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London-based creative training, consulting & strategic design company providing onsite & public courses on the Creative Problem Solving Process, team-building, leadership, entrepreneurial mindset, business storytelling, applied improvisation and innovation facilitation. We run ideation sessions, we mentor, we coach, we deliver. In all we do, we're here to make you more agile & more successful in the face of change. 

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Relentless Innovation by Jeffrey Phillips, an Innovation Primer

Gregg Fraley

Jeffrey Phillips is a respected innovation consultant and a noted blogger (Innovate on Purpose). I saw him speak at the MindCamp conference and it’s clear he has an uncommon breadth of knowledge about innovation and a focused results orientation.

He’s just released an impressively good book. 

Relentless Innovation, What Works, What Doesn’t–And What That Means For Your Business is the somewhat lengthy title. Now, I didn’t really read this book — I studied it — highlighter in hand. This book is the perfect primer for those who wish to change a corporate culture into a more innovative one. It answers, in a comprehensive way, the complex question of: How does a company consistently innovate? In this well analyzed, logically written, well-paced narrative you’ll learn precisely why innovation is so difficult. More importantly, Phillips provides good, practical, and highly actionable advice on what to do about it.

Relentless takes a broad look at all the factors involved in innovation. As a diagnostic tool, for those seeking answers to the complex innovation puzzle, Relentless is excellent.

A key thread through the book in the concept of a companies day-to-day operational culture, or, Business As Usual (BAU). Is your BAU inherently innovative, that is, part of your day to day work? Or is innovation viewed as an extra task by those running the train? If you want to be relentlessly successful at innovation, I’m betting you know which BAU Phillips thinks makes the most sense.

Notes I jotted down while studying Relentless Innovation:

* The idea for a management written Innovation Charter is brilliant. It would help instantiate innovation as an everyday thing, and go a long way towards a real innovation plan and consistent approach. A charter would be a good start on being relentless.

* “Accepting a poorly defined and scoped innovation effort with inadequate resources is a recipe for abject failure.” Wow, truer words were never written. Poorly defined makes it easy to cancel a project when it hits dark days, not enough resources means the team is trying to run a marathon with a broken ankle (my metaphor). I also like that he uses the word “abject” it goes so well with failure.

* Interesting that “spotting trends” is the first bullet in defining an innovation process. Yes, and, wish more people knew that ( and KILN has answers to help with that trend stuff.)

* Great analysis of why Middle Managers resist innovation efforts. It reminds me of Michael Kirton’s assertion that organizations tend to skew adaptive over time, because they hire and reward those who are good at managing the details of complex process. Jeffrey is saying the same thing, I think, not because of their cognitive style, but because of communication and more broadly organizational culture. I think they’re both right.

* This is maybe the one area I’d question Jeffrey about, he says “Recruiting even a few ‘creatives’ or right-brained thinkers in to a rigid left-brain company can add just enough dissonance and creative tension to start shifting the thinking of the company as a whole.” My experience of this is that it does indeed create tension, conflict actually, and it more often than not it becomes toxic. Now, if those new ‘creatives’ are supported, you’ll get the shift, but this is a big if. So I agree with the idea, but would simply add, take care of those people! Unsupported right brain types tend to fly the coup if their feathers are trimmed.

I’ll leave it at that, but suffice to say, Relentless is a masterful book about innovation, it deserves reading — and studying.