phone up and rearrange.

Except – there’s no phone number listed online or any option to let anyone know you can’t attend.

However, rebooking is easy, and we get a slot the next day. Arriving on time we find that the Chemist shop where the the vaccination appointment is booked isn’t actually where it takes place. It’s just over the road at the community centre. Not a big deal you might think, but you’re not my mum, who huffs and puffs as she makes her way through the snow, nearly falling over in the process.

“Best injection I’ve ever had!” she says as she gets back in the car. I’ve had quite a few injections over the past couple of years, I think to myself, but I’d never imagined ranking them.

On the way back home, mum repeatedly goes over why the appointment notification said it was at the chemist rather than the community centre. This seemingly innocuous detail seems to have riled her. “It’s stupid…just a complete waste of the chemists time to keep having to tell people that they are in the wrong place and to go over the road”. I’d never thought of my mother as a budding service designer.

Later that day, she gets a call from her GP asking her whether she’s had her vaccine as they have some available. “Don’t they know I’ve already had it, surely they’d know that.” she says.

“It’s just that they are trying to do this quickly, it’s not perfect. You’ve had your vaccine, that’s all that matters” – I tell her.

At the time of writing 7.5 million people in the UK have had their first jab. That’s in just over a month from a standing start – a magnificent feat achieved through a network of pharma, health workers, local businesses, community centres and volunteers all working together.

When I had my jab a couple of days later at a local church the number of people involved was astonishing, but I was in and out in under 6 minutes.

What’s my point here?

If we’d followed a conventional big transformation/change/consultancy approach to vaccine development and deployment we’d be getting our jabs sometime around the middle of 2033.

The burning platform of COVID has brought multiple actors together with a range of diverse skills to solve problems that didn’t exist just over a year ago.

Surely you need to review the timescales of your latest change programme based upon that?

Yes, it isn’t perfect. The technology isn’t joined up, the tracing system doesn’t work brilliantly, the communication is abysmal at times.

And yes, my mum was told to go to the bloody chemist instead of the community centre.

But people will be forgiving of a bit of poor design – if they get the outcome they need.

A new era of creative disruption?

Yes – if we change our behaviour.

The question is, can your organisation draw on the lessons of the pandemic to forge a more effective partnership with your customers and stakeholders?

Can you deploy new thinking and research methods that develop in weeks rather than years?

Can you use this new found intelligence to improve business as usual and help your company mobilise quickly when faced with the next , inevitable, crisis?

Or will you go back to the comfortable world of five year business plans? Thinking we can somehow predict, or even control the future.

It’s our choice, for the moment.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Three Innovation Aspirations For 2021

A new year is usually the time where we leap off the sofa and out of the house, attempting to reset our lives and put straight all the things we failed to do the previous year.

2021 is different – as many of us will start the year spending even more time on the sofa and in the house.

Last year was a wake up call for me as I started the year with lots of resolutions and ideas for the next 12 months, and then found out that the world had an entirely different plan.

When bigger forces take over your life it can be easy for us to give up control and become a bystander. But in reality we still have agency over our lives , and have many opportunities. In fact, when life gets reset or derailed there are often more opportunities, even if we can’t clearly see them.

However, being able to see the opportunities emerging from a crisis is not the same as being able to seize them.

Research from McKinsey has indicated that many companies are deprioritising innovation to concentrate on shoring up core business, conserving cash, minimising risk and waiting until “there is more clarity.” 

In a year in which most of us will have to contend with having less resources, less cash liquidity, and living in a more uncertain environment, we have to ask the question:

What is innovation to us, and what am I hoping to get out of innovation?

I’ll begin this years series of posts with three ambitions for the year ahead.

Connecting innovation to the larger organisation

We can probably say with some certainty that whatever your approach to innovation was in 2019, it’s no longer fit for purpose. Many of our organisations have , in effect, become new companies. Many of us will have spent a year, or more, without physically seeing each other. People will have joined the workforce – never knowing another way of working.

While we will likely never go back to our pre-crisis status quo, I imagine the future will be a blended one that leverages the best of what both virtual and face-to-face working offer. Enlightened organisations will become hyper connected and networked, with ideas emerging from all corners, and levels, of the business.

