Innovation – it’s all in your perspective

A guest blog by Iain McAndrew.

Casting my mind back to late 2016, one of the names on my induction programme when I first arrived at CHAS (Children’s Hospices Across Scotland) was Steve McCreadie, Chief Executive at The Lens. I was told by my CEO this was ‘someone I needed to meet’.

We finally met for a coffee and before my coffee was cold, my perspective on how innovation could thrive in an organisation like CHAS had been transformed. When I returned to the office I told my CEO ‘the Lens Perspective … we have to do this’.

With the planned launch of our new ambition; to reach every family in Scotland together with our fundraising campaign ‘Keep the Joy Alive’, it was absolutely the right time to think differently about how to reach more families and develop new services.

On May 1st 2017 CHAS launched its first ever Lens Programme. The programme aimed to encourage everyone across CHAS to develop and submit ideas on how to reach every family in Scotland sooner – the shortlisted ideas were pitched to a panel of judges and the successful ones received investment to implement them.

The Lens programme is designed to unlock new ideas through stimulating and developing an intrapreneurial mind-set with a holistic approach. Over and above encouraging new ideas, linked to the organisational strategy, the Lens focus is firmly on supporting and developing people and the organisation to change the culture from within. Business storytelling, value proposition development, business modelling and pitch training were all part of an intensive programme to support staff to bring ideas forward and to support finalists to develop, refine, prepare and pitch for investment. A mentoring programme ensures ideas are moved from concept to action and delivered.

As a member of CHAS senior leadership team (SLT), one of the standout elements of this programme for me was delegating decision-making to the judges; a panel of front line staff from across the organisation. I recall, as Steve and I outlined an overview of the programme to my SLT colleagues that we needed to ‘trust the process’. Although this was a radical departure for us, we instinctively knew this was right if the programme was to work. Throughout the process, however tempting, we remained resolute, trusting the process and we empowered the team from The Lens and our judges to shortlist and decide on which ideas received investment.

We were not disappointed. The final Lens event took place on 7th December where finalists pitched in front of staff and volunteers from across CHAS including CEO, SLT and members of our board. When the judges retired to consider what investments were to be made we had just heard 8 truly inspiring pitches.

I’ve been involved in innovation programmes before, even set one or two up, yet this for me personally was an outstanding day encapsulating the very essence of the Lens Programme and the difference it had created. The ideas coming forward represented an organisation growing and transforming it’s approach to what it does and how it’s willing to take a different methodology to deliver greater levels of impact – willing to be bold, brave and act on ideas created, shaped and owned by our most powerful asset – our people.

The results

  • 17 ideas submitted
  • 12 shortlisted finalists
  • 8 ideas pitched
  • 5 ideas received a total of £35,000 of investment.

You can watch the 8 finalists pitch by visiting the CHAS and The Lens on Vimeo here.

The Lens Programme finalists

The 3 ideas that didn’t receive investment continue to be developed further until they are investment ready. The programme is not about creating winners and losers, rather a pipeline of ideas, which once business ready can be implemented to create long-term sustainable value and change.

Our interim evaluation demonstrates encouraging and positive forward momentum. We asked staff to rate CHAS against six of the key organisational innovation attributes as identified by IDEO – a world-class innovation and service design agency. This demonstrated a 33% increase in willingness to support experimentation and empowerment with collaboration up 27% as people who would not normally work together found themselves supporting each other through the programme.

CHAS now has a strong pipeline of ideas focused on delivering our ambition of reaching every family in Scotland. Planning is underway for the 2018 programme and beyond.

Year one of the Lens Programme was very much focused on staff and volunteers to get the programme up and running. Having always included the families we support in our strategy process, now that we have trusted and tested the process, year 2 of the Lens Programme will actively involve the families and children that sit at the heart of our work.

We’ve learned that any organisation can be intrapreneurial in its approach; to trust a process to encourage new ideas and ensure this is done hand-in-hand with creating the right organisational culture, which in turn supports its people to develop and deliver those ideas.

You can find out more about the Lens Perspective by visiting

Iain McAndrew is the Director of Development and Communications at Children’s Hospices Across Scotland – better known as CHAS and according to the Lucidity innovation animal quiz is an innovation bison!

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