There’s an innovation principle we have at Potential Squared which is ‘what got you here won’t get you there’. It means that we’re constantly innovating around what we do, thinking about how we can better serve our clients and help them to implement innovation practices for themselves.

I was reminded of this by Sarah Garton, a Managing Director at Accenture, who shared her experience of leading transformation at our recent Sustainable Innovation event. Sarah’s presentation was inspiring because it illustrated the principles in practice, as she described the way she has developed the innovation programme at Accenture to keep it up to date with the business’ changing needs. 

This story clearly landed with the audience, many of whom said afterwards that they were facing similar struggles at their organisations. You have to work hard and drive people to maintain an innovation culture, so it was valuable listening to Accenture’s journey.

The morning was full of powerful insights. We also heard from innovation leaders at Coca-Cola about the next phase in their organisation’s growth journey, as well as from our co-hosts Treehouse Innovation and ExperiencePoint about their principles and practices for creating self-sustaining cultures of innovation.

A key concept that I took away from the event, on a purely personal level, was the ‘work-learn balance’. Andrew Webster of ExperiencePoint describes this as one of the three steps to successful transformation, but it’s also helped me to think about what I’m doing in my current role.

According to Andrew there are some elements of leading innovation that people understand intuitively, for example that communication is good. Other concepts, such as agility, run counter to what people think they know. This is why it’s important for leaders and their people to be constantly active in their own learning.

What Andrew said struck me as true, because when you become so absorbed in what you’re doing that you never take a step out, then you’re just following a process of working automatically. To me, the work-learn balance means considering what you’re currently doing in your role and identifying where your weaknesses and development areas are. Then it’s about taking ownership of those gaps and making an effort to learn and improve.

It’s important to put learning into practice, which is also part of finding the balance with work. In driving you start with the theory, but until you’re behind the wheel you don’t really understand the pressures involved in a situation, such as controlling the clutch or noticing what the car behind is doing. Getting out there and gaining those experiences is how you move from knowledge to wisdom.

One of the core principles of innovation is fail faster to succeed sooner. It’s an optimistic view of life, because you are always going to make mistakes, so it’s about what you do next. With this mentality then you either win or you learn, which reminds me of the brilliant quote from Thomas Edison – “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” You can accept failure completely and give up, or you can try something new.

At its core innovation is thinking, how can I re-tackle this challenge? Thinking about what didn’t work, what can we change?  You keep fixing things until you come up with a solution that works. Listening to our clients share their stories was very impactive, and it was great to see that the audience were inspired to go out and start applying innovation principles for themselves.