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One of the huge cast of characters created by the wonderful humorous writer P. G. Wodehouse was Wilmot Mulliner. Perhaps not so well known as Jeeves and Wooster he’s nevertheless an interesting subject. We’re introduced to him at a difficult time in his life; he’s employed in the burgeoning film industry, working for Mr Schnellenhamer, the head of the Perfecto-Zizzbaum Corporation, a film studio. And he’s not a happy man.His role is that of a ‘Nodder’ and, as Wodehouse explains, this is similar to a Yes-Man except lower in the social scale. He is expected to nod in agreement to what the chief executive says but only after all the Yes-Men have said yes. Perhaps not surprisingly, he’s getting a little fed up with this role.Wilmot is a wonderfully comic creation but also a reminder of what we don’t want in our world of creativity. We know good ideas don’t come from a single person — perfectly formed. They benefit from challenge and argument - which is the theme we explore in  this podcast.You can find a transcript here
Innovation is all about knowledge spaghetti.Just like a plate of pasta innovation involves many different strands. Only this time we are talking about knowledge - technical knowledge, market knowledge, legal knowledge, financial knowledge and so on. They need to be woven together to create value. And these knowledge strands are held by different people, inside and outside the organization. We have to find them and connect them, link them together to enable us to innovate. Whilst we can superimpose structures on it to help us with this task we shouldn’t forget that we’re really working with knowledge spaghetti.One very powerful model is based on the idea that everyone in the organization has something to contribute to the innovation story – high involvement innovation. Here we’re working on the belief that even small strands of knowledge can be important and if we could bring them in to the story we’d make significant progress.Which history tells us we can.In countless embodiments the principle of high involvement has been shown to pay dividends.Ask people for what they know that might help solve problems around quality, cost, delivery, etc – and there’s no shortage of good ideas in response.But it’s not just the raw return on investment which collaboration platforms offer – thought these benefits are impressive. Their real value lies in the way they enable ‘emergent properties’ – the innovation whole becomes much greater than the sum of its parts.They give us new and powerful ways of working with the knowledge spaghetti. Not only can we handle the sheer scale of the knowledge challenge and focus it towards key objectives but we can do so in ways which yield surprising additional benefits. They effectively turbocharge our innovation system.   As this podcast suggests...You can find a transcript here
These days there are very few certainties but this is one of them. We’re all going to depend increasingly on healthcare innovation for the quality of our future lives. Keeping ourselves healthy, coping with chronic ailments, living into old age with dignity and independence. We all want this — and we’re going to need all the help we can find to help us get there.Which helps explain the huge and growing healthcare industry and the explosion of start-ups in this space. Healthcare innovation matters.But look again at that first paragraph. This is not a sector we can be entirely objective about, looking in through the window at it. It’s about us, it concerns each of us as individuals, with all the diversity that implies. We all have a stake in healthcare innovation but we’re also aware that one size isn’t necessarily going to fit us all. So there is real scope for our voices to be heard and our ideas to be used. A classic opportunity for user innovation - as this podcast explores.You can find a transcript here
The suggestion box sounds like a very old approach to the challenge of  high involvement innovation - how to engage the majority of people in an  organization in the innovation agenda.  It conjures images of dusty  boxes tucked away in the corner into which people have long since given  up posting ideas.But its successors - collaboration platforms  for innovation - carry out essentially the same task.  The difference is  that they do so in highly interactive fashion, and act not only as a  place to capture ideas but also to develop, shape and implement them.   They represent a powerful tool in the innovation armoury - although, as  this podcast suggests, their effective implementation requires much more  than just technology.You can find a transcript here
Innovation is all about uncertainty - no-one knows quite what's around the corner.  So there's a limit to how far we can plan to work with it - and instead we need to develop the skills of agility.  As this song suggests, it’s a bit like learning to dance....Dancing at the Innovation Ball The thing with innovation, this is something you will learn It never goes the way you want, you’ve got to twist and turn The road ahead’s uneven, one way streets and plain dead ends And there’s always something nasty hiding just around the bend! But there ‘s one thing you can rely on, one thing we know for sure Innovation’s quite predictable – it follows Murphy’s Law!  Chorus So be quick on your feet and light on your toes Learn to do the dance Going round in circles is just how it goes When your partner's name is Chance Three steps forward, two steps back And don’t forget to turn Never mind when events try to push you off track It’s just what you have to learn It’s no big deal if you trip or you stumble Don’t be afraid to fall Intelligent failure’s the name of the game At the Innovation Ball!   The best laid plans o’ mice and men do oft times gang agley What the poet, Robbie Burns, was really trying to say Is that things don’t always work out right, no matter how hard you try So you need to learn to live with it, instead of asking why…. Of course you need a project plan, of course you need a team But remember with even the best of these things are never what they seem  Chorus  Learning to dance this waltz might seem as hard as it can be But if you keep on, persevere, it’s easy as ABC Fail fast, fail forward, and pivot – capture what you’ve gained Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and then go round again! It’s build, test, review, build, test, review,  and build, test, review, once more Never mind if you’re feeling all battered and bruised from all the times you hit the floor!  Chorus     
