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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

How To Build A Culture Of Innovation

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Has there ever been a time when innovation wasn't more important for business success? In a world that's getting evermore non-linear, where hyper-competition is ever-increasing and new markets and opportunities seem to emerge every day? But, it can also be said that building a workplace culture where employee engagement is sustainably high and creativity and innovation is a constant is still something many businesses struggle to build.

In episode 20 of The Sticky From The Inside Podcast, host, Andy Goram, talks to leading innovation thinker, Cris Beswick about what it really takes to build a lasting culture with innovation at its heart. Below is a full transcript of that conversation, where Cris shares some of the challenges, insights and solutions to building a culture of innovation.

Two guys discussing culture, innovation and employee engagement
Cris Beswick (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss how to build a culture of innovation

00:00:00 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to Sticky From The Inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition, smashing consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

00:01:11 Andy Goram

Right then, employee engagement is an enabler of creativity, innovation. We know that without engagement, creativity and innovation are suppressed and stifled. But some of the most engaged businesses still struggle to consistently deliver innovation effectively in their business.

It's also, I think, probable right now fostering a culture of creativity and innovation has never been more important as the world continues to crack on around us at a furious non-linear pace. With increased hyper competition and ever emerging new markets. So, what's needed to win and why do so many businesses fail in this quest to build such a culture?

Well, I'm joined today by Cris Beswick, who's the co-founder of Outcome, a boutique innovation advisory firm and also the bestselling author of Building a culture of Innovation - A practical guide for placing innovation at the core of your business. He’s a leading thinker and strategic advisor on innovation leadership, and has also been described as the “David Blaine of innovation”, which I think is fantastic, so hopefully, he can perform some miracles for us today. And there's no one better I can think of speaking with on this topic than Cris. Morning, Cris. How are you doing?

00:02:33 Cris Beswick

Morning, Andy I'm I'm really good. Do you know what the irony about that comment is? The person that made that comment, he was a client at the time and he's now a really good friend. He's actually one of the, probably one of the best thinkers on employee engagement, I don't know. So, this is a brilliant guy called, Perry Timms, and he just lives and breathes people, and engagement and stuff, and it was him that made that comment, while I was a client of his.

00:03:04 Andy Goram

Well, I must look him up because he sounds like he...

00:03:07 Cris Beswick

Get Perry on this show he is, uhm, if there's anyone that can work magic. It's Perry Timms.

00:03:13 Andy Goram

I will look him up. I look forward to that so, Cris, this area of innovation and culture? I mean, that's a big, broad, beast of a thing. What are you up to currently, what are you working on?

00:03:24 Cris Beswick

Do you know what there's there's a whole host of things, and, uh, but I think the main one at the moment is we are spending a huge amount of time helping big companies, global corporates, almost audit their their whole innovation ecosystem. So internally, in terms of culture and people and leadership processes, but also externally, in terms of the relationships they have. And obviously on the subject of engagement, there's an external engagement with suppliers and partners and startups and all that, and one of the challenges with this whole subject is, there is very, very little control and management over this whole system, this whole ecosystem. So, we're spending a huge amount of time trying to help clients unpack all of the stuff they're doing in the name of innovation, to figure out what's working and what isn't. So, and I think that's as a direct result of the Pandemic over the last 18 months, serving as a real inflection point for many companies who thought they had that innovation muscle, and when it really came down to it and they needed it, they realised that muscle wasn't there.

00:04:43 Andy Goram

And what was lying behind that problem? I mean, it's not one thing, clearly, it's a whole broad Church of stuff, right?

00:04:50 Cris Beswick

Yeah, it's... I mean you can't oversimplify this subject. It's impossible. But if I try my best to simplify it, although even in this simplification, it's a big answer. This is why I don't sleep! The organisational system that people are being asked to work inside of, most organisations have a system which is built up over years and years. Decades of that organisation being in existence. And that system is now layers on layers on layers of stuff, and processes, and values and beliefs. And all of these things and management styles and leadership and all those things. Fundamentally though, the majority of those systems aren't conducive with what it takes to innovate. In terms of the behavior, the mindset, the engagement culture. But so we, and I say we, organisations are trying to force innovation through a system that just doesn't want innovation, right? It's not built to innovate. Fundamentally, that's the problem.

But in a short, simple answer, the problem is enormous.

