Lucy Gower interview: “You can’t do good innovation without insight”

Lucy G

Lucy is an innovation expert who works with charities to improve their ability to innovate and raise funds.  She tweets at @LucyInnovation.

Lucy makes the point that innovations are unlikely to give returns within financial year; so the pipeline of new innovations needs to a) be well populated and b) have a multi-year strategy/budget.  The challenge isn’t to not ‘fail’, it is to make your innovation process robust enough to withstand ‘failure’, for senior leadership to make failure something people are happy to discuss and mull over, and to spread the attitude that discussing failure is not a bad thing.  It is the case though that we become invested in our ideas, and sometimes lose our willingness to accept that something isn’t working.

Every charity wants to innovate.  However, leadership and culture are critical.  A culture of innovative practice doesn’t come about without examples from the top, especially as it can be difficult for more junior staff to say “that project I worked on absolutely tanked” if they are worried that it will be perceived badly by their superiors.  The whole organisation must be behind a change to innovative practices or it is likely to fail.  We discussed the example of shoe company Zappos, who pay staff to leave if they are not happy.  As founder Tony Hsieh says in a fascinating article about his sale of the business to Amazon, “I believe that getting the culture right is the most important thing a company can do”.

For prospect research and insight, its interesting to consider the role of “translators”.  These are the people in organisations who draw out the narratives from information and present the story.  For researchers, this is a key skill, and is really important in modern, information-rich/time-poor organisations.  And Lucy is clear that “you can’t do innovation without insight”.  Building and using a base of evidence for new products and projects, and evaluating existing work, is absolutely essential in the innovation process.  While “creativity means not copying“, creativity and innovation rely on learning from experience and incorporating this learning into future work.

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