 The great management writer W. Edwards Deming had a powerful introduction to his talks on quality management. Pulling out a dollar bill and waving it in front of the audience he would point out the wording: ‘In God we trust’ — and then go on to comment that in business life the same principle could be applied, but with the afterthought ‘…everything else we should measure’. His argument was simple; if we want to control something we need to make sure we measure it. And that’s as true of innovation as any other business process. Although it can appear to be about inspiration, intuition and risk-taking the fact is that it’s a process and needs managing as such….. You can find a transcript here
 History is full of examples of innovations which, despite their promise, have been resisted by established players – the ‘not invented here’ effect.  And although we’re familiar with the problem it doesn’t seem to have gone away; there are still plenty of examples to be found across today’s innovation landscape.  One candidate might be UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.  They’ve changed the face of aviation-based services in a wide range of industries from agriculture to zoo-keeping, yet the mainstream aviation industry is still cautious about their adoption.  Is the challenge in the technology itself – or in the questions it asks about the way we’ve always done things in the past? You can find the transcript here
Everyday entrepreneurs

Everyday entrepreneurs


 Here’s a challenge. Close your eyes and try to visualise an entrepreneur. There’s a good chance that what you’ve come up with will be one of the usual suspects — Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, perhaps some of the older versions like Steve Jobs or even Thomas Edison. Hopefully there’s a fair number of women represented, players like Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce or Ariana Huffington; after all statistics show that 252 million entrepreneurs out of approximately 582 million in the world are female.But that's not the only kind of person who acts as an entrepreneur - in fact we're all potentially playing the role, as this podcast suggests. 
 What kinds of skills are going to be needed in organizations as they move towards an increasingly ‘phygital’ (= hybrid physical and digital) world of operations?  Why are the skills of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship becoming so important? And how might people be trained on a continuing basis to acquire and deploy these skills inside a large international organization?  In this podcast we speak with Dietmar Schloesser, responsible for digital innovation within the TÜV NORD group who shares his experience and learning around these and other questions.  In particular he comments on many of the themes raised in the VISION project exploring the future of learning and skills development, in which his organization have been enthusiastic and insightful partners.  You can find a video version here  And you can find out more about TUV NORD here  And more about the VISION project here 
The challenge of digital innovation is everywhere.  It’s hard to escape the talk of ‘revolutionary impact’ or ‘digital disruption’ or the need for new strategies to cope with ‘digital transformation’.  But what’s really going on, where are the big questions we should be addressing and how might this affect our approach to innovation management?This podcast features an interview with Alan Brown, Professor of Digital Economy at the University of Exeter, author of the influential book ‘Delivering digital transformation’, and a well-known writer and speaker on the topic.  In it he explores some of the key issues surrounding the effective use of digital innovation, drawing on themes which he regular talks about in his excellent blog series ‘Digital economy dispatches’.    You can find out more at his website And you can find a video version here
Podcasts are a bit like London buses.  You wait a long time and then three come along all at once!  This week we feature more in the series around the challenges to education and training in innovation , creativity and entrepreneurship - the main theme of the VISION project.We’ve already seen that there are likely to be significant shifts across the landscape in terms of technology, expectations, curriculum, evaluation and overall student experience.  But how will this play out in the lives of key actors in the process?This is the first of three interviews conducted by Olga Kokshagina, one of the researchers on the VISION project and co-author of the open access book on the project.  (You can find more details here).  In it she speaks with Gijs van Wulfen, a well-known speaker, writer and trainer in the field about some of the dramatic changes affecting his world in trying to equip people with the skills for handling innovation and entrepreneurship.  Significantly his whole business model was massively disrupted by the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic which has meant he has had to rapidly reshape his work to suit a world in which almost all training now takes place online and remotely.  (He’s tried to capture this experience in an excellent new book which explores the ways in which organizations can rethink their innovation processes for an online world).