00:06:09 Andy Goram

Well, we have about 35 minutes today to talk about this enormous problem, which I think is the fascinating thing, right?

00:06:16 Cris Beswick

Let's focus!

00:06:17 Andy Goram

Yeah! Let's drill it. Let's drill it in a little bit. See if we can attack it a little bit. So, let's take a couple of steps back. I mean, I think it’s obvious. Maybe you think it's obvious, but why is innovation needed so badly today?

00:06:32 Cris Beswick

Do you know what this is a really... I get asked this all the time and it shows this by clients right? And I'm almost speechless that I'm even being asked the question, right. Not by you, but in general. It's sort of for me... it's like, well, isn't it obvious? It should be obvious, but seemingly it isn't. I think the best way to sum it up, is this. I'm sort of well-known for creating this opposing view to the “culture eats strategy for breakfast” quote.

00:07:05 Andy Goram

Ah! Mr. Drucker

00:07:07 Cris Beswick

Right, so you know Drucker's famous quote, and I think the best way to summarise it is, Drucker was absolutely spot on. Like, nail on the head. But 15 years ago. Pre Lehman Brothers. Pre 2008. Pre crash. The world was more linear. It was more predictable. I'm not saying it was 100% linear and 100% predictable, but it was more linear. It was more predictable. And it was more traditional business, competing markets, etc, etc.

Yeah, the world we live in now is without doubt non-linear, not nowhere near as predictable. We can run scenarios and things like that, but it's not as predictable. Therefore, we need a different approach. The world has always innovative, so it's not that no one innovated in the time frame I've just said, Pre 2008, but innovation wasn't as important and wasn't as crucial in in terms of pushing organisations forward. So, it's not that we've never needed to innovate. It's just that innovation now has become way, way, way more a bigger component of how organisations enable themselves to compete and win.

00:08:22 Andy Goram

I mean it is that compete and win piece, isn't it? I mean, and that must be, from your perspective, I don't know what you would call it? The multiplying effect of the Pandemic has just kind of ratcheted everything up, sped it up. You know, we are doing things quicker, faster, better potentially, than ever before. Certainly, things... I mean the time scale of stuff seems to have been the biggest dramatic change perhaps in this area?

00:08:51 Cris Beswick

Yeah, and but I think, but here's a … look. You know you never want to look at something like a global Pandemic and trivialise it, and say, well, every cloud has a silver lining, kind of thing, but... because you know it's just been too devastating on multiple levels, but, the reality is the by-product of the Pandemic has been a real wake up call for every organisation., almost every person on the planet, but certainly every big corporate. And it has made them realise that they can do things, at pace, systemically, globally, in timeframes that they would never, ever, ever have, even... you know. Can you imagine sitting down with, you know, a global bank, right? I've been on the phone all morning to one of the global banks. I can't imagine in January last year, sitting them down and saying, do you know what guys? Me and Dan, my partner, we think the best strategic move you could make is to send everyone home within 48 hours and tell everyone you're closing the office and we'll just all work from home. We would have been marched out of head office.

00:09:58 Andy Goram

It's crazy.

00:10:00 Cris Beswick

Right. And they would have gone, “You're crazy that, it's just not possible!” And yet, two months later...

00:10:05 Andy Goram

Here we are.

00:10:06 Cris Beswick

The impossible happened, literally, in that time frame, right?

00:10:09 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah.

00:10:10 Cris Beswick

And I think because the burning platform was there, you know, and before that it wasn't. There was there, was no need. There was no business imperative. There was just it.., it was just fantasy for anyone to even suggest that. The burning platform was... became the catalyst for action. And I think what it showed, it certainly showed a lot of our clients, that if they can now create that catalyst, or if they bring people like us in and we go and we challenge them and say, “Well, 18 months ago you didn't think you could do this. So now we're going to challenge you to do something else”, and we shift the goal posts and we really push them way, way, way further than they've ever thought of doing things before and it's made many organisations realise that, “Do you know what? We actually...this is the art of the possible. We could actually do that, and Cris isn't mad, actually, because if we pull that off, that's a game changer.” So, the catalyst for me has been, the clients we work with. We're now helping them create artificial burning platforms or hypothetical burning platforms to test them and see what they're actually capable of.

00:11:22 Andy Goram

Ah, OK.

