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Almost 3 years ago by Jon White

Making innovation happen - an insight breakfast with Alan Treadgold

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As part of our ongoing series of breakfast seminars, Freshminds were lucky enough to have Independent Global Retail Advisor and Partner at PA Consulting, Alan Treadgold join us to speak to us on the topic of ‘Making innovation happen’.

Before we started we went through our usual pop quiz icebreaker, which in this particular instance was – “what is your favourite innovation”.  This generated a range of answers with everything from Fintech and new model banking through to Blockchain, proptech, Teslas solar panels, 5D BIM, new look integration tools, face recognition insurance, organic food delivery and getting your groceries delivered to your car boot!

Having worked with innovation in a number of different guises over the years, Alan’s expertise on the topic was fascinating, and his pithy and practical approach started us off by asking;

How can you be innovative in a corporate setting?

The first point that Alan made was that it is important to decide where you actually want to be on the ‘innovation spectrum’. It is completely OK and indeed commercially viable to be a fast follower, but you need to be aware of this and not get lost or distracted by the mass of ‘bright shiny toys’ that are in the market. Indeed, the fact that there is such a prodigious amount of digital innovators in the marketplace at the moment makes it very easy to become side-tracked and lose sight of the useful, pragmatic and actionable innovation within a given setting.

The key is to focus on what the actual benefit is for both the customer and business - innovation for its own sake can be less than useful. It is also vital to focus on how to be innovative without losing sight of the core business ethos and to sense check that proactive innovation of a business doesn’t add unnecessary complexity and cost. Thus it is important to use a healthy dose of pragmatism and build a careful framework around innovation.

There are 3 areas of change and innovation that need to be considered simultaneously for success to occur. In Alan’s opinion, you need to look at the Consumer, the Tech and the business model, whilst at the same time keeping in mind that maintaining a status quo and being overly conservative is, in fact, the riskiest thing a business can do.

Where do you put the focus on innovation?

  • Start with the customer

  • Product innovation is still important. 

  • Innovation in the physical environment. 

  • Focus on the future

  • Acknowledge that you need to design innovation into an organisation

  • Culture is key.  Innovation cannot be at the expense of the “as-is” business 

Alan summarised his talk with a quote from Alan Kay – “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. Alan believes we should us this sentiment as a rallying call for anyone trying to innovate. We should ‘not be subject to the headwinds of change that are constantly battering us or lose ourselves adrift in the external environment’, but rather build a social and corporate responsibility for innovation.

Overall, it was a very interesting and refreshingly pragmatic presentation about how to go about the act of ‘innovating’ – not to think about it as an airy hypothetical thing, but more as the vital core of any serious long-term business.