Most of my projects involves innovation in some flavour: new product design, software development, customer engagement or operational process change and many more aspects. I work on a project (contract) basis, typically 6 month and longer projects with clients.  Presently I am coming to the end of some contracts and on the search for new ones. Many times this involves tendering, networking and plain old job searches in various job recruitment websites.

Frequently I am amused when looking at innovation management, project management with innovation positions (not pure new product development roles): Candidates must have X years, Y experience, Z skills but all in the area of the position.

Surely innovation needs a broader skill set. Bringing in experience from difference fields, sectors and life in general. Do they understand the term innovation, I often wonder ?

Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.

Yes, we need a sound platform to work from, an understanding of the environment that a position requires is necessary, but surely still missing the point. If you come from a company in a similar field to another, what can you offer in terms of innovation other than product or sector knowledge.



What can you bring to the table?

  • Do you or can you bring a different perspective on a problem?
  • Have you the ability to re-frame the problem in a different lense (design thinking) ?
  • Can you bring empathy to the project, customer understanding and engagement skills?
  • Being Creative?
  • Curiosity as to why it something works as it is.

Working in the innovation sphere, in my opinion needs a well rounded skill set. Ability to use a diverse toolkit; brainstorming, listening, empathy, understanding, patience and more besides.


I Want to Cook With Confidence


Recently I was asked to teach a 6 week cookery class at night. I run Creativity workshops for professionals where there is particular emphasis on developing Creative Confidence. Embracing new challenges and developing new perspectives are principles that I encourage people to adopt in order that they develop their own creativity so, even though I was a bit daunted, I accepted. Some years ago I gave up my IT career and trained as a chef and since then have become a qualified trainer, but until now these two aspects on my career have never met. To be honest, in the days leading up to the first class I was quite terrified. Even though I made my living getting entrepreneurs to play with markers and playdough, getting people to cook seemed impossible. I spent a lot of time poring over recipes and planning time down to the last minute.

When finally the first night arrived and it turned out nobody did have a hammer, I realised that this class was very similar to my other classes. People don’t go to cookery classes for recipes or technique, unless they are particularly advanced classes. Most people arrive because they have a belief about themselves –‘I can’t cook, in the same way that I hear ‘I’m not creative’ in my Creativity Workshops. Immediately we are hamstrung because we develop these beliefs over time and they become fact. Our lazy brains can hang on to these statements because it’s easier than coping with ambiguity.

I believe that everyone can cook and everyone is creative. We’ll deal with creativity later – today we’ll talk about cooking. Here are a few lessons that I shared with the class:


1. Cooking is an art, Baking is a science – this means that in baking you must’ve measure everything exactly and follow all the rules because there is an alchemy that occurs to ensure dough rises. Cooking on the other hand can be more about free expression…recipes are guidelines. If you don’t like garlic and it’s in the recipe, don’t put it in. It’s your food. (But seriously, who doesn’t like garlic…….)

2. When you are cooking at home it’s usually for you, your family or friends. These people will not be scoring your food on the way home in a taxi…people come to your house to see you, if they get a free meal that’s a bonus. Television judges get paid a lot of money to be pantomime villains for ratings. (I own a Gordon Ramsay book that I rarely cook from because I imagine him shouting every instruction at me!)

3. It is very difficult to burn things….smoke pouring out of ovens is a tv comedy vehicle. Yes, kitchen fires can cause serious damage but things burn in the kitchen usually due to inattention…so if you are new to cooking, just do that. After a while you’ll notice that devoting your time solely to cooking a meal can be quite relaxing if you let it. There is mindfulness to be had in slowly stiring a risotto.

4. Try doing your food shop without a list. Wander around the aisles and look. Concentrate on the fresh fruit, veg, meat and dairy products. Find something and stop and imagine how you would cook it. Many of the worlds top chefs base their daily menu on the best available ingredients they can find in the food markets each morning. Pick out something because it looks good. The internet is awash with recipes so you won’t be stuck.

