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Nov 5, 2020

Innovation Sessions: What does Change Mean for Innovation Consulting?


By Drew Welton

Founder - I help companies hire innovation executives.

3 exceptional panelists // 143 attendees // 5 questions


Natasha Chetiyawardana // Founder & Creative Partner, Bow & Arrow

Bow & Arrow - WHITE SPACE DIGITAL INNOVATION - identifying and creating new digital products, services and ventures that fulfil unmet customer needs and deliver diversified revenue streams

Sal Pajwani // Group CEO, ?What If! Innovation

?What If! Innovation - GLOBAL INNOVATION FIRM WITH OFFICES IN LONDON, NEW YORK, SHANGHAI, AMSTERDAM, SINGAPORE & CHICAGO - using an experimentation-driven approach to help clients incubate

Chloe Williams // Founder, 8TH Day & London Chapter Lead, Women In Innovation

8th Day - STRATEGIC INSIGHT AND INNOVATION AGENCY - helping global brands adapt and reinvent themselves – in what they create, what they do and what they say

facilitated by Drew Welton // Co-Founder, Bamboo Crowd

Bamboo Crowd - EXPERT INNOVATION RECRUITER WITH OFFICES IN LONDON & NEW YORK - bringing innovation to life by hiring world-class talent - the people that develop game-changing products, services, experiences and cultures

*Setting the scene*

The world is in flux. Business and consumer behaviours and habits are shifting rapidly. Our personal and professional lives are changing. The world is a different place.

*Session purpose*

What does the current state of change mean for the innovation consulting industry?

*Insight and Inspiration*

Q&A with our panel.

Article title

What are the different challenges industries are facing? Who will be the winners and losers looking at the shift from crisis mode to new normal?

Sal - Almost all industries are going to have to rethink how they work and, now more than ever, they will need people who have innovation skills. The people that take leaps…the people who can think differently…and the people who won’t anchor to business as usual. There will be huge demand.

I see a very very positive view for the innovation industry over the next 2 or 3 years.

Sal Pajwani // Group CEO, ?What If! Innovation

Article title

Chloe - We’re seeing an uptick in urgency. Industries that were slow to change are now seeing that supercharged. Take home fitness…Peloton and Tempo have been supercharged overnight. But there are also things in reverse. Take sustainability. We’ve had a real push away from single use plastics, but if you walk around London now there is single use plastic everywhere, whether that’s PPE or plastic glasses that pubs have started using in mass. So some of the things we’ve started to move forwards on are now going backwards…people were shifting to natural cleaning solutions but are now moving back to heavy use chemical products because people want to make sure they’ve got that disinfectant benefit coming through.

I think it’s important to remember there will be multiple versions of normal and people are going to go back as much as they will forwards and in new directions.

Chloe Williams // Founder, 8TH Day & London Chapter Lead, Women In Innovation

Article title

Natasha - We also need to look internally when we think about winners and losers. A tight, strong internal culture will be more important than ever. Organisations that haven’t invested in their internal cultures are now going to suffer. The concept of work, and invariably an increase in remote and flexible working, will make employees question where they work more and more.

People need a compelling reason to stay with you. All bets are off.

Natasha Chetiyawardana // Founder & Creative Partner, Bow & Arrow

The winners will be the ones that are doing something meaningful, both for their customers but also for their employees.

New sectors and businesses are created in times of change. During the 2008 recession there were a number of huge successes. From WhatsApp and Slack evolving the way we message each other, to Uber kick starting the gig economy. What new sectors do you see on the horizon? 

Natasha - We can obviously look at trends to help think about what could be next, but I think the businesses that enable will be the ones that win; the ones that enable things like flexible and remote learning, wellness and health and fitness...things that stop the demise of hospitality, leisure and entertainment...there is a lot of possibility for those that look for it.

People are going back to basics and they are assessing what everything means.

Natasha Chetiyawardana // Founder & Creative Partner, Bow & Arrow

It’s very easy to hunker down in times of uncertainty and put out the fires on your doorstep. But it is in these very testing times that businesses need to look to the future and innovate. But also, for larger organisations it’s worth thinking very carefully at this time...people are going back to basics and assessing what everything means – brands and the old guard are meaning less; it’s very easy for what served us in the old days to feel hollow. People are looking to local and feeling good about supporting the small and the near. We should look to the start-ups and small companies – they are the ones that are innovating quickly. This has been the moment of the SMB, a lot of them have been nimble and innovative enough to make hay in this moment, to make changes, to offer new services, to go where customers want them to go. Big organisations will need to do this too or they will find that they’ll do too little, too late. 

Sal - The people that will do really well are the ones that are fast and nimble and get things out. In a way this is what we’ve been trying to work with our clients on for many years, so ironically this awful situation has given us a bit of gift-wrapped culture change in organisations where people realise that doing the same things aren’t going to work and unnecessary process is going to be taken out of the equation.

I also think we need to balance this a bit. I think that it’s very easy to come with the conclusion that the world is going to change and that there will be a new normal, but ultimately people are still going to want to eat nice food, people are still going to want to stroke their dogs, people are still going to want to hug.

It's very easy to think that there is going to be this massive metamorphism of the human race but there will be a lot of things that are just human needs, that people will want to do in the same way they did before.