00:11:26 Cris Beswick

And many of them, many of them are going, “Holy cow! I can't believe we've just done that in four weeks!” And that's what's going to accelerate the growth and the development of a lot of corporates when they understand that they can do this, through innovation.

00:11:36 Andy Goram

Right, so I think that's fascinating. 'Cause I have this thing about

Winning needs witnesses.”

And so, a lot of this stuff must come down to belief that things are possible. And you know one of the best ways of having belief in something, is seeing something happen, right? Proving the case, yeah?

00:11:49 Cris Beswick

Validation, right? So, when we can validate through small experiments, you know, I'm not talking about, you know we don't go into a client and go right, we're going to turn you upside down and turn you on your head, because we know it will work. We're doing things in business units with teams, and we're demonstrating the validity of some of the things that we suggest. Even though people look at it and go well,

How the hell are we going to pull that off? Like that's such a stretch from how we work and how we have worked and what we think we're capable of.”

And we do it in small teams and we run experiments and you validate that these things are possible.

What I've seen is more people believing that those things are possible, because they've had such fundamental shifts over last 18 months. They go, “Well, yeah, we did it last... we did this thing last year, So, yeah! let's let's go for it!” There's more of a willingness to explore because they sort of know that the unknown isn't as scary as it was 18 months ago.

00:12:53 Andy Goram

That believes a powerful thing, right?

00:12:55 Cris Beswick

Yeah, very, very powerful. It's powerful in terms of your ability, as an organisation, to engage people in pushing them out of their comfort zone or saying, “Do you know what? We used to take 18 months to design a new product, what if we could do it in six weeks?” Do you know what I mean? you know, and people are going,

You’re crazy. You're absolutely crazy. We'll never be able to do it.”

And now there's a willingness to go, “OK, let's try.”

00:13:22 Andy Goram

Yeah, what’s it going to take?

00:13:25 Cris Beswick

That’s exciting.

00:13:26 Andy Goram

Yeah, that is. Yeah, absolutely yeah. Well, we should. We should dig into some of these foundations but just for the benefit of listeners and we're waxing on about innovation, from your perspective, Cris, how do you define innovation?

00:13:39 Cris Beswick

I split innovation down into... and what we did in the book was we split innovation down into four components. And I've got no issue with anyone’s definition. Whatever works for your organisation, by default, works. But I think innovation has a set of components. And what we did in the book and what we use with clients now is, we use the definition in the four components as a sense check. Innovation for me, can't just be a definition. It has to be a working thing that allows you to sense check whether what you're doing might end up being innovative.

So, on that point, the first thing to understand is innovation’s and outcome. It's not a thing right? Something is only innovative when you've designed it, got it to market, customers love it, and they literally... they're queuing up 200 deep in a store trying to get one, and they then, they then as customers go, they validate the innovativeness. They say, “This is amazing. This is...”, right? That's then innovative. We can't self-profess something as innovative as organisations, but when you unpack those things, you find that innovation, for me has four components.

The first thing is, is it new or different? Right so, innovation. So, when I put this into a sentence/paragraph,

innovation is the introduction of something new or different”, right?

The second component then is, “Does it solve a problem?” Right, so it's the introduction of something new or different that solves a genuine problem. The third component, then, for me, “It must add value.” Yeah, so it can't just solve the problem in a binary way. It must do more than that and be more than that. And if you look at things like value proposition design. You know, you have, remove the pain, right? As part of that framework, remove the pain. So that's sort of the problem and then, what gain are you also gonna give? That's give extra, right? So, add value. So new and different, solve a genuine customer problem or personal problem, add value and then the fourth bit is, “And deliver a return for the creator.” Right, now I've specifically not there said ROI, right.

So it's not fiscal all the time, so, uh, return could be we've come up with this great idea and it's going to get more bums on seats, right. Now down the line, that might generate some return. But the problem we had was not enough people through the door. Unique solution, people through the door, right? It could very well be, well, you know, we want 10X. We want a billion dollars or whatever, but it's about adding a return for whoever created it. And that return comes in many, many forms. It could be a brilliant idea by HR director, super innovative, that drives employee engagement, or employee retention. So it's all relative to the problem and the creator.

