4 Tips to Revive Your Innovation Strategy

If you’ve found your innovation strategy has become stale, it might be time to harness a fresh outlook! Rachel Barnes, Head of Collaborations at Ashurst shares four of her top innovation tips to challenge teams to think outside the box.

1) Don’t call it an innovation strategy

There seems to be something about the word ‘innovation’ which makes people think its someone else’s problem/ job – that having an innovation strategy and an innovation person/ team means that (phew!) someone else is responsible for innovation and change and it doesn’t have to be you (note. this is cross-industry!).

Innovation has been so overused that it’s also not clear to some people what we mean by it, although the problem is not the word, it’s what you do with it that counts! It’s all too easy to say that you’re innovating when in fact you’re just focussed on the short term, incremental change (horizon 1 stuff), which will just keep you treading water, if not in managed decline. 

Innovation doesn’t always have to be crazily, scarily disruptive, but you do need a spread of projects across the short, medium and long term to maintain a competitive advantage.

2) In fact, lose the word innovation altogether

What about following an innovator in the financial services sector and launching a Collabotrarian strategy?

Yes, we are all aware of being comfortable being uncomfortable, but how are other industries or other companies doing things? What inspiration can we draw from them? There’s always someone ahead of you on the change curve, someone bolder than us out there to inspire us!  

A company that inspired me is Anthemis Group, in the financial services sector, who proactively created the opportunity for discomfort, to develop a more adaptable organisation. They did this through decision making via ‘collabotrarian’ groups — people from different roles, business units, and backgrounds (gender, race, ethnicity, age, thinking style) who come together to solve tough problems. The purpose of these groups is not to come to a consensus, but to be both collaborative and contrarian, instigating healthy debate around problems and coming to solutions in new ways.

This takes the idea of multi-disciplinary teams to the next level. And why not invite external parties; clients, of course, tech companies, universities, and what about a bit of coopetition too (innovation bingo anyone?!)?  

3) Be bold!

If you’re not up for making up a whole new word and approach, at least commit fully to what you are (un)comfortable doing. Give it some budget. Assign it some bold aspirations. Please look past the short term incremental changes to drive real impact to (dare I say disrupt?) your firm, clients and industry. I did say bold! And… talk to your customers about it!

 4) Let’s remember why we’re doing this

If you haven’t already, a lot of firms are working to refresh their strategies and approach after the events of the past year. What could be a better time to also clearly articulate the desired outcome from any innovation efforts. Be brave and clear about the journey that you’re taking people on and empower them to be bold in joining, as well as challenging, that journey. It’s always better to know that the iceberg is coming rather than hearing a large crash. Create opportunities for problem identification and solution co-creation, as well as opportunities to inspire, to help your people understand the art of the possible. Finally, role model those behaviours. And remember to have fun!

Rachel Barnes

Rachel is Head of Collaborations, Ashurst Advance. Previously Rachel was Innovation Lead, UK, US & EMEA at Herbert Smith Freehills. Rachel has spent time exploring the broader innovation and start-up space, spending time consulting for Janders Dean, Innovation Beehive, a variety of start-ups and also managing an HR Tech focussed start-up incubator. Prior to that, she had a varied and fruitful 11 years at BNP Paribas running consecutively, the Innovation, Transformation, Client Relationship Management teams in Global Markets.