Event round-up: Growing a Healthy Habitat for Innovation

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On Wednesday evening the team at Big Radical brought an amazing group of people together to discuss how to grow a healthy habitat for innovation, as part of our Intelligently Rebellious series. Inspired by research that 94% of CEOs are unsatisfied with their innovation programmes, we wanted to dig deep into the barriers facing all types of organisations, and discuss how to design for these challenges to achieve better outcomes.


We began by acknowledging that whilst ‘innovation’ has a nice ring to it, what it takes to get innovative work done is really hard work. Budgets, politics, scepticism, failure. It takes guts to be vulnerable enough to bring an organisation or team - whatever the size, position or perception - into unknown territories and make it to the other side. Intelligent Rebellion even. We had three fantastic talks:

Neal Archbold our Head of Strategy & Innovation spoke about how choosing to embrace and own ‘the possible’ is both a choice, and a personal perception that needs nurturing and resilience.

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Carol Hilsum, Director of Innovation at Farfetch highlighted how we need to celebrate the small wins, constantly find the leverage, and work openly to bring everyone along.

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Eleanor Barlow, Innovation, Digital and Data Strategist (currently at HSBC), shared her views on how to build teams that can see the world from alternate viewpoints, how to deal with change while preserving mental balance, why we need to embrace values to maintain solidarity, safety and trust, and the hard truth is that this demands strong leaders, who are highly accountable and brutally honest.

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What we have observed and that really rung true on the night through the Q&A session and conversations, is the similarities in challenges across industries, regardless of preconceptions around ‘innovation'. Often it is not doing the work itself; it is about identifying the barriers (often internal legacies - infrastructure, process, data concerns, procurement, recruitment, communications, etc.) to getting innovative work done, and designing the business case for progressing the journey through those environments, in the pursuit of better organisational outcomes.

There is a lot of empathy and recognition across this field, and building a community around that is something we feel passionate about. The path less well trodden does not have to be a lonely one. Even when the execs are on side and the proof points are there, socialisation through a business can be the hardest battle. As organisations become more purpose-oriented, we believe that working collaboratively, sharing higher purposes and what works has the potential to bring us all further, faster.

We are looking at how we might design for better outcomes through the next era of business. If you would like to get involved, drop me an email and let’s chat: seth.campbell@bigradical.com

EventsShannon Tremaine