We’d like to do something really innovate. Can you show us how you’ve done that before?

If I had a pound for every time that I’d heard that from clients, prospects and elsewhere over the last few years, then I’d be a richer man. Well, at least a couple of months of Amazon Prime subscription-richer.

As recently discussed, there’s a whole lot of hokum talked about in the world of innovation in established businesses at the moment. But what might innovative approaches to coming up with new ideas (and making things happen from them) look like? I don’t have “an answer” for you. There are no sure-fire solutions to this problem. But what we are going to be doing this afternoon might be a way of thinking about it.

It started with an idea. The idea was explored in a Skype conversation between Anne-Marie and myself back in the Spring. She and I originally met on Twitter, and over the past few years we have conversed mostly there, on Skype and, on a couple of occasions, in various locations in London.

The idea was Minimum Viable Workplace. “We should try and get some people interested and talking about this” we thought. We set up a Google Group and invited a bunch of people to join it (and also spread the word through that blog article and Twitter).

The first rule of innovation is that most things don’t work. Google Groups didn’t really spark. It’s a pain to get in to. It’s not very intuitive. Nobody really could be arsed.

But we now had a list of interested parties, and a bit of conversation was happening online. We needed to get together in the physical world.

Anne-Marie was able to find a venue through a contact at Herman Miller. We fixed a date. We publicised it, again through Twitter (and LinkedIn). Lots of people expressed interest. Some committed to attend. Anne-Marie and I did enough to mean that this afternoon (hopefully) we’ll have 15-20 people gathering together to explore some of the themes that have emerged around MVW to date.

Some of the people work for big, serious organisations. Some for smaller ones. Some, like Anne-Marie and I, work free-range. They come from a broad mixture of professional background. What will come out of it? I point you back to the first rule of innovation.

However, what I hope for is…

  • new connections are made between people who didn’t know each other before
  • we have some interesting and engaging conversations around the subject that shares insight and experience
  • we identify some areas where people are interested enough to do something about it – that there will be some next steps
  • I’m able to make next week’s WB40 Podcast out of what I and others record across the course of the day

This for me is what innovation is all about. Pulling together diverse knowledge and experience to explore fragments of ideas and bash them about a bit until something emerges (or, possibly, doesn’t). It’s not expensive, it’s not (particularly) time consuming.

And, above all else, it’s all about the people.

One thought on “The power of people

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