So new and different, solve a problem, add value and create a return. And if you think of that as a framework when you're going through your design process, you can constantly self-check, right? Stop the team, right. Do we still think it's unique, new or different? You know, is it intriguing? Or are people gonna look at this and go, “What's that over there? That's different”, right? Is it solving the problem? What's the added value? What you know? What's our business model canvas? Where's the return? That should lead to something being innovative?

00:17:14 Andy Goram

Absolutely. I mean I'm just minded...are you familiar with that, Pinky, The Dragons Den in Germany example recently? Those guys who came up with a pink, disposable glove to help women with disposal of sanitary products, right. On Dragons Den in Germany. The guys got investment and then social media just blew up with, quite rightly, people going, “this is kind of an idea without a problem”, you know. Women were going furious about, “Well, what's this for? We don't need this. We've been quite happy.”

00:17:49 Cris Beswick

Since when have I needed a glove?

00:17:50 Andy Goram

Absolutely. Yes, it's a pink glove too, you know, come on! I mean, that's to me, a really poor example of, “Oh, I've got this idea, we're going to bring it to market”, but it's got no problem to solve, it's...

00:18:03 Cris Beswick

Exactly that. Yeah. And so, the challenge around innovation, in building that innovation muscle is several fold. But the first thing, is building the ability at an organisational level to find those problems, and find problems faster than your competitors. Be able to drill deeper down into those problem areas than your competitors. So, you genuinely find, uh, the deeper you go, you tend to find the problems more systemic and the problem is of a higher value. So, the deeper, the more systemic, the higher value of the problem and the faster you can get to that, the sooner you can start working on the solution before your competitors do. That’s sort of the first premise of innovation.

00:18:51 Andy Goram

OK, so when you're speaking to clients, businesses and you're going in and you're thinking about the foundations of creating this Innovative creative culture. What does that foundation look like? What is it you're trying to build?

00:19:07 Cris Beswick

So, if I go back to that Drucker quote.

My contemporary play on the Drucker quote is, instead of culture eats strategy for breakfast, it's strategy, leadership and culture needs to eat breakfast together.

00:19:22 Andy Goram


00:19:23 Cris Beswick

So, the framework that we use always starts with strategy. So, the first thing we'll do with the client is we will.. so we'll run an organisational assessment. So, we have an innovation maturity model, that we run through the organisation. That will red flag all sorts of things that we’ll run back. That gives us a really acute, pin-pointed, overview of the system. Our assessment has flagged six things in red, and those six things today demonstrably are a problem. That's what we start to fix, and while we're doing that, we start to build strategy.

What's the innovation strategy? How does it link to the organisation's growth strategy, its corporate strategy. And what I mean by that is, this isn't about adding the word innovation into your standard strategy.

00:20:15 Andy Goram

As a value.

00:20:16 Cris Beswick

And and believe me, I see it all the time, right? So, let's take the strategy that we've had for the last 10 years and now we're just going to put innovation in it. 72 times, right? To make everyone really understand that this is now an innovation strategy. No, this is about building a proper innovation strategy, with a proper innovation thesis, and a very, very clear overview of how the organisation is going to use innovation to deliver against this much more ambitious growth strategy. Once we build that strategy, that maps out leadership development, what tools and processes we need, what we need to do culturally, it maps out the scale of innovation. So, do we need this much innovation, or do we need this much innovation? And depending on what an organisation needs to reach its goals, then depends on how much we have to do inside that organisation.

00:21:09 Andy Goram

And I think when you're looking at responsibilities, I like this concept you've got of the framework of the “Own drive and contribute” framework.

00:21:17 Cris Beswick


00:21:18 Andy Goram

Yeah, ODC. Can you explain that for people?

00:21:19 Cris Beswick

Yeah. So, what I've seen over the years is a really broad brush approach to innovation. And in my experience, what we want leaders to do... this, all centers around middle managers and the permafrost, the frozen middle. But whatever we want to unfairly label them, right, and in my experience, middle managers don't freeze themselves. They don't get up in the morning and go, “Do you know what? I'm going to be Permafrost today.” Right, and the phrase I use with senior teams is when they complain about middle managers, I say,

Look if your middle managers are the frozen middle, who's the cold north wind, because they haven't, they haven't frozen themselves?”

00:22:04 Andy Goram

It’s so true, Cris. So true.