Sal Pajwani // Group CEO, ?What If! Innovation

How will the innovation consulting industry need to adapt and change?

Chloe - A lot of our clients are asking us is now the moment time to research and explore innovation. I think it’s interesting that we’re all living through this global deprivation study right now – the things we use to do outside of the home, we’re now doing inside the home, making it almost the perfect opportunity to explore and understand unmet needs around things we’re doing in the home that we didn’t do before such as beauty, teaching and fitness. It feels like a perfect time to capture these moments whilst they’re happening. But then the big question is how do you do that? How do you conduct research without going into people’s homes to understand it, and how do you get them to share what they’re doing? Some of things we’ve done in the past include using motion sensors to capture what people are doing and how their behaviours might have changed.

For talent, you now need researchers who are really skilled at interviewing remotely, using platforms like Zoom. Plus, researchers who can design tasks and activities that elicit understanding of the things that people aren’t saying.

Chloe Williams // Founder, 8TH Day & London Chapter Lead, Women In Innovation

The other important thing will be people with cultural expertise to understand the different contexts – understanding what people tell you and what they don’t tell you.

Natasha – Now, more than ever, it’s very easy to get very transactional.

You get on a Zoom call and there is a purpose and you are bound by time. Free flowing and interactive discussion becomes harder. Working through these challenges, particularly for the consulting industry, will be key as idea generation is done best when the agenda is free and not constrained.

Sal - Most of the best work I’ve done is having drink with someone, going for a walk or sitting with them on a plane. I think lots of consulting businesses will suffer if they don’t evolve the way they communicate; a call with an agenda rarely allows for free-flowing conversations that often provoke the best ideas, and in turn, cultivate the best relationships. Consultancies will need to find a way through this. Shooting the breeze is so important and often where lots of business development comes from.

What do you think the outlook for the innovation consulting industry is?

Sal - Both Natasha and I are in a fortunate position in that we both sold our businesses to Accenture just before this. I think there is a transition first.

For small, independent consultancies there are potentially some testing times ahead. However, if you get through that, then I think there is going to be a lot of opportunity.

Sal Pajwani // Group CEO, ?What If! Innovation

But that opportunity might sit in different spaces. So, if you’re not well networked it might be challenging. The real challenge is to get through the next few months, come out of it and survive with a little bit of cash, then I think the future will look quite rosy.

Chloe - Coming from a different position, being an independent, we think of ourselves as a speed boat in an interesting way. We have lots of overheads, but we have the advantage of having a really strong senior team; we’re finding that clients want senior team members because they want reassurance and experience, so we’ve not seen work slowdown so far. But we’re also expecting things to slow a little over the next few months as clients reprioritise where they’re going to focus their efforts. As an independent, we feel like we’re in control of our own destiny and we don’t have hard numbers to hit, so in some ways, it feels like we’re free as well at the same time.

How is the world of work changing? Specifically, how can you onboard somebody if they haven’t been into the office?

Natasha - For us, identifying the right people isn’t really the issue. We interview on both skillset and mindset. What has come to light in this moment is how do people know that we are right for them? This is just as important. If you’re going to go into a new organisation, you’re going to need to feel the company and culture is right for you for the long-term. We realised that a huge part of who we are is present in the office…from the energy you get from being there, the osmosis of work ethic and the interpersonal connections you get. We’ve almost taken that for granted over the last 11 years as we’ve always had it. That’s what people feel when they come into the office for an interview and that starts the onboarding process.

We’ve created a video (link here) that enables us to onboard virtually so new people can see the depth of who we are and the uniqueness of our culture, which I think is really important. From a talent perspective, I think this could be a huge moment, although I get it might not feel like that if you’re looking for a job right now.

I do think it is worth pausing and thinking this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to reassess what it is you want from work.

Natasha Chetiyawardana // Founder & Creative Partner, Bow & Arrow

As a candidate, thinking about what you are good at doing beyond your CV; ask yourself what you want from work. Also think about your strengths. Take a look at Strength Finder – it’s about beginning to find out what your true, holistic strengths are. Most people focus on their shortcomings rather than their strengths. What if you used this time to focus on honing your strengths, not just looking at your shortcomings? It sounds obvious but it’s the thing that most people don’t do, and right now I feel like it’s more relevant than ever. It’s a brilliant thing, it’s super rewarding and I can’t imagine you would ever regret doing it.  

Chloe - A strong vision and set of values are critical. With a rise in remote working, and as part of this, on-boarding and hiring, you need to give people a real reason to work for you. A purpose and vision they connect with.

Be specific with what you need. This rare moment presents an opportunity to rethink work and life. From moving towards greater flexibility and more openness to part-time work and supporting parents in returning to work.

Chloe Williams // Founder, 8TH Day & London Chapter Lead, Women In Innovation

2020 has been hard. It’s not done yet. But there is light ahead. Innovation is born in times of rapid change. Our panel were unanimous on this. For those looking for work, or considering the next chapter, take this rare moment in time to reflect and reassess what it is you want from work. 2021 will be the year of innovation.

Innovation Sessions is a monthly event with a simple purpose: Share insight and inspiration. We are always looking for innovation leaders who want to be part of the conversation. Get in touch with Drew

Listen to the full event below!



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