As a hockey athlete I was a disrupter.

Whatever systems we took on to the field of play in matches had to be forged in intensity on the training ground. While this made me popular with coaches, not all the players appreciated the approach.

I brought that disruptive approach to work being part of the team which brought to fruition the largest single inward investment to Scotland – Caledonian Paper Mill. We had to recruit, train and start up with people who had no previous experience of paper making. That meant we introduced recruitment and training systems based on what had succeeded in Scandinavia. The plant started up on time and in budget.

In my next role I was fortunate to have a kindred spirit in disruptive innovation. My new boss (Evan Owens-Smith) had taken on the challenge of removing 50% of time and cost from the Packaging Supply Chain for the biggest Spirits Company in the world.

We realised this by introducing new technology from North America and developing the worlds first ever continuous production line for Folding Cartons.

We developed a new and unique Raw Material Supply Chain from South America and introduced Customer Demand Led Rostering to meet the seasonal demands of our customers, another first for the packaging industry.

We didn’t just meet customer requirements, we smashed them by disruptive innovation.

At the same time I was aware that while we were taking a disruptive approach, a culture of innovation did not exist across the business. People don’t like disruption and change!

It was the same as a Steering Group member for The National Performance Centre for Sport in Scotland. We combined great technology from Tottenham Hotspur’s all weather training facility in London with the ethos of The Netherland’s Olympic facility at Papendal, where top sportspeople can work and learn alongside each other. Oriam started up on time and in budget and most importantly has that collaborative ethos.

And my learning journey continues. Over the last 4 years I have had the privilege of working with my wife Helen Potter and the Innovation Engineering Institute led by Doug Hall and Maggie Nichols. Doug and I both started out working at Procter & Gamble. He went on to become an Innovation Guru before he realised that didn’t work. The only way to enable people to think innovatively is to educate them and give them a system to do it again and again. So he invented Innovation Engineering. For the full story you can read his book Driving Eureka!

After conversations with each of these 3 people this week, I had a penny dropping moment:-

A culture of innovation stems from enabling people to think innovatively AND giving them a system to test their ideas and turn them into reality quickly without unnecessary cost.

After a 30 year career with global companies, education at London Business School, experience in High Performance Sports and a passion for education I can say that only Innovation Engineering gives you the training, tools & techniques, forged in practical application, to do both these things and build your culture of innovation.

And you can still BE DISRUPTIVE!

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