Innovative Environment: Guest blog – the voice of experience

small_Tom_Blue_Background_50pxTom Lewis-Reynier’s thoughts on Innovation at RNIB – following a presentation for NCVO.

Hello. Innovation is hard, isn’t it? I think it is. It’s not part of your normal job. It’s different. It requires effort. It’s business as unusual. There’s nothing in the air that makes it easier for RNIB. We have open plan offices. Too many meetings. Projects and bureaucracy. No magic innovators’ penknives.

And yet we have managed to develop and deliver numerous new products and initiatives over the last year. We have a number of really exciting, substantial, possibly game changing initiatives in the pipeline. These have come from everywhere. Fundraising staff. External suppliers. Other charity partners. Service delivery. We’re open for the business of ideas – and we have developed the capability to do something with them that impacts on our bottom line.

So how have we done this?  Let me give you ten pieces of advice. Each has contributed to the change I describe above. Use with flair!

1. KNOW YOUR PROBLEM Nothing will give you a better chance of hitting on the killer idea than knowing what problem or challenge you need to solve or reach. Give yourself a clear brief and know what the impact will be when you solve it. It galvanises (the right) people round the work, and it gives you the focus you’ll need to believe that you are on track.

2. GET SOME NUTS Give yourself some assets. Develop a toolkit that everyone can use and share. Appoint experts. Train them. Use them to generate and develop ideas mercilessly. RNIB has brainstorming tools. Business planning templates. Project management plans. Assessment criteria. Evaluation plans.

3. WAVE YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR Make some noise. Be confident. Dare to suggest something different. At RNIB we have an innovation team that puts up regular wall displays, makes intranet comments, circulates good ideas by e.mail frequently. Has an opinion. Takes decisions.

4. MEASURE AND COMMUNICATE We have strategic objectives linked to our fundraising strategy. From these we set activities, outputs and KPIs. We know what the return on our innovation investment is, exactly what we do – and why we do it.

5. GET THE BALANCE OF SKILLS RIGHT You’ll need broad thinking, an inquisitive mind, a lack of focus. You’ll also need someone who won’t let go of the detail.


7. GET SENIOR MANAGEMENT BUY IN …and not – so – senior management buy – in, too.

8. SHOW THE HOW IT CAN BE DONE FIRST ..and if you can, make it look easy

9. STICK WITH IT See it through. Even when it all goes dark and deep….

10. BALANCE COMPETING DEMANDS Apparently sometimes people disagree ?

The point is that innovation won’t happen by itself. Not all of it, anyway. You need the processes and the tools to support it. To nurture and develop good ideas when you have them. And clear definition of what problems you are solving. It’s hard work – but it’s available to all. There’s no magic. Embrace it!

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Posts written by guests who have contributed to NCVO projects and events.

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