Successful alchemy

Successful alchemy


This is the story of the development of porcelain, a series of innovations which enabled the creation of beautiful artefacts and a global industry.  They represent a kind of alchemy,  transmuting a handful of earth into weisses Gold - white gold.You can find a transcript here
The development of skills and capabilities to work with innovation is becoming essential — they are no longer the province of specialists but something we all need to acquire and practice.  In an earlier podcast we looked at the changing landscape for learning about innovation and entrepreneurship., drawing on the VISION project,  a major European study looking at this question.  At its heart is a vision of how things might develop over the next ten years and it poses challenges around what we might start doing now to secure a positive future.But whilst we have an idea of what's up ahead the reality is that the future isn't predetermined.  It’s a 'design space' within which different versions of the future are argued out and shape - a  bit like stretching and shaping dough before we bake it.So in this podcast we'll listen in on a debate around the different ways in which the future of learning about innovation and entrepreneurship will be shaped - and look at some of the barriers we might need to overcome to get there.
You don’t get to be 150 years old just by being lucky.  German pump-maker Wilo is paused to celebrate its big anniversary next year and it owes a great deal of its survival and growth to innovation, something it has worked hard to build into its culture.  Founded in 1872 as a brass and copper foundry the business has grown to become a typical ‘hidden champion’,  quietly getting on with its business of becoming world-leading in its field, providing a wide range of innovative pumping solutions for a global market.  In this interview with Sven Grave, Head of Innovation, we explore a little more about how the company continues to benefit from the ideas and insights of its employees.You can read more about the company hereAnd visit their website here
Innovation matters — of course. It’s the driving force behind economic and social change and underpins our evolution as a civilised society. And with the kind of challenges we now face it’s also clear that the development of skills and capabilities to work with innovation are also becoming essential — they are no longer the province of specialists but something we all need to acquire and practice. They are becoming life skills — but developing them across the population raises a big question — how? What are the relevant capabilities and how to enable learning and skills development? How to teach them, who, along which channels, etc? Those are the questions being explored in the VISION project — a major European study looking at the changing landscape for education and training around innovation , creativity and entrepreneurship. At its heart is a vision of how things might develop over the next ten years and it poses challenges around what we might start doing now to secure a positive future.The past is another country — they do things differently there. But so too is the future — we know it will be different and the VISION forecasting and futures process has explored a wide range of issues. In this podcast we’re going to look in more depth at some of the key dimensions for change — what will differ and by when?You can find a transcript here
Watch any group of kids at play and you can remind yourself that this is something which comes naturally. It should do; evolutionary psychologists are pretty clear that the ability to play (and therefore imagine and simulate a variety of situations) developed as an important adaptive mechanism. Kids play because they are hard-wired to do so; reward circuits in the brain reinforce the experience with suitable chemicals to ensure it is seen as something pleasurable which they will want to repeat.It’s not just kids; all mammals display similar behaviour and it raises an important question. Why? Play is costly in terms of energy so why have they evolved to retain this capacity? The argument is that play is not accidental but instead serves several important purposes:It enables them to· practice skills that are essential to their survival and reproduction;· learn to cope physically and emotionally with unexpected, potentially harmful events;· reduce hostility and enable cooperation.· generate new, sometimes useful creationsAll of which could be pretty useful in the process of coming up with ideas and turning those into value — innovation.  This podcast explores how play might be a key resource for working with innovation.You can find a transcript here
