Elements of Innovation

ResearchIng the literature on innovation it seems to me that it’s possible to break the innovation process into three fundamental elements:

1. Looking Differently

2. Making unexpected connections

3. Trying – Failing – Perfecting

 1. Looking Differently

The innovator steps outside the normal viewpoint and looks at a problem from a variety of perspectives, disciplines or fields of knowledge/practice.

2. Making unexpected connections

The innovator makes links between these various perspectives to create new solutions.

3. Trying – Failing – Perfecting

The innovator tests their idea, learns from the results, and modifies the solution until it consistently achieves the desired result.


Innovation Leadership – so what’s that?

Starting on the 1st August I will take up my position as Director of Innovation Leadership with Drummond International. But what does a Director of Innovation Leadership actually do?

Firstly, it’s important to place the role within the overall values and principles espoused by Norman Drummond throughout his long career.

At risk of simplifying Norman’s work it is fundamentally aimed at helping leaders to establish – for themselves –  a powerful and meaningful connection between their ‘heart’ and their ‘head’ in order to underpin their leadership behaviours, at both a personal and professional level, thereby leading to a more rewarding, effective and meaningful life.

Norman’s work is driven by a deep optimism in the human spirit, as demonstrated through one of his favourite quotations:

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” John Buchan

With apologies to John Buchan our work in relation to innovation adopts a similar values based and optimistic perspective and could be paraphrased as follows:

“The task of leadership is not to put innovation into humanity, but to elicit it, for the capacity to innovate  is already there.”

Innovation Leadership has three elements which can be considered separately or in a more integrated manner depending on the requirements:

  1. Supporting Leaders to Innovate
  2. Creating space for Innovation
  3. Generating Innovation

Supporting Leaders to Innovate is geared towards helping Leaders to become more innovative themselves and to counter the barriers, fears and limiting cultures which may have reduced their confidence and capacity to innovate in their personal and professional lives.

Creating Space for Innovation focuses upon innovation within an organisation and assists the leaders, their teams and other members of the community to create the environment which encourages others to innovate, supports and enables the collaborative innovation process; and finally, develops ways in which to translate innovation into habitual and improved practice.

Generating Innovation is where the Innovation Leadership process is used as a catalyst to assist organisations or teams which are ‘stuck’ in order to generate new ideas which can then be translated into effective solutions to long-term, or intractable problems.





Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself – George Bernard Shaw

So the die is cast. I’ve submitted my resignation and started the countdown to a new career which will start on 1st August 2013.

I have accepted an invitation to join Drummond International as Director of Innovation Leadership. The opportunity to work with Norman Drummond and the rest of the team at DI is one which was impossible to turn down.

Norman’s work is founded upon three profound questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why are you living and working in the way that you are?
  3. What might you yet become and do with your life?

The answer to why I’m taking this next step is centred somewhere in my own response to these questions.

 Who am I?

I am fundamentally a teacher. I’ve come to realise that I gain the greatest satisfaction from working directly with people and helping them to develop their knowledge, skills, confidence or whatever the purpose of that interaction might be – not in a didactic or instructional manner but through engaging them and encouraging them to see and maximise their own potential.

Why am I living and working and working in the way that I am?

As my career has progressed I’ve gradually moved further and further away from that direct connection with people. My roles have become increasingly corporate, strategic and my responsibilities diverse. It’s interesting to reflect on my original motivation for seeking positions of responsibility was linked to my desire to change the system. By taking on management roles I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to influence policy and practice at a local and national level in a way which would have been impossible had I simply remained as a teacher. Nevertheless, this journey has taken me away from the very things which give me the greatest satisfaction – hence the need to refocus my career on the things which matter most to me.

What might I yet become and do with the rest of my life?

This is an exciting question for someone of my years. Rather than considering the notion of winding down towards the end of a career – this is a question which liberates the spirit to consider the future in a positive and fulfilling manner. It opens doors on opportunities, and challenges you to consider the skills and abilities you have and whether these could be put to better use in other ways.

I actually reckon my skill set is quite narrow and is connected to my ability to inspire, encourage, and develop others. What I want to do with the rest of my life is use these skills to their absolute maximum.

I suppose I unwittingly touched upon this in my most recent article on Leadership Legacy where I described the impact my father made upon other people. If this sounds selfish and self indulgent then I stand guilty but I suppose I’d like to spend the next 15 years of my life making a similar personal and positive impact on people’s lives.

My new role will also give me the opportunity to concentrate upon my connected passions of education, innovation and leadership. I hope to be able to research, reflect and write about these areas with a view to making a positive contribution to these fields of study and practice, and use my accumulated knowledge and related life experiences to make a corresponding contribution to society.

My other new career goal is to establish The Scottish Leadership Trust, a not- for-profit organisation that will promote and integrate values-based leadership within and across Scotland’s public, private and voluntary sectors.

The objectives of the Scottish Leadership Trust will be:

  1. To champion the importance of values-based leadership development for the future well-being of Scottish society.
  2. To share and promote leadership expertise across the public, private and voluntary sectors.
  3. To provide a national forum for promoting cross-sector leadership development.
  4. To promote a vision of leadership that is jargon free, inspirational, enabling of innovation, and supportive of our national aspirations.
  5. To reinvest any profits into voluntary sector leadership development programmes and advice.

This project is very much a long-term ambition but it would be my dream to be involved in the Scottish Leadership Trust in fifteen years time – when I’m seventy years old – although I should add (as my grandmother used to say when looking forward in time) – “If I’m spared”.