This way of working is an existential threat to policy teams, Innovation Labs and R+D functions. These teams have often seen themselves as connectors of thinking within organisations , but in the new world everyone is a potential connector of thinking.

The pandemic has accelerated many things, including people’s expectations of problem resolution. The time course of medical research has been cut down to almost nothing. The Moderna COVID vaccine was created in a weekend , but built upon many years of prior work.

People simply aren’t going to have tolerance for labs, think tanks, and R+D units who talk the talk but take years rather than weeks to turn ideas into solutions.

The necessary task now is for organisations to democratise the innovation process. This means giving all employees access to creative learning and development that lets them solve simple problems themselves – whilst also identifying those bigger strategic opportunities or problems to be worked on in collaboration with others.

Staying Perpetually Curious

At present, we miss our freedom, we miss our social interactions, we miss our routine, we miss the usual solutions that we have to guide our lives.

Creativity is largely social and a long period of living without physical connection could have negative implications.

A major catalyst for innovation are those unplanned interactions with friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. The closure of coffee shops, bars, libraries, gyms and community centres means these opportunities have been cut off for us at the moment.

Travelling, also curtailed, presented new challenges and cultures to adapt to. The subsequent strain on the problem-solving areas of the brain strengthens our creativity skills.

For a good period of this year these opportunities are likely to be reduced or off limits entirely. We all need to help each other retain our capacity for seeking out new learning, and take advantage of the current situation to nourish our minds, educate ourselves and treat each day as a new start.

It’s worth organisations remembering that colleagues being more bored than usual is also an opportunity. Studies have shown that people who have gone through a boredom-inducing task later performed better on an idea-generating task than peers who first completed an interesting craft activity. 

Being bored can be a good thing for your mind, imagination and productivity.

Being Brave Enough To Change Our Minds

If there was one unwelcome trend of the past few years it has been the growth of partisan thinking, which has again tipped to violence in the past few days.

Partisanship has been boosted by Brexit, Trumpism, climate change, identity politics, wokeism, and now lockdown and vaccination policy. Social media – where we are all spending more and more time – is very efficient at facilitating this as the algorithms herd us into echo chambers that reflect our own views and biases back at us. When the information or opinions you hold – whether factually correct or not – are repeatedly being echoed back to you, it enforces your individual belief system.

This is inimical to the kind of diversity of thought that innovation requires.

As Jorge Barba says an open mind is our greatest strategic advantage because it costs us nothing and rewards us with plenty.

I don’t know about you but I’m committing this year to changing my mind on at least of couple of biases that I hold dear. Breaking free of limiting assumptions is a creative act that is also good for your mental health. Admitting you don’t have the answers rather than pretending you do is personally empowering.

In 2021 perhaps the bravest and most radical thing you could do is to change your mind.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How To Prepare For The Future of Housing


Late last year I attended a talk from Melissa Sterry, a Design Scientist. She was challenging the received wisdom that we would all live a lot longer in the future. “How can we say this?” she said. “When everything around us is changing so rapidly?” She went on to explain the complex global disruption caused by events such as climate change and proposed that there were few guarantees about anything anymore.

A full two months before most of us had heard of COVID-19, Melissa gave the example of new diseases emerging with strains capable of igniting pandemics. The message was clear – the world we think we know can quickly disappear. 

Endless column inches have already been filled with speculation about what a ‘new normal’ looks like. In reality none of us know what a post-pandemic operating environment looks like. However there are some areas of challenge and opportunity that we must begin to consider.

The most immediate is the way we work. The virus has kickstarted the world’s largest workplace experiment – with remote working advancing as much in a few weeks as it has in the previous ten years. Right now there are lots of CEOs looking at our empty offices and wondering what their purpose was.

Is it too fanciful to imagine a future where housing association offices simply cease to exist, with people relocated to work in the communities they are employed to serve?  I expect that we will gravitate back to our offices over time, so should take this opportunity to question whether that’s the sensible thing to do. 

