Innovation is at the heart of The Helmsman Project - the combination of professional coaching and adventure education for young people is innovative; our volunteer program is unique to the not-for-profit sector; our longitudinal research is the largest undertaken in its field in the world.
In line with this focus, we recently held a panel discussion on ‘Innovation in the workplace’ and judging from its sell-out, the topic is high on other people’s agendas too.
Our line-up was three world leaders in technology - Dominic Price, Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlassian; Karl Durrance, Sales Manager at Amazon Web Services, and; Angus Dorney, Senior Director & General Manager Aus/NZ at Rackspace. The session was led by our generous host Eugenia Kolivos, IP&IT Partner at Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
It was at first surprising, but on reflection quite right, that the main topic mentioned by the three tech champs in regards to trends in innovation was not the latest or upcoming tech gadget, but people - ‘human power’.
People drive innovation. Not the other way around.
So the question becomes: how can we create workspaces, schools and homes that foster innovative human beings?
Corrs published a summary of the discussions, including four of my top five takeaways:
- Give people the space to be a leader
- Seek different mindsets as an opportunity to broaden your thinking
- Experiment and learn to continuously improve
- Create time to think curiously
Another point raised, which in my view is the linchpin of all four items above, is the importance of focussing on ‘soft’ skills (ironically named as they really are the ‘hardest’ to learn and most valuable of them all). The best technical skills alone will not create a leader who solicits diverse opinions, seeks opportunities to learn and allows others to be leaders in their own right.
Of course, I’m coming from a biased viewpoint. The Helmsman Project, after all, aims to help young people build life skills so that they can make better decisions, open their mind to all the possibilities and have the confidence, determination and resilience to navigate through life’s challenges.
Underpinning our approach is the belief that when provided with the right support and environment, people can productively learn from their experiences. That learning is applied throughout our life journey and supports us in becoming a bigger version of ourselves... and hopefully one that embraces innovation too.