How do you lead and enable innovation?17 Apr 2013
Innovation is like exercise; everyone agrees that it’s something we should all do but some people are much fitter than others. With UK plc’s economic health reliant on an injection of good innovation, the National Business Awards is hosting an event in May to gather together those leading and enabling innovation in the public, private and third sectors.
Taking place in Bristol on 9th May, a debate will be led by a panel of thought-leaders and award-winning innovators on topics ranging from how to distinguish good and bad ideas to funding options to invest in the best.
To preview this debate, the NBA asked some of the panel speakers to share their views and insights on innovation.
Stephen Bradley, Director at the UK’s innovation agency, NESTA is leading an international initiative to show people how to innovate in their own organisations – from start-ups to charities to international organisations. Asked what the biggest challenge to innovation is in the private sector he laments the ‘institutional inertia’ of large organisations that focus on the business today and not tomorrow.
“It’s difficult to break out of short-termism and hard to break down organisational boundaries that have built up,” he explains. “They need to change their mindset and get out of their comfort zone.”
Commenting on the role of the Board in creating a culture of innovation, Stephen adds: “The CEO must set the conditions for innovation, and create a cultural framework for innovative practice, but must also ensure that it’s aligned with the strategy for the organisation. Staff need to feel empowered and supported but efforts must be aligned with the organisational strategy so they know they’re pointing in the right direction.”
This point is echoed by Rob Law, CEO of Trunki, which won the Santander SME of the Year award in 2012 because of his successful approach to innovation. The key to creating a culture of innovation at Trunki is having a clear mission, vision and values that drive the business, he says.
“The CEO must be an innovation champion and see a holistic roll out across the business. Investment in thinking time drives innovation; building a culture to think differently, not just about product development but across the business, from marketing to finance.”
Proving that you don’t need ‘Dragon’ funding to build a successful business (the BBC’s Dragons failed to see the potential for Trunki back in 2006), Rob is now one of the South West’s many business success stories. But how do innovative businesses persuade funders to invest in them?
James Austin, Investment Director for the South West and South Wales at Business Growth Fund, is looking for signs that the idea will be well executed.
“We meet people with lots of brilliant ideas but sometimes they have difficulty with the execution,” he explains. “We’re looking for ambition balanced with the ability to create change; we’re also looking at the strategic ability of the individual or team, and their willingness to embrace change or take advice from a non-executive director.”
Stephen, Rob and James will be joined by Ann Parker, Head of Operations at Wayra Europe, Telefonica – which won a Corporate Entrepreneur Award in 2012 – and Gideon Hyde, co-founder of idea incubation specialist Market Gravity.
If you would like to join this debate and connect with peers from a variety of industries, register now for your free place on 9th May.