Shout-out and thanks to guest blogger Pip Loader, Groundswell Design Thinking Xperiment Coach, MC of the Groundswell BWN Lunch, and Chief Everything at for writing this blog!

The atmosphere inside the Tauranga Art Gallery for the Out of the Box breakfast as part of Tauranga’s Groundswell – Festival of Innovation was deliciously buzzing!

The Speakers – Ezel Kokcu (26 year old serial entrepreneur) and Mark Henderson (Senior Director for the adidas Future Team) talked us through their journey and shared their insights around creativity and innovation and for me provided further validation of the importance of being more innovative and creative at work (and in life!)

Mark Henderson spoke mostly about his experiences and the importance of focusing on people, and a little bit on adidas shoes.  “Innovation is less about the frameworks and process, and more about culture and mindsets”. It needs diversity of thought, safe environments – to speak up, to fail – and that leaders need to be supportive of new ideas.  He followed up with my favourite line of the breakfast: “It’s easy to criticise new ideas and kill them early, but it takes bravery as a leader to be supportive of ideas and give them time to evolve and see where they lead you” (I’ve paraphrased that a little…)

We need to create environments in our organisations that encourage, nurture and grow our teams creativity and innovation capabilities.  “People and culture tumps structure and process. You need both, just don’t make the process side too restrictive.”
We need a learning mindset, and some of us need to drop the ego and attitude – Well said Mark!

Ezel gave us insights into her world and raising capital, surrounding yourself with good people, and the speed at which she works is quite phenomenal.  She loves building low res prototypes and starts with paper, sketching and drawing wire frames, and always give it ‘the mum’ test, by showing it to her mother to talk through its usability. (Her mum didn’t know what an ‘App’ was until Ezel showed her!)

“If you want to stay ahead of the curve, then speed of work is critical, along with continual innovation”.  Ezel is constantly performing ‘rip and replace’ activities when new software or new anything comes along that would improve their products and platforms. Ezel touched on diversity and how important it is to have this in your teams.  She talked about ‘Culture fit’ which we all try to do, and how important it is. I would further that by saying we should also think about ‘culture add’ – Are they going to add something different (in a positive way) to the workplace culture?  If you just look for culture fit, you could end up with less diversity in your organisation.

The Q&A session that followed had some little gems too – here’s the short version

  • Don’t forget your customer.  We need to test ideas and insights on the people that we are designing for
  • Create safe spaces and be brave enough to call out bad behaviour early
  • Be genuinely interested in ideas
  • Ugly can be iconic – find a way to embrace the ugly and make it something amazing!

We all need to be more innovative and creative in our work – research shows that it leads to higher employee engagement and better business results, so let’s get cracking and start a groundswell of innovation in our organisations!  If you need some help doing this, or knowing where to start – give me a shout – happy to help! 

Pip Loader