5. There are always foods that we don’t like but if you’re not allergic, don’t refuse to try like a 4 year old. The pretend airplane is not a good luck for a grown up. If you dislike something try being specific about why. Is it too salty, sweet, too much vinegar, the right balance of hot and sour? This challenges your creative brain to come up with solutions!

6. Many people fear cooking meals because getting everything on the table at the same time is stressful. If this is a problem, start with a one-pot dish.

Have you seen your creativity?

You put it down somewhere, maybe when you were I 7 or maybe after that creative teenage burst but you haven’t seen it about for sometime. Is it gone forever? Has it just faded due to neglect? Chances are it has been kept like a guilty secret in the back of the mind. Most of us, grown ups, have either been told or come to our own realisation that creativity is for kids and not for the serious professional, unless you the arty type, the hippy types who were born with oodles of talent. But what if we challenge that belief?

When you were 5 and someone put a bunch of simple art supplies, markers, coloured paper, felt etc, On a table in front of you, what would you do? Dive in? Of course you would. You wouldn’t stop and consider thst it was a waste of time, or worry about other peoples assesment of your output.

But step forward to the present – what would your reaction be now? Chances are you’ll suddenly have an important call to make. Why? Generally playing makes us uncomfortable because we have lost the habit. In a work situation this discomfort can be excrutiating at first. I think that at some point a lot of us have become convinced that if we cannot play music or paint to a professional standard then it is not worth pursuing. But what if we enjoy it? Even if you can draw stick men you can convey a story. Had an unusual encounter this week? Or even a boring one? Take 2 minutes to draw it with a stick man and bubbles?

So many people find the idea of creativity uncomfortable and find it hard to see how it is relevant in their daily lives but did you know that in a recent IBM worldwidse survey, creativity was considered to be the top management competency, yet only 25% of us will admit to being creative. Becoming connected with our creativity is the prime way that we can differenciate ourselves and our businesses. Got Tqm, so can everyone else, Lean Six Sigma blackbelt, they can get it too, MBA, same. Ideas – there isn’t a course to get them, but you can learn to develop your creative confidence and the confidence of those around you so that you can become a creative powerhouse!

More soon..Grainne

Fail Better, Fail Quicker, Fail incrementally

Fail Better, Fail Quicker, Fail Incrementally.

That is the theme of a recent event I attended, Flounders in the Science Gallery in Trinity College, Dublin Ireland on 9th April 2014. This was part of the Science Gallery Fail Better exhibition, which acknowledges the attempts and efforts of inventors, designers, business people and ordinary ‘joe soaps’ in their attempts to deliver their dream.

Flounders was an event organised by a number of Irish entrepreneurs as an alternative to the success of those who attend the F.ounders events, acknowledging that life is never straight forward.


Exhibitions included Dysons 2000’th attempt to perfect the new vacuum cleaner, dc54, Formula 1 analysis of the destruction under race conditions of a back axle & suspension assembly on a Formula 1 racing car during a race, failure of the authorities in Ukraine around Chernobyl to enforce the safe zone around the reactor, and the old ladies that live and survive in the shadow, with their own nuclear moonshine that they distil.

Science Gallery #failbetter event

The event #FailBetter from the Flounders was a celebration of failure, that we fail, pick up the pieces, learn from our mistakes and try again, hence the hashtag #FailBetter

The event as we Irish do well, storytelling. The night was on each individual story’s in their journey to build something that they had passion about. We all have our stories of achievements, but who has the ability to discuss those that did fail, either quietly or spectacularly as in some instants

It was a quazi panel discussion format, 3 judges on the night, Constantin Gurdgiev@GTCost   Jamie Heaslip @jamieheaslip & Ciara O’Brien @ciaraobrien with Paul Hayes as the compare for the evening.

flounders 2

We were treated to 8 different perspectives of failure, re-invention and carrying on with life, work and happiness including

