Do we really understand innovation?


I was fortunate to attend the Oracle Business Analytics 2016 Conference recently, the conference raised my expectations with truly exceptional thought leadership, great content, case studies and the show stopper for me was a live demonstration to the delegates on a new business analytics product called ‘Day by Day’.

The product enables you to speak to your mobile phone device after reviewing a P&L and visuals, ask the spread sheet any question on and around the information received and the app will provide you with a) the answers in roughly 10 seconds and b) the new spread sheet and visuals now incorporated with your question.

My eyes were completely wide open, this was the most amazing set of tools I have ever seen or experienced, so I thought to myself is innovation the ability to have fast, interactive, visual insights into business performance that show the difference between success and failure, or is innovation so much more, do we really understand innovation?

Albert Einstein, a man whose name is practically synonymous with genius, is one of history’s greatest thinkers. As a physicist and mathematician, Einstein wasn’t an inventor in the vein of Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell, but his theories of relativity led to new ways of looking at time, space, matter, energy and gravity. His work led to important advances such as the control of atomic energy, space exploration, and applications of light.

Design thinking represents a serious challenge to the status quo at more traditional companies, especially those where engineering or marketing may hold sway. Patrick Whitney, dean of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), who sends many of his graduates off to Ideo, a design and innovation consulting firm, says he sees this resistance all the time.
“A lot of my students have MBAs and engineering degrees. They’re taught to identify the opportunity set, deal with whatever numbers you can find to give you certainty, then optimise.”

But some problems need to be restated before a big, new idea can be hatched. It often helps to take the problem and break it apart, before putting it back together in a whole new way — the synthesis or abstraction step. That’s where the creative leap often occurs and what Ideo’s process is designed to unearth.

Scott Berkun, author of the book “The Myths of Innovation”, recently suggested that we use the word innovation too often in a vague way and we have diverse intended meanings. I can not argue with him. It’s used carelessly to suggest a number of different things and has lately been a popular buzz word for nearly anything. Innovation should be something that is fresh creative, design lead that makes a difference to the world and one where we can see the value.

Do we really understand innovation?

Berkun’s well written argument published here at Harvard Business Review suggests that we use the word innovation to simply mean something “great”. He cites things like the Apple iPhone, Google search engine, and Pixar’s films as examples of output we all herald as innovative. He also suggests that people classed as innovative are not thinking about innovation or trying to be innovative, rather, they are just focused on great output and innovation is the perception of successful output by the masses. Berkun has good reasoning here–because something perceived as “Great” by common consent could mean that we all value something that has impacted us. This is one key ingredient to the definition of innovation.

Consumers have become increasingly habituated to look for and want what’s new, best, fastest, more convenient, or more fashionable, and to tire of products much more quickly. This mind set applies to virtually every category: even previously slow moving ones such as dishes, toothpaste, or paper towels. For firms to sit still and not successfully innovate is often to wither away, since competitors and start-ups have leapfrogged industry incumbents. Complacency is not an option. In this increasingly educated and talented world, with lower labour and production costs abroad, successful start-ups can pop up anywhere.

If innovation is also associated with our human feelings, it’s no wonder it is used so differently and widely. Innovation should be defined, is innovation creating new markets by discovering new categories of customers?
Is innovation harnessing new technologies but also by developing new business models and exploiting old technologies in new ways?

My final thought is why does a common definition of innovation matter?
Because if you do not share a common description of what innovation is and how it is created, you have little chance of achieving it with the other members of your organisation.

One of Einstein’s greatest quotes:

‘To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.’

Can we create our own identities from reinvention?


I recently attended a birthday drinks party in London, where I met a BBC journalist and we started discussing reinventing yourself for change – it was a fascinating discussion.
We would like to think that the key to a successful career or relationship is knowing what we want to do next and then using that knowledge to guide our actions. But change usually happens the other way around: doing comes first, knowing second.

So why is this?
Because changing ones career or relationship means redefining our identity, how we see ourselves to others, and ultimately what we convey and how we live our lives. Transitions follow a first-act-then-think sequence because who we are and what we do is so tightly connected. The tight connection is the result of years of action; to change it, we must resort to the same methods.

Most of the time, our identity changes so gradually and naturally that we do not even notice how much we have changed. But sometimes we hit a period when the desire for change imposes itself with great urgency.

What do we do?
We try to think out our dilemma. We try to swap our old, outdated self for new, more alluring selves in one fell swoop. And we get stuck.

Because, as Richard Pascale,, observes in Surfing the Edge of Chaos, ‘Adults are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting’. We rethink ourselves in the same way; by gradually exposing ourselves to new worlds, relationships and roles.

In the reinventing process, we make two kinds of changes: small adjustments in course and deep shifts in perspective.

