Innovation, technology, and the lives of leaders

What types of people do you need to get innovation off the ground in your organisation? Shaun Weston highlights three.

When it comes to innovation and the development and implementation of new technology, I think there are three distinct groups of people to consider. I revisited The Lives of Others recently, where Georg says, “They got me a back scratcher”. “That’s not a back scratcher, it’s a salad fork,” Christa replies. It’s wonderful how simple technology can look like different things to different people, and when it comes to advanced technology, the possibilities become even more pronounced.

Let’s look at the three groups of general types (I’m using a large brush for my sweeping generalisations, with only good intentions), and consider what percentage of each type you have in your own organisation.

The first group of people are often practical and stuck in their ways. They don’t like change, either through fear of it, or by thinking it’s unnecessary. They may look at a salad fork and wonder why people use one when a spoon will do. In banking, they may be the least approving of innovation simply by virtue of having done it one way for years, so why fix it? They value tradition, are often defined by it, and will defend it to the hilt.

The second group of people are also practical, though seasoned with a sprinkling of creativity that will help them move banking in a direction they think will work. They see a salad fork, or a wrench, or a TV remote and know how each of these things is designed to work. They didn’t invent them, but they know how to use them, and can employ people who are adept at using them too. They acknowledge that financial services is undergoing change, but are sometimes slow to realise what changes need to be made.

The third group of people are incredibly creative, often at the expense of tradition. They see a salad fork and think it’s a back scratcher, or a Zen garden tool, or the spine for a makeshift guitar made out of rubber bands. They want to innovate, make things different than they are, and influence the modern world of financial services. They see potential, but are sometimes hampered by ignorance (or disregard) of good practice. They embrace change naturally and fearlessly.

Getting innovation off the ground

I think you may have fun trying to figure out who’s who as you look around your workplace today. Some people are difficult to define in such absolute terms, which is what makes this interesting. Who’s the leader in your financial institution? Are they struggling to adapt to the changing face of financial services, local competition, technology, regulation, and so on? Or, is your leader coming to terms with digital transformation and is showing signs of taking the business to the next step in its evolution?

Whoever you’re surrounded by, I believe it’s important to have a mix of all three types of people, because a degree of practical thinking goes hand in hand with getting innovation off the ground, and it can only be achieved with a solid understanding of the long-term benefits and consequences in mind. And as long as you’re thinking primarily about your customer, you can’t go far wrong these days.

This post was originally published on BankNXT

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