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Nov 23, 2020

Faces of Innovation | Interview with Phil Lewis of Corporate Punk

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By Drew Welton

Founder - I help companies hire innovation executives.

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This week, we are featuring Phil Lewis, who is the Founder of Corporate Punk. Corporate Punk is an award-winning consultancy that helps clients to create ‘impact culture’ through a blend of organisational psychology, organisational design, process engineering and leadership development. 

First thing’s first - please can you give us an overview of your experience in Innovation? 

I have been working in and around innovation for 20+ years, in a combination of creative agencies and management consultancies. Over that time, I have also founded and led a couple of innovative consulting businesses. In many respects, I am now a poacher-turned-gamekeeper where now, rather than solving clients' innovation problems for them, I help clients to solve them for themselves. I am an innovation consultant who, in effect, stops businesses needing to spend money on innovation consultants.

In your opinion, how has the service of innovation consulting changed and evolved over the last five years?

I think that there is a definitive shift taking place from innovation being something that you 'do' for a client to something you enable a client to do for themselves. Over the next 5-10 years, we will see management consulting paying increasing attention to how organisational structures, systems and culture need to evolve to enable clients to solve complex problems in original ways. This is the essence of innovation, and it's also a key determiner of business success. Corporate Punk is at the vanguard of this movement.

To be successful in innovation consulting today, what would you say are the key skills needed? And how have these changed?

Flexibility, curiosity and grit remain essential. The first two are relatively common; the third perhaps less so, particularly amongst consultants who cannot or will not understand the factors that influence organisations to behave in ways that cause themselves detriment, as they often do.

Innovation and organisational change are hard work; they take time, they cost money and are fraught with risk. The grit to do the hard yard is a prerequisite of any sort of meaningful success. Emotional intelligence underpins this.

Brexit. How do you think it will impact the consulting industry in the UK?

For those with the imagination to think differently about the support that businesses need during times of change, Brexit can only be good news. And - let's be honest - fear, uncertainty and doubt have always been the industry's core drivers.

Where do you think the world of innovation consulting is going? Who will succeed and who will fail?

The last few years has seen the rise of a lot of gimmicky innovation 'hubs', 'labs', 'sprints' and so on, particularly from the marketing communications industry. I call them the 'fireworks and f*** off brigade'. But a two-day workshop doesn't help get any business match-fit for innovation. My feeling is that the consultancies that will succeed will be those that get beyond the glamour to the grit - solving the difficult problems that hinder their clients' ability to innovate, either with them or for them. The good will out.

What would you say makes Corporate Punk different?

Firstly, we are culture change experts who are managing to prove the hard commercial impact that good culture has - something that many others in our space have neglected to do, which has meant that we've had quite a mountain to climb. Secondly, we have blended consultancy with coaching and training in entirely new ways, which helps our clients to make meaningful and sustainable change. And our background in the creative and innovation marketplace gives us an outlook and set of skills that are entirely different to what traditional management consultants offer. Our recent MCA nominations are proof that this approach is working.

If you are interested in working for companies like this, then take a look at our jobs or get in touch. You can find out more about Corporate Punk’s work, journey and people on their website.

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