People are already valuing new arrangements with a poll for transport consultants SYSTRA finding that more of us expect to work from home saving money on commute time and cost, and striking a better work-life balance. 67% of people say they believe virtual meetings will replace some or all future business trips or meetings. The longer that people go without spending their time and money on fuel and transport the more resistant they will be to returning to it.

Arguably the more challenging questions emerge when looking at  community and customer service. 

YouGov have reported that only 9% of us want to return to life as normal with 40% of people saying they feel a stronger sense of community than before lockdown. 

People have begun supporting and caring for one another to an unprecedented extent, with community led groups popping up to address needs in ways that housing associations simply can’t. Rather than organisations, it is neighbours that have shown themselves to be the most useful support network in a physically distanced world. 

Now then is an ideal time to revisit our purpose and reflect on the non value adding activities that our organisations are involved in. It is hard to imagine right now, but even bigger challenges lie ahead. The economic fallout of this crisis will hit most of us, but we know from past experience that those on benefits or in the lowest paid employment will be hit hardest. We’ve woken up to the fact that those who work in supermarkets and the caring professions are the backbone of our society, so we need to reconsider how our organisations can better support them. This means thinking beyond ‘housing’ and requires a need for the whole system to work together, through health, housing, employment and social care. 

Also now is a time to reflect on the built home itself. The sector has toyed with the concept of live/work environments and multi use spaces over the past 10 years. Starting now we need to design new homes for a work from anywhere culture and adapt lettings policies for existing ones. The idea of having a spare room for working – previously a luxury – could now be a basic requirement. 

Lockdown has highlighted the importance of open space and how valuable it is to people for their sense of well-being. The unequal access to it has been revealed through the stories of tenants without access to any private outdoor space — be it a balcony, patio or garden. This isn’t an easy problem to solve – if you build bigger outside space it means less internal space and few developers are amenable to that. How we design homes that promote the health, resilience and wellbeing of communities is a question we must answer. 

There’s no way to completely prepare for the future of housing. Nor indeed can we solve every problem. The best we can hope to do is to stay up to date on current trends, encourage local solutions and community led innovation – and prepare our people for frequently changing environments. 

Above all though we should never assume we can survive the future with the same thinking that enabled us to survive the past. 

Photo by Breno Assis on Unsplash

The Creative Value Of Open-Mindedness

Innovation is, essentially, about being endlessly curious.

Curious, and a little bit paranoid that the way you do things isn’t the best way.

Looking outside your organisation means gathering and understanding trends and weak signals that indicate emerging needs or opportunities. These weak signals are often overlooked or ignored by organisations that will only listen to a sure thing.

Often, by the time the sure thing emerges, you’ve left it far too late.

Let’s be honest, most of us are hopeless at predicting the future. Despite our organisational 2030 strategies, our five year forward views, it’s nearly impossible to predict what our world looks like in the years ahead. Our business plans are merely business guesses.

Even the smartest of us tend to be terrible forecasters. We shouldn’t even listen to the so-called experts says Dominic Cummings , the Chief Special Advisor to the UK Prime Minister.

There is some truth in this. As Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed in a landmark 2005 study.

After conducting a set of small scale forecasting tournaments with 300 experts from a variety of fields (government officials, professors, journalists, and others), Tetlock uncovered roughly 28,000 predictions about the future and found the forecasters were often only slightly more accurate than chance, and usually worse than predicted by basic algorithms, especially on longer–range forecasts three to five years out. Forecasters with the biggest news media profiles were especially bad, and that’s what Dom Cummings is alluding to when he derides media pundits.

What traits and characteristics make one person a more accurate forecaster than another? 

Tetlock found that those higher on fluid intelligence, higher on open mindedness , and those that a make commitment to cultivate their skills made better forecasters.

Now – it’s not achievable ,or even desirable, to have lots of superforecasters in our organisations. But the traits of the forecasters give some valuable insights into creativity and innovation:

  • They are comfortable thinking in guesstimates
  • They have the personality trait of openness
  • They take pleasure in intellectual activity and curiosity
  • They appreciate uncertainty and like seeing things from multiple angles
  • They distrust their gut feelings
  • They are not ideological and neither left or right wing
  • They constantly attack their own reasoning
  • They are aware of biases and actively work to oppose them
  • They constantly update their current opinions with new information
  • They believe in the wisdom of crowds to improve upon or discover ideas
  • They are not afraid to look stupid..