  • Tech: Blowing 140K in a few months and company folding 3 days before getting married.
  • VC: Investing in a start up in form of programming work vs share capital, only to find this creeping into 6 digit figure, many multiples the actual value of the company, and then getting requested by Revenue, tax authorities for VAT on invoices reclaimed by the 2nd company, #twisting in the knife
  • Property: Discovering the joys of property bubbles, having 80% of nightlife clubs in a city only to discover the recession at your doorstep, and an establishment bought for €9M now 5% of that market value, oh the joys of property speculations
  • Journalism: Writing or failure to write an sizable article for a leading media outlet, informing your boss of failure to deliver on a deadline close to the deadline and then the ability of said person to deliver more expletives in a few seconds than thought possible, let alone the financial cost of not delivering this article.
  • Media: Having a well know personality on the show only to discover they weren’t interested in delivering any set pieces of their show, and audience figures plummeting.
  • Science Gallery #failbetter

    Science Gallery #failbetter

and my favourite, a Tech Entrepreneur;

  • Realisation that close to Christmas time that the company was insoluble and likelihood to fail. Acceptance that they could always get a job if it did; this wasn’t the end of the world.
  • Secondly, later in their entrepreneurial journey; the discovery having signed a multi-million deal for the purchase of the company, that the credit cards were maxed out and the inability to pay for the celebratory meal with friends.

This kind of sums up the life of an entrepreneur, living on the edge, using one card to pay the minimum payment on the other but forging on with their passion and determination for success.

I found it an enjoyable night with no sadness in evidence, it was the celebration of failure, failure is not an end point, just stepping stone to the next incarnation of your dreams. I have previously written about children’s ignorance to failure, how many times do they when babies fall over when attempting to walk. We have our hearts in our mouths, terror of the damage a fall will inflict, but does a fall stop them, the shock makes them cry, occasionally somebody is unfortunately hurt, but by far they carry on, pick themselves up and try again until they succeed. Similar to riding a bicycle. With or without stabilizers, we will fall, topple over, go astray and perhaps crash, but we get back up and with some practice gain the ability to cycle.

Failure is only momentary, it does not stop our journey, and we should celebrate the lesson learned, understand why it occurred and move ahead. Life is for living, work for enjoyment and failure only a knock that we bounce back from.


My morning can hardly be described as innovative, its a routine.

Wake, rise, bathroom, dress and then kitchen. Next stage gets me in the mood for work, our golden retreiver (dog) Finlay. Always a smile wag of the tail and a glance towards the dog leads. Pets are the embodiment of routine, they know you better than your spouse in my opinion. They like us are creatures of habit.


My morning then goes outdoors for a dog walk. Off-lead through the fields or on down the town, I use this period to plan my day. The essential period when thoughts are unencumbered by emails, social media or ringing of telephones.

Rain, snow or fine mornings, I find these time periods critical in my day, its just me, my thoughts and Finlay.

We all need our time to be creative, focus our thoughts on our business; break our routines and challenges ourselves. Comfort zones are needed to progress through the day but we need diversity that innovation and creativity brings to our business to break the mundane of routine.

Business is the management of routine, innovation challenging there of. We need challenges to keep us sharp



Innovation vs Invention vs Creativity

Discussions about innovation are often made difficult because people are unclear about the exact meanings of some key terms. In particular there is confusion about the difference between creativity, innovation and invention. Let us start with some definitions:

  • Invention is the creation of something that has never been made before and is recognised as the product of some unique insight.
  • Innovation is the implementation of something new.
  • Creativity is the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual

If you have participated in a brainstorming meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas then you have displayed creativity but with out follow up in terms on delivery then there is no innovation until something gets implemented. Somebody has to take a risk and deliver something for a creative idea to be turned into an innovation. An invention might be a product or device or method that has never existed before. So every invention is an innovation. But every innovation is not an invention. When your company first published its website that was a major innovation for the company even though many other websites already existed, or AppIe Ipad -> Ipad2.

Most tend to think of an innovation in terms of a a new product but this can also be with a new process, method, business model, partnership, route to market or marketing method, Innovation covers a wide latitude of areas to consider. Indeed every aspect of your business operation is a candidate for innovation. Peter Drucker said, ‘Every organisation must prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.’ So do not restrict your vision of innovation to products. Some of the most powerful innovations you can make are in business methods and customer services. If we look at companies like Dell, eBay and Amazon we see that their great innovations were with their business models rather than in new products. We ourselves help organisations to understand their business model and to think differently about these.