00:22:04 Cris Beswick

Either you have frozen them, right. Either you have frozen them, in terms of your behaviour or your expectations, etc. Or the system that you're asking them to work inside has frozen them. 'Cause you're asking them to do things like innovate, in a system that isn't built for innovation, right? So that's what we have to redesign. So, own, drive and contribute, basically just sets out a really simple framework that says what we want is leaders owning the innovation agenda. And I mean properly owning it, soup to nuts. Absolute ownership of everything.

And there's three core components. There's the physical assets. So budget, tools, frameworks, policies, etc. There's then mindset and behaviour and capability. And then on the right-hand side there's psychological safety. Now those three things need to be in place for leaders. So imagine, they have to own all of that. But then secondly in the middle, if we now want our middle managers driving innovation on a daily basis, what tools and assets do they need, 'cause they're going to be different? What mindset, behaviour, and capability do they need, 'cause they will be different than leaders? And what does psychological safety mean to them? And what kind of safety do they need to be able to say, “I'm brave enough. I'm now going to do this. I'm going to drive this on a daily basis.

And then you go down to employees. What we want employees to do, is to contribute to the innovation agenda on a daily basis. What tools and frameworks, what assets do they need? Well, they might need design thinking. They might need physical space. They might need some software. They might need an enterprise idea management software. You know, what did they physically need so that they can go, “Yeah, there's some idea challenges in the business I'm going to contribute. And I know how to do it. I know what the process is and where to submit my ideas. I've got some time in space, 'cause I've put my request into my manager for, you know, one day every two weeks or whatever it is that I'm allocated, to innovation.”

Whatever that system is, everyone knows how to navigate it, and those three components, the assets, the mindset and behaviour, and the psychological safety they're different at different layers of the organisation, 'cause we want them performing different tasks. And in every transformation program around innovation I've seen. And the consultants that have been in and done it with the clients we've now gone into, haven't done that. They've taken this broad brush, “Here's what an innovation mindset is. And here's his tools.” Well, the leadership team don't need to know the same things as your employees, right? We don't need to put leaders through design-thinking programmes per se? They need to know what design thinking is, but you can't do it as this broad brush thing, and that's why we created ODC, to show organisations and map out the different things we need to do, with different people.

00:25:15 Andy Goram

And across those three areas of the physical assets, the mindset capabilities and the psychological safety. Whilst we're saying there's no broad brush, are there any commonalities? Any kind of like consistent gaps that you're seeing when you walk in, where the majority of people are sort of under par.

00:25:32 Cris Beswick

Without question strategy. Like just, like absolutely, without question,

the majority of clients we work with do not have an innovation strategy. They have innovation in their strategy.

00:25:46 Andy Goram

That's such a great definition of change there.

00:25:47 Cris Beswick

Yeah, they uhm, they don't have tools and processes. And that middle... We've literally just written a whole programme for a new client, which we kick off on Thursday, which internally we haven't branded it, we always brand our interventions, so they, you know, they resonate in an organisation. We haven't branded this yet, but internally, the programmes called, “The middle ground”.

00:26:15 Andy Goram


00:26:17 Cris Beswick

And it's basically about supercharging the middle of the organisation, right? I don't believe innovation’s top down. I don't believe it's bottom up. I think it's middle out, right. That middle layer of the organisation, on that framework, the people that we want driving innovation on a daily basis, inspiring people, putting teams together, you know, galvanizing teams around certain problems; they reside in the middle of the organisation. And we're about to kick off a global program called the middle ground we like. I said we won't call it that for the people in the organisation, sure, sure, and I think that's where most Organisations are stuck. That the organisation says it wants it. Here's the thing, we want innovation. It's really important. It's critical to the survival and the growth of our organisation, right? So as middle managers, we want you driving it on a daily basis. But don't forget to hit your targets by 5:00 PM on a Friday.

00:27:14 Andy Goram

Yeah, exactly!

00:27:17 Cris Beswick

It’s tongue-in-cheek, but people listening will go, “Cris is making a joke of it”, but actually, that's right. That system, we have to break that system. We have to completely hack that system and redesign a system that says, “Yes, the business wheels need to keep turning, but not at the expense of innovation”, right? We have to build parallel tracks where we keep the wheels turning. That's the cash cow, we keep paying the bills, we keep making money, but the future success of the business is determined by how much time we spend on building things for the future. Product, services, experiences. And unless organisations are... and it could be 70-30, 70.... it doesn't matter what the ratio is, but there has to be a ratio. And most organisations are going, “Innovation is important, but we're still doing 100% on this.”

