Derek Bishop


Innovation – Always learning

Date added: 08th Sep 2016
Category: Innovation Culture

For our children, return to school is a time of discovery, the start of the next phase of their journey. Let’s learn from them and through building a culture of innovation make it a time of discovery for all.

Back to school! Whether you have children or not, the annual migration of children from summer leisure back to the classroom seems to be one of the major punctuation points to the year. As school run traffic fills the roads, and the shops clear their shelves of uniforms and pencils and get ready to stock for Halloween, there are unmistakable signs that the world is moving inexorably onward. Even work teams, denuded for months thanks to a succession of holidays, come back together renewed and refreshed.

But what does the future hold for those in the world of work? Does the end of summer mark a return to’ same old same old’, or is there a challenging and innovative future on the horizon?  Those looking to build a culture of innovation could do well to look back to their schooldays to relearn some of the lessons of yesteryear. What we learned in the classroom, on the playing fields, or even hanging around with friends may have been more important than we realise.

Let’s start with one of the key planks of innovation; curiosity. When we look to build a culture of innovation within business we are turning our attention outward, seeking to find the questions that matter and to deliver real solutions. That means that the ‘what if’ questions, so much a feature of childhood, come back in force. We need to be open to asking the questions and open to experimenting if we are to deliver real solutions.

As a consequence, failure has to be something which we are prepared to encounter and accept, turning it into a learning force rather than a cause for censure. Here again, we are back to those lessons which we learnt in our childhood; those all-important lessons which encouraged us to try this or have a go at that. In the process we may have discovered new skills or new aptitudes or even simply learnt why it’s best not to mix those two chemicals together; but the main lesson which we can now carry into the world of work was that it was better to have a go than not try at all.

Then there is the lesson of collaboration and teamwork, working with others on tasks and challenges in order to deliver a unified result. Whether traipsing round the school field to identify different types of leaves or undertaking research so that we could give a talk on a particular subject, those early lessons of working together are ones which we should never forget.

Add in all those other important skills such as communication and listening and you’re well on your way to starting to build the type of culture in which innovation can flourish. However, there is one lesson which stands out above all of these and that is the idea of continuous learning. In school, every bit of knowledge we had built on previous lessons learnt, enabling us to progress and grow our understanding. But our learning experience didn’t stop when we left school. Leadership is a journey and as leaders it is up to us to ensure that that journey also infuses our businesses and our people with the desire for continuing improvement.

When we stop learning, when we stop being curious, then we stagnate. And when businesses stagnate then our employees who want something more move on, our investors are tempted away by those in whom the intellectual curiosity is still alive, and our customers desert us in favour of disruptors which are delivering genuine solutions. For our children, return to school is a time of discovery, the start of the next phase of their journey.  Let’s learn from them and through innovation make it a time of discovery for all.


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