Inovations can be incremental or radical. Every improvement that you make in products or services is an incremental innovation, a step by step layer approach building on the success (or failures) of the previous. Most businesses and most managers are good at incremental innovation. They see problems in the current set-up and they fix them. Radical innovations involve finding an entirely new way to do things. As such they are often risky and difficult to implement. Most larger organisation’s are poor at radical innovation, they are risk adverse, they prepare to deal with the current status quo and what is currently their cash cow revenue generating product or service. If you had been making records then you could have introduced incremental innovations in your design and marketing. However if this was your strategy then a radical innovation, CD’s, would eventually kill you. The CD manufacturer could similarly introduce various incremental improvements. Once again a radical innovation, music downloads over the internet, would make your offering obsolete, as we see with various retail chains like HMV & Jessops (Camera & Photography). Both have recently ceased trading and or are in court protection / administration. So we need to constantly look for incremental innovations and radical innovations. We need to develop creativity and turn it quickly into innovation.

Innovation, Natural Selection

Innovation is akin to the natural selection according to Darwin, you take a group of ideas, shake them about, test them to see which will survive the best, be it commercially, ask your customers for feedback, and then once ready launch it and let it grow. As with mother nature, some innovation ideas wont cut the muster in the real world, or other predators will kill them off before they can mature.

Innovation, it’s a finger pointing to the moon, you don’t concentrate on the finger, or you will miss everything happening in the heavens.

Simple distinction between an idea and an invention.:

I think an idea is something you can write about in a science fiction book or a peer review paper. You can use this to make a commercial return on your time, or use it for the benefit of the community.

An invention is when you build something that people who read about it in the science fiction book said was impossible.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt.

In this film, Brad Pitt grows younger as he ages. If we could use some imagination and creativity in this for all our benefits, think of the creative experiences we could have with the knowledge of wisdom of age, passion and energy of youth.

My thoughts drift to our pre conceptions as adults and parents. Children have no fear, they climb walls & trees, put silly things on, experiment and generally act like children should do, but us adults, this can be a problem, we worry about young children, especially when they start walking, so afraid that they will fall and burse themselves on impact. But it dawned on me one day, they only have a few inches to fall, while we see this from the view point of us 5 ft plus adults. When we fall, its from a greater height, and the potential exists to have more serious injury, but for a child, tis all part of the learning process.

Sometimes being creative needs that sense of being 5 and a child again. Put us adults in a group of our peers or same, and would we act creative? ….. groupthink would come into play.

Why can’t we adopt the child’s perspective, children have no fear, no prejudices, nothing what so ever to be worried about, only what us adults manifest onto them… watch out, dont do, keep quiet, sit still. These are lessons from the adult world manifested onto them.

‘Are we there yet?’ sounds familiar to most parents. Children have some amazing qualities about them that perhaps make them more creative: open mind, make connections, playful, curious, expressive, forgetful and forgiving, hands on, direct without reservations, fun to be around, enjoy things, cry out for small things, sleep well, and have a great sense of humour. But perhaps the most important quality of a child as he or she is growing up is asking questions! Not just, “Are we there yet?”, but also, “How does this work? What happens when you do this? Why does it go this way? When will something happen? Who is that person on TV? And many many more…” Did we ever tell our children that this is a dumb question? Perhaps not until they grow up to a certain age. And even then, we are always careful in inspiring them to ask more questions and learn more.

Do these qualities make children more creative than adults? Do adults lose some of these qualities as they grow older?

Creativity in the workplace, stems from the ability to have a comfortable environment where we can experiment and experience becoming a child again. We must release our brain to do what is so capable of being creative. Our workplace environment seldom is conducive towards being creative, we must challenge this. Fear of being creative in front of others, letting our guard down is common in many organisations.

