NatWest

Olly Reid, Scale Acceleration Manager

THE INNOVATION MYTH – WHY OLD HABITS ARE STIFLING INNOVATION IN A NEW WORLD BY OLLY REID

As John Holt once said, ‘’since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned” … This phrase has stuck with me since I first heard it back in 2008 and it fundamentally describes what I perceive to be the ‘innovation myth’. Having written my University dissertation on the History of UK Education, I had no choice but to conclude, that ‘not much had changed’. The term “innovation” has often been used to describe changes: for example, when blackboards were exchanged for interactive white ones, despite very few teachers using the ‘interactive’ part. While such introductions were indeed ‘innovative’ at the time, they failed to deal with the core challenge of an outdated curriculum which no longer served those it was designed to support. Prensky described this in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001) when he suggested that, ‘Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”

FIRSTLY, AS BUSINESS OWNERS, WE MUST BE THE CATALYST FOR BUILDING A CULTURE OF INNOVATORS, FORWARD-THINKERS AND RISK-TAKERS.

- OLLY REID – NATWEST, SCALE ACCELERATION MANAGER

If Prensky was correct and our education system is indeed outdated, then what of our workforce, our employees, our leaders, our businesses, ourselves?

If the way that we think, create, problem-solve and imagine within our businesses, is created on a foundation of education suited to a previous world; and the quote often attributed to Einstein is correct in that we ‘cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them’; how do we move business forward and into the modern age?

Firstly, as business owners, we must be the catalyst for building a culture of innovators, forward-thinkers and risk-takers. Secondly, we must take responsibility for developing our future leaders, ensuring that they don’t just do as they are told, thinking and operating in the same way as we have done, but constantly challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of what is currently possible.

So, to the innovation myth… innovation is not the responsibility of CEOs or Directors, it doesn’t need a special department and it isn’t just for start-ups! Every single one of us is capable of innovation. We can all identify parts of the work that we do, that would make ourselves and therefore our businesses a little more efficient or effective.

So, the myth of innovation is this… it’s not a grand gesture, but a series of smaller, simpler steps that move us towards being better than we currently are. Whether that’s listening to our employees’ challenges and taking on their solutions, introducing a relaxed workwear policy that allows people to come to work as themselves, or as Bristol-based entrepreneur Darrell Irwin from Cre8ion recently did, introducing a four-day working week to help his team achieve a better work-life balance. Innovation lives within us all and we all have a responsibility to bring it out of those around us.

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