I definitely find when working with people on creative projects that many of the best participants share a lot of these traits – particularly those of being open minded.

How can we develop open-minded organisations?

Most people don’t think they are close minded.

However a quick look at Twitter will confirm that many people are. Technology encourages us to believe we all have first-hand access to the ‘real’ facts. That’s why I’ve all but given up watching or listening to mainstream current affairs and shifted to longer form podcasts. What passes for ‘debate’ is often just a series of short exchanges of people presenting their positions and refusing to shift.  You know what someone is going to say before they open their mouths.

In assessing how open-minded you are to new ideas, ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time I asked for feedback about my work?
  • Has there been a time recently when I’ve changed my mind on an important issue?
  • Do I solicit new ideas from my colleagues and customers?
  • Do I show recognition and appreciation for the ideas suggested by others?
  • Does my team support a culture of openness and continual feedback?
  • When did I last express uncertainty about what to do next in front of my team?

Questions such of these are arguably at odds with our traditional idea of leadership.

When we think of an ideal leader, we often conjure the image of a confident, assertive individual who is not afraid to make decisions and lay down a clear direction. Because of this perception, openness to new ideas, approaches, or suggestions by others is an increasingly overlooked and underrated skill.

Now more than ever we need to prepare our organisations for multiple possible futures.

Therefore, open-mindedness is the quality that we need to cultivate. It allows us to entertain various ideas, even ones that are contradictory to our initial beliefs, and deliberate them.

Weak signals and early ideas are hard to evaluate because they are incomplete, unsettled and unclear. The skill is in spotting trends and creating a pipeline of exploration that allows to you to accelerate ideas from nascent, vague concepts into prototypes, tests and ultimately, products or services.

Future ready organisations will be the ones that maintain an inquisitive and outward-looking nature, searching for new influences that challenge all that they do. In a world of high frequency change and complex problems it’s time to start rewarding people for their learning rather than just their performance.

There’s a business case for being curious and not believing the same things you did yesterday.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Putting The Needs Of The User Before The System

Are some countries more innovative than others?

Certainly many have tried to measure it, with the UK being outperformed by the likes of South Korea, Israel and Finland.

As the CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla has said, the role of Government when it comes to encouraging innovation is crucial: “We need to make sure that we change the way that we operate so that we can remove bureaucratic processes. Innovation and bureaucracy, like water and oil, they don’t mix well together”.

Government regulations can have both positive and negative effects on the innovation process. How can we get the balance right?

Last week I was in Newport, Wales, hosting a couple of workshops at the Future Generations X Conference.

Wales is a country that is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to innovation and collaboration. It is attempting a seismic shift in the way that public services are required to think and operate.

In 2015 it enacted the Well-being of Future Generations Act which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.

The ambition is to take the big ideas in Wales and across the world that can be adopted, shared and advanced across all public services.

That requirement to think differently about the wellbeing of future generations has all sorts of practical impact on day to day decision making.

  • What is the future generational impact of evicting a family from their home?
  • What is the future generational impact of jailing a father?

These are big complex problems and there are no easy answers.

The people attending my workshops spoke of the genuine challenges of collaboration at scale, of moving away from top down funding arrangements and targets where performance indicators drive the behaviors rather than the users.

Changing structures that have been set up with the specific purpose of measuring predetermined outcomes is never going to be easy.

When a target is set by someone sitting in an office who has never met an actual customer how on earth can we expect the outcome to be what the user actually wanted?

However, there is an acceptance from the top of Government that shifting behaviours towards a genuine user focus is the way forward.

The challenge here is simple to say but complex to achieve: putting the needs of the end user before the system.