It is a fact that we cannot regenerate ourselves in isolation. We develop in and through our relationships with others – the master teaches the apprentice a new craft; the mentor guides a protégé through the passage to an innate circle; the council of peers monitors the standards of a professional group, conferring status within the community.

It is as much about changing the relationships that matter in our lives. Shifting connections refers to the practice of finding people who can help us see and grow into our new selves, people we admire, would like to emulate, and with whom we want to spend time.
In the middle of confusion, many of us hope for one event that will clarify everything, that will transform our stumbling moves into a story that makes sense.

If we knew from the start what it means to be fully ourselves, life would be certainly easier. But because we are constantly growing and changing al the time, knowing yourself, turns out to be the ultimate goal at the end of the journey rather than light at the beginning.
Some top tips for reinvention and transitioning:
1) Realise that transitions are inevitable
2) Anticipate the outcome
3) Adjust and be flexible
4) Take the time to acknowledge the past, the present, and what you believe is the future
5) Acknowledge your emotions
6) Execute change step-by-step
7) Reinforce each positive step you take towards the transition
8) Educate yourself about what this transition means to you

Henry Rollins once said:

“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.”

I will be speaking at London’s first Fintech Security Summit on 10th May


I will be speaking about Int growth at London’s first Fintech Security Summit on 10th May.

What: Globalisation of Cyber Security – case study: a look at how Kaspersky Internet Security grew internationally.

Date: Tuesday 10 May, 2016

Time: 2:55pm – 3:10pm

Venue: Rainmakingloft London

Details: Fintech Security Summit 2016


Business success in tech, can this be attributed to woman leadership?


I was fortunate to attend a recent conference organised by The University of Greenwich, The University of Birmingham and Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers Kingston Smith. The conference was focusing on SME Success and Winning New Business in the UK.

Although such areas as Technology and Fintech have dominated the discussions presented by Sir Michael Snyder, Professor David E Gray and Professor Mark NK Sauders, the facts are business performance in the UK has improved for over two thirds of SME’s compared to three years ago.

The financial technology sector attracted more money last year than at any time in its history, according to business services firm KPMG.
Research published yesterday showed global investment in fintech companies totalled $19.1 billion (£13.4 billion) in 2015.
In Europe, deal activity increased by 30% year on year. The UK consolidated its position as clear leader, with financing deals for the likes of Funding Circle, Atom Bank and WorldRemit meaning half of all European fintech investment came to Britain.

Previous perceptions about the typical profile of an entrepreneur would probably suggest that the person would typically be male and middle-aged, but business in the UK is changing and women are generally taking a more prominent role when it comes to business leadership.
It is interesting to note that at least 25% of registered self-employed workers in the UK are women and the number of female entrepreneurs is rising nearly three-times faster than the rate for men.

There are understood to be more than 1.2m self-employed women in the UK who are involved in full or part-time work and according to the Office for National Statistics, the number of female entrepreneurs has risen by nearly 10% in the past two years, which compares very favourably to men (3.3% increase).

TheBoardlist,, sent out surveys to more than 750 CEOs in the tech industry, and while responses are still coming in, a preliminary cut of the data reveals that while some CEOs (38%) believe gender diversity is very important, just as many believe it is not.

The Boardlist founder Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, refers to the fact that there is a perfect split in her opinion. “What CEOs are telling us is that it’s a much more nuanced issue,” she says, see below video:

Will anything get more women in the boardroom?

With services like the Broadroom and the Boardlist now available, the question becomes, is any of this making a difference?

Recognising that women are significantly under-represented in engineering and technology careers, the UK government has repeatedly called for organisations and business to bring more women into the fold through its campaign Women into Technology and Engineering Call to Action.

The campaign focuses on helping to remove barriers to science for girls and women, and builds on previous schemes including work on equality by the Research Councils.
The Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) diversity programme led by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering is also funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, while the Equality Challenge Unit runs the Athena Swan scheme supported by the funding councils and Universities UK.

The imbalance of equality has been in business forever, there is a shift and the research above clearly states that the shift is changing with an improvement in woman leadership and business, A previous blog that I wrote on inequality, titled ‘It’s risky business to ignore gender inequality in the work place’
summarised that more sponsoring may lead to more and faster promotions for women, but it is not a magic bullet: There is still much to do to close the gap between men’s and women’s advancement. Some improvements such as supportive bosses and inclusive cultures are a lot harder to mandate than formal mentoring programs but essential if those programs are to have their intended effects. Clearly, however, the critical first step is to stop over mentoring and start accountable sponsoring for both sexes.

History shows us that minority groups cannot change the status quo without the support of the dominant majority. The Civil Rights Movement in America is a good example of how a campaign became mainstream when it won the support of powerful “allies” from the white community.

