How to stimulate innovative thinking
A lot of the conversations I’ve been having with clients and leaders over the summer, could be summarised in just two topics: agility and innovation.
The desire to increase agility has become much more urgent as a result of recent experience: in times of rapid change, we have to be able to change rapidly, and since March (what with one thing and another) it has become a critical component for most organisations.
But responsiveness in reacting to external change is only a small part of the potential of becoming more agile. The greater potential is unlocked when it’s combined with new ideas and fresh opportunities developed internally, ones that can dramatically improve our ability to create impact, generate new income and further our missions.
Thus, to maximise the value of this aspired-for agility, the most important ingredient will inevitably be the ability to innovate. This is one of the reasons why leaders who are further down the track, are starting to prioritise it, but it’s not the only one.
It’s also increasingly apparent, as I said it would back in April, that the ability to rapidly and continuously innovate is becoming a key differentiator between those who doing well this year, and those who are still struggling to stay solvent.
This is not exclusively a third sector challenge, it’s the same across most industries and I’ve lost count of the number of business CEOs lamenting the lack of innovation bubbling up within their organisations. Their common refrain being: “why do all the new ideas have to come from me?”
The answer is usually revealed very quickly when I ask them how much of their time is spent outside their business, talking and listening to others, thinking about the future, gaining inspiration; and how much time they encourage their employees to spend in that same way.
People can’t be expected to “think outside the box” when just about every structure, role description, process and accountability we create, is explicitly designed to define the box within which we expect them to operate.
Innovation stems from creativity; and creativity can’t flourish unless we create the space and environment where our people can express their curiosity, experiment and improvise solutions, follow their intuition where it strays from the traditional route – to step out of the organisational and process boxes in which we put them.
I have no hesitation in saying that innovation and agility will be two of the most important, defining characteristics of successful charities for the foreseeable future – for me, this is an obviosity. And so, prior to November’s open session on agility, I’m slipping in an extra seminar, for free to anyone in the third sector, on creativity and innovation, with a special guest from across the Atlantic.
Natalie Nixon is a long-time colleague of mine, a Fellow of the RSA, a creativity expert, global speaker, and Author of The Creativity Leap. She will be joining me by Zoom on 29th September to talk and answer questions on creativity, innovation and what that means for organisations like ours. If you or your colleagues would like to join me for this, or any of the other seminars below, just drop me a line and I’ll register you for the event.
CEO Breakfast (CEOs only) – Models for Systems Change. 10th September 8:30-10:30am (no fee). Join CEOs from British Red Cross, Catch22 and others, in a highly interactive and uniquely insightful CEO-group seminar on the potential for visionary societal change.
Webinar (open to all) – Beyond the limits of interventions: how charities can recognise and embrace practices and principles of systems change to achieve population-level impact. 15th September 5pm to 6pm (no fee). I will share the high-level models and mechanics that can inform and shape more aspirational and collaborative strategies for population-level outcomes.
Webinar (open to all) – Making the creativity leap: how organisations can embrace curiosity, improvisation and intuition to find much more innovative answers to the challenges society faces. 29th September 5pm to 6pm (no fee). My special guest will be US speaker, and author of The Creativity Leap, Natalie Nixon, President of Figure 8 Thinking.
Webinar (open to all) – Agile Innovation: how to think big, start small and learn fast. 10th November 5pm to 6pm (no fee). I will share the models and techniques used by innovative businesses to radically reduce risks and financial exposure, while dramatically accelerating speed to market for new commercial ideas.
Development experience (open to all) – Ethical Selling: One and a half days of intensive technical and behavioural training with pre-work and homework, followed up with 30 days of individualised personal support from me. 13th and 14th October (£1,750 per person; £1,250 for first six to register – I currently have three people registered). Together we will hone your sales strategy, proposition and process, and practice how to identify, reach and qualify buyers, build rapid rapport, and develop compelling, high-value proposals that will be accepted the majority of the time.
“Having Martyn help us develop our selling skills was an amazing investment. It’s already paid for itself 5x over in just 10 weeks.” Sharron McIndoe Head of Training and Consulting, National Autistic Society
“Bringing in salespeople was not going to be the right thing to do. We needed to become experts in selling. You need people who can go out and have the right conversations and not be afraid.” Nic Alderson, COO, Anthony Nolan