All of this means investing in people and giving them the space to think differently.
It means giving them permission to challenge preconceived practices and ‘rules’.
It means taking a different attitude to risk and learning from failure

This theme is developed by Russell Webster citing a report by Professors Chris Fox and Kevin Albertson. The recommendations are specifically about probation services but I’d argue apply equally to almost all public sector innovation.  It recommends:

  1. Developing innovative ecosystems where a mixed economy of public, private and Third Sector organisations collaborate together for the greater good.
  2. A collaborative approach where different partners work together in pursuit of shared value.
  3. A co-created and personalised approach both at the system level in terms of service design delivery, and at the individual level in terms of more personalised services.
  4. A system which fosters localism in order to foster innovation.
  5. Greater investment in a broader understanding of evidence.

As I wrote last week pre-emptive change doesn’t lend itself to conventional approaches to governance. It’s likely to need adaptive or visionary models of change, rather than heavy-handed, top-down approaches.

What’s happening in Wales seems like a genuine attempt to move away from ‘simple but wrong’ approaches to public policy. It’s a huge ambition and I’m sure it will be a rocky road but I wish them well.

Putting the needs of the user before that of the system sounds simple but is in fact hugely complex.

But no-one ever thought doing the right thing was easy did they?


Moving From The Reactive To The Pre-Emptive

As Matthew Manos has written, many of us in the social sector are employed in the expectation that the things that go wrong will always go wrong. 

Indeed, our work often profits from past societal failure rather than the contemplation of the signals of failures that have yet to exist.

The entire premise relies on reaction. 

  • The prisons are full. Build more of them.
  • People feel unsafe. Put more Police on the beat.
  • A+E = overflowing. We need more nurses.
  • There’s people sleeping on the street. Just build more homes.

Reactive services are not wholly bad – far from it – but our relentless focus on managing the past rather than inventing the future is limiting our scope for something a lot more radical.

The challenge is how to switch our organisations and our work to be pre-emptive. And that requires a whole system change.

  • A move from telling to listening.
  • A move from managing to coaching.
  • A move from filling the gaps with services to closing the gaps through connections.

That’s not easy when the whole system is built on reaction.

Let’s be honest, anyone can be reactive. And cynically you could say that reactive approaches keep a lot of people in jobs.

To be pre-emptive on the other hand, to truly anticipate future need and to create an offering around it, that takes real skill.

As a society we’ve now tested to destruction the idea that we can solve a problem by just throwing money at it.

Too often we’ve become trapped in a reactive spending cycle on public services none of which will not solve the underlying problems of short-term thinking and even shorter term spending decisions.

Everyone knows the cycle of crisis, cash, repeat doesn’t work. So why do we do it? 

One of the issues is the funding itself and how we approach financial planning.

Most financial planning is actually financial guessing the same as strategic planning is often strategic guessing. Wrapping things up in a 20 page report makes it seems like we know we what we are doing – but the truth is, we are just managing and reacting to the failures of the past.

And this is one of the problems we have: innovation and the pre-emption of the future is treated the same way as everything else – whether it’s forecasting how much coffee people drink or estimating annual sick days.

We seek certainty where this is none and assurances of success where it can never be assured. We have grown afraid of failure. And if there’s one thing we all know it’s that if you fear failure you cannot innovate.

Pre-Emptive Change: Fix It Before It Breaks

Moving to a pre-emptive mindset means shifting to a business model that acknowledges the fundamental ambiguity in everything it does.

Simplistically it could be broken down into four stages.

FutGenX - Paul Taylor Prevention Workshop

Shifting Perspectives

Many of our organisations have a bias towards getting quick answers. We favour execution rather than deliberation and contemplation. A pre-emptive approach means acknowledging we don’t understand our world half as much as we think we do. It means creating the time and the space for getting to the root cause of our problems.

Reframing Problems as Opportunities

If creativity is applying imagination to address a challenge then innovation is applying creativity to generate unique solutions. However to arrive at unique solutions you often have to reframe the question you are asking. The first step in reframing problems as opportunities is about unpacking all the assumptions we have. Remember – the point of reframing is not to find the “real” problem but to uncover whether there is a better one to solve.

Exploring Opportunities

We need to balance the right mix of fresh ideas and experience to foster innovation and ensure that new ideas are constantly explored and entertained.