To date men have been left out of this conversation as women have been told to “fix” inequality in the workplace themselves.
Irrespective of the shift, women are still less likely to be given the “hot jobs” key to getting ahead at global companies, despite having more development training than men. Instead, they’re more likely to have projects with a smaller budget, smaller teams and less visibility to senior leadership.

What actually needs to be “fixed” is an organisation’s culture and systemic biases. We know, for instance, that many women are not asked career-changing questions. There’s a huge difference between “do you want this job?” and “you don’t really want that job, do you?” Or, even worse, the question isn’t even asked.
Male leaders need to start challenging these assumptions in order to make change. Real equality in the workplace will only come about when diversity is something that male leaders are actively involved in.
They need to know that even though it may not be their fault that inequality exists, it is their responsibility as leaders to work for change and to call out protocols that may be holding women back.

As Sonia Sotomayor once said:

“It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.”

Should we communicate transparency and the truth?


Back in January, I wrote a blog called ‘Do we truly understand our individuality and character’.
The word character is being widely examined in our culture because people want the truth, technology is certainly one tool that people can hide behind the truth and the facts, lack of transparency too, people fear that if they are truthful, open and transparent that the truth will surface quicker via tech tools, so how do we build trust in each other?

Technologies can allow us to collect, store, analyse and communicate data and ideas in unprecedented ways should not lull us to think they can address old, entrenched problems in unprecedented ways. The primary constraints for human action are non-technological in nature.

Most people who do not speak up in public meetings have perfectly functioning voices, and training them on better enunciation will not help matters much. Many technology projects have been hampered by inadequate theorizing, by political economy and social movement analysis, and by the lack of reference to historical evidence. And while clear and imaginative thinking is universally valuable, by necessity this analysis needs to be contextual. In particular we need to be particularly cautious about transferring successful use of technology from one place and time to another.

Napoleon Hill once said “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”
However, transparent communication can open new doors for us to access a more extensive level of information in our lives. When we let go of our individual focus, we are able to experience the dynamics of life to a much greater extent. This allows us to move beyond the interpretation (understanding) of humans as objects in the physical world and thus experience humans from within.

If we recognise that rather than meeting people, we encounter realities in which these people emerge, based on what they believe and defend, we develop a deeper compassion and understanding. We are aware that in this world we all wear a false smile.

Once we begin to comprehend the inner experiences of others, and to create through our being, we make a quantum leap in our communication. We lift communication up to the next level of evolution. This helps us to acknowledge the true cause of many conflicts, looking beyond the symptoms to the root of the problem.

Have we created a separated culture in society, where we disguise the truth and transparency for what people would prefer to hear across technology?

Cultures also differ in how much they encourage individuality and uniqueness vs. conformity and interdependence. Individualistic cultures stress self-reliance, decision-making based on individual needs, and the right to a private life.

I was discussing with friends recently the morals around an Indian tipi. For more than 400 years, knowledgeable people have agreed that the Indian tipi is absolutely the finest of all moveable shelters. To the Native peoples whose concept of life and religion was deeper and infinitely more unified than his conqueror, the tipi was much more. Both home and church the tipi was a Sacred Being and sharing with family, nature and Creator. The tipi allowed the Plains Indians to move entire villages to suit the seasons and to be nearer to a good supply of food, wood & fresh supply for their horses.


The Cree people use 15 poles to make the structure of the tipi. For every pole in that tipi, there is a teaching. So there are 15 teachings that hold up the tipi. The poles also teach us that no matter what version of the Great Spirit we believe in, we still go to the same Creator from those many directions and belief systems; we just have different journeys to get there.

And where the poles come out together at the top, it’s like they’re creating a nest. And they also resemble a bird with its wings up when it comes to land, and that’s another teaching: the spirit coming to land, holding its wings up.

A full set of Tipi poles, represent: obedience, respect, humility, happiness, love, faith, kinship, cleanliness, thankfulness, sharing, strength, good child rearing, hope, ultimate protection, control flaps.

The tipi teaches us that we are all connected by relationship and that we depend on each other. Having respect for and understanding this connection creates and controls harmony and balance in the circle of life. For every time that a pole is added, a rope goes around to bind that pole into place. You have to be there and see it to appreciate that teaching. That rope is a sacred bond, binding all the teachings together until they are all connected.

So do we have much to learn from the Native American Indians about humility, and human 2 human communication?

In summary, transparent communication is a way of life in which different levels of consciousness as well as different levels of development and intelligence are included. It requires of us that we engage in an experientially oriented exploration of life.

Only then will we truly learn to comprehend the world as a form of exchange in which we share a common space of interaction and learn to recognise the cosmic addresses of conscious content.