00:28:11 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is why then, even with all the tools, businesses still struggle to make it work, right? System design. It's all very well saying, “Yes, we've got innovation in our strategy. We've got innovation as a culture buzzword or value. We've got culture... We've got innovation champs in our business. Why is it not working? What's going on? And it is more fundamental. The business is just not set up to take advantage of it.

00:28:41 Cris Beswick

It's stuff that has been added on to the existing system. And I'm not saying you have to redesign everything in a business, but you have to redesign the parts of the original system that are barriers to innovation. That that get in the way of innovation. And the challenge is most organisations don't redesign what exists. They bolt new stuff on and hope that it will work, and invariably it doesn't.

00:29:10 Andy Goram

If you were trying to give them a single piece of advice on the system piece, what would that be? I mean this, I'm sure the benefit of you coming in is somebody to properly challenge, right? Make someone have a good, hard look at themselves and stop marking their own homework. Saying, “Yeah yeah, we're good at this.” And how do clients respond to that in the main? I mean I would have thought favourably because they’ve got you in, in the first place, right, but it's not always an easy conversation, I'm sure.

00:29:42 Cris Beswick

You'd think that wouldn't, yeah. Here's the challenge. And this is a direct response to your question about the CEO's and the boards and the senior leadership teams that that would bring someone like me in. Leaders want what innovation delivers, but they are rarely prepared to do what it takes. That's the challenge. Right, they see the fruits of, “Wow! Innovation! We’re going to do this and, you know, we're going to be a billion-dollar business,” and all of that. Because they, you know, “We want to be like Apple”, and all the silly sort of, you know, with the wish list, right? But the reality is innovation can deliver those things, but you have to be prepared to change. You know, you can't say, “We want innovation, but we want to do it in the same way as we've been working for the past 20 years.” The fact that you want innovation is because the past 20 years of ways of working is no longer aligned and relevant for today. It's not going to allow you to compete or grow. You have to be prepared to change and most senior teams aren't prepared to change enough to capitalise on that investment in innovation? That's the big challenge.

00:30:58 Andy Goram

I think this is why the fascinating meld of engagement and innovation, they come with great benefits but similar challenges, in that people want to talk about engagement. They want to have engaged employees, but it sounds like a bit of a long, hard, game frankly, and therefore, nah! I'll focus on the short term right now, get it going, and you never end up building that muscle. You never end up really changing an organisation properly.

00:31:27 Cris Beswick

What happens is, and we've got this with a client at the moment. What happens is... And there's a challenge around narrative, right,as well around language. If you if you think about all the language that you've heard around innovation for the past decade. We all know and every employee knows continuous improvement or incremental innovation, right? And stick that on the left hand side of the scale, right? And all organisations, pretty much every organisation says, “Yeah, well, we're doing that. You know, we do loads of that all the time.” Good! Because that's the price of entry, right? You should be doing that, right. And then all the language, Clayton Christiansen, all the innovation gurus in the world, then and all the narrative all says, “You gotta be radical. Gotta be disruptive”, right? And that's right at the other end of the scale, of course.

00:32:19 Andy Goram

Of course. Of course.

00:32:20 Cris Beswick

So, what happens is you get polarisation right? You get an organisation saying, “Well, we're doing innovation. We've got loads of continuous improvement.” And then they'll also say a lot of our clients until we really make them realise they'll say, “No, we're doing more than increments. We're doing loads of really great cool stuff.” When we unpack it, and we get them to rate and filter it. They go, “You know what? Yeah, it's not really that much more than incremental, is it?”, i.e. none of it shifting the needle. But what they've done on the other end of the scale is they've talked about being radical and being disruptive, and they've never, ever, ever done anything radical or anything disruptive, right. Organisations are polarised at both ends of the scale. So, you get you get this plateau when nothing actually happens, right? Incremental doesn't shift the needle. The quest to be radical and disruptive never happens, therefore no innovation happens. And again, a bit like the middle ground, like the ODC, it happens in the middle, the real sweet spot for innovation is in the middle ground. So, we call it differentiated innovation.