This means becoming comfortable with abortive early attempts to solve problems in new ways. As we wrote over at Bromford Lab – whilst it might seem like the quickest way to get results is to jump straight to pilot, in fact doing things this way can often take longer to arrive at the right solution, or in extreme cases it can even lead to bad ideas being scaled. The best approach is to use prototyping and testing to rapidly learn more about a problem, fail safely, kill bad ideas early, and move on quickly.

Preventative Interventions 

Pre-emptive change doesn’t lend itself to conventional approaches to project management. It’s likely to need adaptive or visionary models of change, rather than heavy-handed, top-down approaches.

In preemptive change, R&D expenditure and an approach to constant iteration are decisive factors, reflecting a need to properly invest in the future.

Whatever our business plans say – there is no certainty in the future.

Let’s stop pretending there is.

This post was written as an introduction to a workshop taking place at ICC Wales on January 10th 2020 for FutureGen X. The session itself will be shared in next weeks post. 

Screenshot 2020-01-10 at 07.26.44

How Technology Can Increase Collaboration And Build Trust

This post is an shortened version of a plenary talk delivered in Cardiff for the Wales Audit Office 

Depending on your age it’s likely that the two things you were not taught in school were:

a) how to collaborate effectively


b) how to use technology to connect and share with others

And yet these – the essential skills of the digital economy – are hardly ever talked about, much less taught and promoted, in our places of work.

Our 21st century economy demands workers excel at collaborating through technology, but as employers we struggle to work out how to equip our people with these vital skills.

There’s a reason for this of course, most of our organisations are still obsessed with organising ourselves into neat little directorates with clear accountabilities and reporting lines. This creates a very efficient looking functional silo system – encouraging employees to stay in their lane and get things done.

However in a digital economy we can no longer afford to think in conventional terms of efficiency. The more interdependent the world becomes, the less it needs lone problem solvers and the more it needs great collaborators and orchestrators. How to collaborate productively is a skill we all need to learn as it’s essential to our having greater impact in the digital world.

Problem-solving, creative thinking, digital skills and collaboration are in greater need every year yet are not the focus of our learning and development.

We still spend most of our time and resources on leaders. This incessant focus on ‘leading’ ‘and ‘leadership’ is actually a throwback to an industrial model and unwittingly acts against collaboration. When we continually promote the importance of leaders we imply that they are ones to take charge of situations.  They are the the ones to sort our problems out.

However, this concept of the heroic leader is fundamentally anti-collaborative as it compels those being ‘led’ to be submissive and unquestioning.

How can our organisations become more collaborative? 

Ultimately , we’ll only build collaborative organisations if we design them that way.

At its best, collaboration in the workplace can help people think more deeply and creatively about a subject and develop more empathy for others’ perspectives. It can boost productivity and innovation and create better workplace engagement.

But, it takes time and requires space and patience. And – it’s incompatible with cultures built on ego and fiefdoms.

As I’ve written previously, if we don’t teach, measure, encourage or reward collaboration it doesn’t tend to happen.

At Bromford we’ve begun the process of democratising innovation and design by training all our colleagues in collaborative problem solving and cross-team working. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s supported by an organisational DNA that has a design thinking – and hence a collaborative – mindset at its core.

How technology can increase collaboration and build trust

What are the challenges?

The technology is there to enable cross-team, cross-sector, and cross-country collaboration. Much of it is free to use.

Legacy thinking is more of a barrier to this than legacy IT.

We still have a tiny percentage of leaders who are really living a digital lifestyle. There are still relatively few having open debates , showing transparency in public discourse , answering questions online and sharing progress.

Too many of us are hiding behind unfounded concerns about data privacy and fear of working in the open.

We need to teach and support people how to make the best use of social technologies to connect and collaborate at scale.

What are the opportunities? 

For the first time in history, we now have the ability to ‘go beyond’ our organisational boundaries, connecting and sharing with the public and each other.

The basic unit of innovation is not a creative individual, nor even a team, but a creative community.

Millions of people connected without hierarchy and working together to solve some of our biggest challenges. This provides the opportunity for a 10x improvement in our communities. 

For organisations and systems that are used to ‘providing services’ rather than ‘connecting people’ that’s clearly a challenge  – but it is one we can and must step up to.

We can’t change the world on our own. We need to build movements.