Keep swimming or risk drowning

The idea of running my own training / consultancy business has been lurking around in the back of my mind for some time.  It is for this reason I decided to explore it further.  I wasn’t making any progress on my previous business idea as I seem to have developed some form of mind block, so now is perfect time to explore a different route.  What I have learnt it not to waste too much time stuck on one pet project.  I guess I need to be like a shark – keep swimming or drown.

Referring to another one of my favourite books: The Innovation Expedition by Gijs Van Wulfen, I quickly wrote out my mini business case in my lovely new notebook.

Shaun Tan notebook
An aspect I learnt about myself recently is I work better on plain paper.  I find lines restrictive; they dictate an order I don’t necessarily subscribe to. I therefore treated myself a lovely plain notebook by Shaun Tan (an Australian illustrator) admittedly, I hadn’t heard of him before but what caught my attention about this notebook were the illustrations; it was perfectly fitting.  It’s amazing how a simple sheet of paper can make me feel differently about the way I approach what I am doing.  Plain paper provides the freedom to write in any which way I see fit.

Making Progress

I completed the business case and was actually pretty chuffed with the progress I had made, so I started to think about names for my business.  I did a bit of research for inspiration which led me back to vision and values. So what is my vision for this business and does it still sit true with who I am and what I value?

My vision for this business is: To provide individuals with the creative skills and confidence to identify problems and empower them to be self-sustaining in how they go about identifying solutions.

I would do this by running workshops on creativity and innovation.

This is very much in alignment with my desires to create a self-sustaining society as per my vision in an earlier post My Personal Brand. Tick.

I went back to thinking about me and my story, how did I get to this point?  My second attempt proved a fruitful exercise and I think you will agree, it makes sense.

My Story

Having spent over 10 years working in the not-for-profit sector, the need to create something from very little is very familiar.  I wouldn’t have said that I was a ‘creative person’ but what I am is incredibly resourceful and an extremely good problem solver.

Throughout my years as an acquisition fundraiser, I would regularly need to develop and refine propositions and products.  This was no mean feat.  Often the most impactful way to refine the product was via the training of groups of incredibly highly charged, caffeine-induced dialogue fundraisers (those who speak directly to the public either on the street, door or phone). Employing creative techniques was a must to improving an existing offering.

I currently lead on innovation for my employer.  It’s not the role I signed up for, however I have turned it into a role they should have employed me for. Internally it has always been said that innovation should be everyone’s responsibility, however in reality, it sits with a relatively small group of employees, where it is not a full time role.  This means innovation and product development work is slow, not exactly fit for purpose in a rapidly changing society.

I lead a group of Innovation Ambassadors, working with them, I aim to educate and up-skill our colleagues in their understanding of insights, innovation and creativity.

It’s all about Innovation

Everyone is talking about ‘innovation’ but I see very few charities doing it well. There are many barriers and the lack of guidance/support from senior leadership only accentuates the problem.  It is for this reason I believe that we need to take a step back, we need to empower individuals with knowledge and skills; they need to understand the expectations and their roles in the process.

As much as charities may be in desperate need of radical innovation, they aren’t demonstrating readiness. There is however nothing stopping them from taking the baby steps needed to provide them with the crucial incremental improvements that could pave the way to radical innovation.

One of the barriers we constantly face is time and resource – is it really about acquiring more staff and increasing capacity or is it about looking at what is already in existence and changing processes?

Questioning the status quo

For me, it’s about looking at how we do things now.  Can we do it differently? Can we introduce new processes to stream line our work?  Can we interact and engage with our colleagues differently in order to take on new viewpoints? By questioning the status quo we are not only engaging in innovative process development, but we are also fostering an environment that will be fit and ready for more radical innovation.

If we want to create a more innovative workforce, we need to drive creativity and increase collaboration. Individual creativity is important but so are the social relations. Providing individuals with the tools and encouraging active collaboration should lead to overall improved productivity. I say should because ultimately you cannot legislate creativity. Although creativity can be taught, it tends to emerge naturally where people are motivated and within a culture that encourages exploration.

I have already run several successful creativity and innovation training workshops for my organisation and am about to run another in October. As someone who really enjoys creating and facilitating these types of sessions, it seems natural to want to focus on this as a career. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

My next goal is to shorten the story and make it a little bit more succinct.  It was a really useful exercise and got me to really focus on the ‘why’.

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