We force clients to create a name of their own, but for the purposes of the model, we say what happens in the middle is - how are you going to differentiate from your competitors? What are you going to offer your customers that is demonstrably and measurably different? So, what you're looking for, is on the left-hand side the scale 100, frequency of incremental and continuous (improvements), hundreds of things every year. Small cost, almost no cost. Small risk, almost no risk. Small, almost no impact. Collectively a bit of impact. Right-hand side of the scale. Massively infrequent. Like maybe one every several years, if you're lucky, right? Huge cost, huge risk, but huge potential for growth, right? In the middle, what you're looking for, is what we call anywhere between 2X and 5X solutions. So, you're looking for, medium scale, medium risk. Putting teams of people together to work on systemic, customer, human-centered problems, right? Medium risk, but frequency right? 20 or 30 of these every year. So not hundreds. Not 1. 20 or 30. 5 of them might pay off or five of them probably will pay off. But if you get 5/2 X solutions, that's the same as this quest for 1-10 X. One Unicorn, right? And it's not difficult to build capability in that middle space. Which when you do four or five two or three X solutions, you know, so these are two X in terms of return. That's the equivalent of the Unicorn that you spent years searching for and never found. And that's what organisations aren't doing.

00:35:18 Andy Goram

Brilliant Cris. This is a conversation I can have all day, but I think we've come to the point in the show where if you could leave my audience with three sticky notes, Cris to sort of say all these opportunities, challenges, gaps that business have got, if you're going to give them 3 bits of advice, you could jot on a sticky note. What would they be, my friend?

00:35:41 Cris Beswick

This relates back to the strategy, leadership and culture should eat breakfast together. Think right, the first things around strategy. Purpose, for me, is about the pursuit of better, right? Purpose is about, I think we can do better. There's a better way. We can create a better world. You know, we can solve this problem and create something better for everyone. Innovation’s the same. Innovation says, well, this is what exists today through innovation we can create a better thing, a better experience, a better world, whatever it is. So, build an innovation strategy and combine innovation with purpose. So, we call it purpose-led innovation, right? Make every focus of your innovation efforts aligned to your organisation's purpose. And if you haven't got that as an organisation, question, why? And do something about it.

The second thing around, leadership, and this, I suppose is specific to leaders and organisations. Building that innovation capability or a culture innovation has to be a conscious leadership decision. It's not going to happen by accident. It's not going to happen by default. It has to be a conscious leadership decision. You have to pursue building a culture of innovation. So that taps into that ownership thing we talked about. So, ask yourself as a leader, are you consciously shaping the future, or are you subconsciously maintaining today? And if it's the last one, change your mindset and figure out how you can start to make decisions and consciously change things and shape the future.

And then the third one is just a question around whether the processes, the systems, and your culture is engaged enough to really help you deliver that future. And when we talk about engagement... Engagement for me is where people are willing to do things differently. So, creativity, for example, is what I call a willing contribution. You can't contractually make them be creative, make them give you your ideas, make them be passionate. You have to create a culture and an environment where they willingly want to give you that extra bit of themselves, right, that willing contribution. So, ask yourself whether you have a culture that embodies that willingness for people to be creative and take some risk. And if you don't, redesign it so that you get that.

And with those three, you will almost guarantee that will help build your culture of innovation.

00:38:26 Andy Goram

Brilliant, I love the spirit of those three sticky notes that, that conjures up. What a great place to work that would be. Wouldn’t it be brilliant?

00:38:36 Cris Beswick

And we're getting there, right? You know there's many organisations on the planet that, I’m not saying they've nailed all those, but they are making real inroads into being, you know, purpose-led innovation, right? You know, proper growth mindset. You know, purpose-led leadership, right? Empathy-driven leadership and then proper cultures where people are willing and passionate about delivering against that purpose. We're getting there and it just takes time.

00:39:08 Andy Goram

Well, it's lovely to talk to somebody who's as passionate about it as I am, and we keep the faith brother. We keep the mission going. Hey, brilliant.

00:39:14 Cris Beswick

We do.

00:39:15 Andy Goram

Cris, Fantastic speak to you today. Thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate that.

00:39:20 Cris Beswick

My pleasure, my pleasure.

00:39:22 Andy Goram

Take care my friend. OK well that was Cris Beswick and if you would like to find out a bit more about any of things we've talked about today, please check out the show notes.

00:39:34 Andy Goram

That concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the sticky from the Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.


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