In my quest to help others succeed at innovation, I often challenge people to get out of their comfort zones, expand their knowledge and try something new. Diversity of experiences, curiosity and an appetite for taking risks builds us into better innovators.
I know my clients who are dedicated to improving their creativity and innovation muscles because they are the people who are purposefully striding out of their comfort zones; they are hanging out with the spiders at London Zoo, standing up and presenting in front of big audiences, trying meditation and creative writing. I’m very proud of them.
I don’t believe you can ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself so I do push myself out of my own comfort zone.
I used to be terrified of public speaking. I trace it back to a nativity play when I was little and I got the role of the Angel Gabriel. I got muddled up and told the shepherds they were going to have a baby. The audience laughed and I didn’t know why until afterwards. I knew I didn’t like it though and I decided at the age of 6 that speaking in front of people wasn’t for me.
When I got to the world of work it transpired that I did have to do presentations to large audiences. I did public speaking courses, practiced a lot and then to get braver at presenting I signed up for a six-week improv course. You know like in ‘Whose line is it anyway?’ where the people on stage improvise a scene based on whatever is thrown at them from the audience – hopefully they throw suggestions of scenes and characters rather than physical objects.
It was terrifying. And once I learned to manage the fear it was a massive amount of fun. I also learned a lot about team dynamics and what makes good teams work well together.
Right now I’m way out of my comfort zone
I’m way out of my comfort zone right now though. I’ve got that knot in my stomach that is a bit to do with excitement but mostly I’m just feeling a bit sick. It’s because I’ve just gone public with an idea I’ve been nursing for about a year.
My idea has been sparked by a lot of the work I do to help people be more confident, more creative, think differently and make their good ideas happen.
I’ve noticed how people are too busy fire fighting to think straight. Going round and round on a metaphorical hamster wheel and not making any progress. Drowning in emails and meetings and paperwork. Some days it’s like someone sneaked in and stole their confidence.
I know this feeling because I’ve felt like it myself.
I’ve learned that there’s some simple interventions that nip these feelings of overwhelm in the bud. They include taking a step back, talking with others in confidence, that understand but are not involved in your situation and going back with a fresh perspective. And then having this sort of support as an ongoing event to keep on track – not just a one-off emergency intervention when everything gets too much. I describe it as the feeling that someone ‘has your back’
The problem is that most organisations don’t have resource for what I’ve described above, for example coaching, or investment in what gets described as ‘soft skills’. What happens is that people muddle along, often feeling miserable or just functioning with that niggling feeling that they are just not quite good enough. I see people leave organisations because of it. Sometimes people downgrade themselves because they think they are not performing well enough, they take less well paid and less interesting jobs and stagnate. Lack of confidence if it’s not nipped in the bud can easily create a downward spiral.
Back to my idea – The Lucidity Network
I’m calling my idea The Lucidity Network and it’s an affordable online and offline learning and support network to help build confidence, creativity and better results – regardless of your role or seniority. To raise the money to get it off the ground and to test the concept I’ve decided to crowdfund for it.
I’ve been a fundraiser – and I’ve helped fundraisers for years. But I have to say that I had no idea how scary launching a campaign of my own was until it was too late.
Before I even pressed ‘go’ there was the pain of making the video. I hate looking at myself on film. I’m lucky that I have a very patient brother who works in film who helped me. My little brother licking his hand and patting my head to make my hair flat and look ‘presentable’ was a particular highlight.
It’s one thing raising money for a cause, and quite another asking people to help get a project off the ground. As my mum put it ‘its not like you’re sending sick kids on a dream holiday is it?’
Asking friends and family if they would help get involved gave me a whole sleepless night. Every time a friend or family member wrote back with anything positive I had a little cry. I’m a bit more balanced now. All cried out probably. Nothing left.
What if it fails?!
I still feel very vulnerable, like I’m putting myself on the line. What if it fails?! I help teams work with failure and I’ve joked that I’ll have a new presentation on ‘how to fail at crowdfunding’. And whilst if that happens I’ll do it, but frankly I’d rather not. (if I don’t reach target I don’t get anything so it’s a very real and looming failure) I’d rather be developing content, hosting webinars, interviewing people who can give good advice, sourcing venues for the face-to-face events and helping more people think straight and be happier.
So I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to friends, family and colleagues. To everyone who has responded with positive comments, advice, feedback, backed the campaign, made videos or shared with their network. I can only have a go at making this work because of all you brilliant people who have my back.
And I can only keep plugging away because I can’t let the people who have put faith in me and backed it and the people who would really benefit from the Lucidity Network – if I can make it happen – down.
At the time of writing I’ve raised £4.5k of a £10k target and there’s just under a month left. I’d love you to be part of the gang to help make it happen. Check out the Lucidity Network crowdfund here.
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 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 www.lensperspectives.org.uk
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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