Going with the flow

Going with the flow


Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas which change the world. A metal box which can be easily loaded and unloaded transformed the pattern of world trade and the economics of shipping and distribution.  Brainchild of Malcolm McClean the idea of containerisation is one of those innovations which changed the world.McLean was a tough entrepreneur who’d already built a business out of trucking. He’d learned the rules of the innovation game the hard way and knew that having a great idea was only the start of a long journey. Realising the value at scale would take a lot of ingenious problem-solving and systems thinking to put the puzzle together. He needed complementary assets — the ‘who else?’ and ‘what else?’ — to realise his vision. And he understood the challenge of diffusion — getting others to buy into your idea and enabling adoption through a mixture of demonstration, persuasion and pressure. But he wasn’t the first to come up with the idea; that distinction probably goes to another systems thinker who played the innovation game well throughout his unfortunately short life. And, like McClean, he can take a big share of the credit for transforming the pattern of world trade, this time in the 18th century.  This podcast looks at the innovation work of James Brindley, canal builder, millwright-engineer and innovator extraordinaire.You can find a transcript here
The sustainability challenge.Maybe you’re a pessimist, seeing dire threats in global warming, worrying about the rate at which we’re using up the planet’s resources, concerned at the way we’re carelessly throwing the litter of our thoughtless consumption for later generations to pick up. Or maybe you’re an optimist, seeing new opportunities in this changing world perspective, shifting to low carbon solutions, cleaner energy and smarter homes and cities. Unlocking new technological possibilities to reshape the way we are able to interact and survive. Either way it’s likely that innovation - right across the spectrum, from new products and services, through new and improved processes to rethinking our underlying business and social models – will be involved. And this raises some important questions about how we approach the management of this – is it simply a case of business as usual or do we need to adjust and extend our routines for handling the challenge?This podcast explores some of these issues.You can find a transcript here
Try this. Get hold of a group of people, mostly strangers, and have them gather at the opposite side of a large room. Now run very fast towards them and, just before you reach them, leap off the ground and let yourself fly through the air. Sounds a crazy thing to do and one which is not too healthy if they fail to catch you — yet it is a typical warm up exercise in the world of theatre. Groups of actors gather together to try and create a theatrical experience which will be memorable, drawing an audience into a journey of imagination. And in order to innovate in this fashion they need some core skills around building a sense of support for each other as they take risks and explore new ways of delivering that experience. Flying through the air and hoping someone will catch you is a powerful way of developing that sense of support — and it underlines a key element in our understanding of what makes for effective innovation. We need a sense of psychological safety.This podcast explores that idea.....You can find a transcript hereSee my website here for more like this
‘Houston, we’ve had a problem here’. John Swigert’s famous words, delivered in a voice as calm and clear as the mountain air in his native Denver home. But to the Apollo 13 mission controllers thousands of miles below in Texas this fired the starting gun in a race against time. At 2am on 14th April, 1970 an explosion in the main oxygen tanks and the failure of a major part of the electrical system suddenly put the Apollo crew’s lives at risk. The extreme conditions in which they had to work to repair it required rapid creative thinking on the part of a large group of people on the ground and aboard the ship itself.As the drama unfolded the whole world watched, holding its breath. This wasn’t a simple case of pulling a ready-made solution off the shelf; instead it required exploring the nature and dimensions of the problem, redefining and shaping it. Only then did the solution route become apparent, emerging gradually as a direction worth travelling in.Sometimes it's worth spending time exploring and reframing innovation problems before we begin to solve them - as this podcast suggests.You can find a transcript here
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