So if we had the wisdom of old age, with the enthusiasm of youth, we would have a more enjoyable business environment, forgetting the Mother Nature aspect.

My thoughts for you to ponder on:

Are you more creative today than when you were a child?

Did you do some amazing things as a child?

Do you have more ideas as a child?

Do you still do those amazing things?

Is your workplace making you more or less creative?

Are you able to create new innovations?

There are many techniques to allow you to become creative, challenge ideas, thoughts and processes in organisations. Challenge yourself and we can help.

What type of environment generates innovation?

What type of environment generates innovation?
Answer: An environment that celebrates and rewards failures.

In the business world, it is all about success. However, if we want innovation we need to experiment. This is trial and error. Therefore we should not punish failure; we need to reward failure. The military is a good example. If you lose two legs, you receive a medal and you are celebrated.

In Silicon Valley where people openly talk about failure. The mantra is: I try things, I experiment, I am proud of my failures. The US has created a place
where you are free to know, free to go, free to do and free to be. Ultimately free to fail and free to succeed and each breeds the other. Organisations should not hide failure.

Where does success (money) come from?
Money boils down to ideas; some good and some bad. The idea has to stand a test.The test is: can the idea provide me with a temporary monopoly? Examples include the iPad, iPhone and Lady Gaga.
You have it, but it’s temporary. Most companies are one hit wonders. The monopoly (albeit temporary) is innovative – this all equals money.

The system is cyclical; you get an idea, you innovate it, create a temporary monopoly then reap the reward (money), then start all over again.
It is difficult to have a temporary monopoly in technology due to the distribution of information. Some innovations are necessary but this is not sufficient for success. There are possible directions for organisational success:
1. Survival of the fittest (not the strongest or the fastest) – this is the ability to change and adapt to your environment and situations.
2. Sexual selection – “peacock theory”, chosen for beauty and attraction (the peacock cannot fly, run, or hide therefore it should not exist – it is “anti‐fit”)
The above two principles are “fit” and “sexy”. Fit = responds to signals; can change; is adaptable. The system is around the principles of being a fit business. Sexy = stands out; looks good; is a piece of art and people are willing to pay – everything is designed from the sound and smell to aesthetics. Apple never professes that its hardware is better than the competition, but it creates a “lickable” technology culture where IT does not even come into the equation.
3. The final possibility is the creator (Mozart) – breaks new ground and creates again and again.This is a company free from silos and barriers. The organisation looks laterally.

Business Model

A business model is the story of how an organisation creates, delivers and captures value. Storytelling is how we create emotional connections to any business model idea and a critical capability for all innovators. Stories can change the world.

The essense of any story is the background in the preperation for the story, and the delivery of this.

Each organisation that creates something of value, remembers the story of its success, this is how we remember with passion our team work to solve the issue. The team shares its success, the methods, the reasons, their passion, the beliefs that they had to accomplish the challenge.

  • The story, can help you to understand all aspects of the business model challenges that were addressed.
  • The history allows you to verify that all aspects of the business model are consistent with each other.
  • This creates a sense of bond between all involved, they tacked the challenge and each understand the business model.

We all use stories, from our earliest memories, to ancient fables to convey our journey and bring the listener along with us, they share our footsteps. They no longer are observers, but active participants with us. If we look back and walk through the moments that we remember, we consider that what happened build what we are today. It’s our history and our story.

With the understanding of a business model, we start at looking at the past, and these thoughts dont always ariese in the same way. There are times when we look favourably at events, and other times we have negative thoughts.

Business Models, by their nature, give us a road map for the future based on the events of prior experiences, we cannot avoide them, but use them as a springboard for our story. Good experiences should be encourage, bad ones understood and not repeated.

Tell the story of the future is a matter that should be present in the leaders of the organizations that have the purpose of innovation. But it is not a a discipline held in schools where analysis and synthesis occupy the most of our area of reasoning.

Our business is to help others to understand their business model, help you to adopt best practice from our experiences. You are passionate about your enterprise, we help to put all the elements together. We use the Business Model Canvas to map out your business process, your value chain, revenue and cost stream.