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8 steps to innovation, as recommended by Robin Sharma

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Just saw Robin Sharma speaking at an event on innovation, who spoke before me. If you don’t know him, he’s been writing about leadership and innovation for years and, by background, was trained as a lawyer. He’s also a self-help inspirational speaker which the cynic sceptic grumpy old man optimist in me is always useful.

He put up one slide that I liked in particular, about his key innovation concepts.

Robin sees a virtuous circle for innovation, starting with paranoia.

Referencing Andrew Grove’s 1998 book Only the Paranoid Survive. Robin believes that the more you worry someone will jump before you, the more driven you be to take the jump first.

Having come up with such ideas, the second stage is to test them. Bear in mind you will meet a lot of critics, but ignore the trolls. If you believe your idea is innovative and can make a difference, see it through. After all, most innovators had no one accept their ideas until they were so compelling, they could not be ignored. For example, and there are many but this my personal favourite, JK Rowling’s manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by 12 different publishing houses before she finally found a publisher.

The message for me there is that you have to work at innovation. When you do, you can move to the third stage: Hug the Monster.

What Robin means by this he summarised as the fact that  most people shrink to the size of their fears whilst great innovators grow to the size of their ideas. That’s a nice line.

His fourth phase is that your idea will get laughed at, but that’s a good thing as it shows you’re shaking the tree. In fact, some people laugh when they’re nervous, and change makes people nervous.

This phase reminded me of a book I’ve been reading my children about how an idea grows. The book is called What to do with an idea? by Kobi Yamada, and I love this book.

This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child's confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens.

Oh, and it’s good for reading it to yourself too at any age. You need to nurture your ideas, even if they are laughed at or derided.

The fifth phase is to eat your own dogfood. I’m not a dog, though? But obviously if you have an idea then you need to test it, and who better to test it with than with yourself and your family and friends. See if it works and whether it is truly investible.

Robin’s next phase is a line that repeated throughout his presentation: a failure is only a failure when seen as a failure. Failures are actually the way we learn. I’ve made several fails in my life, but then you get back up and learn to avoid making them again. As the Japanese say: “Nana korobi, ya oki” which means “Fall down seven times, stand up eight”; or, as we say, try, try, try and try again.

Robin then urged us to rush to beta and optimise to perfect. There is no point in trying to develop something to its final end state as done is better than perfect. It’s a little like doing market research, where some firms’ get analysis, paralysis. They research and research for months and years and never get anything done. Done is better than perfect.

The final stage is to continue to create a culture of distraction. The more curious you are, the more creative you are, the things you challenge, the better you make your world. Totally agree with that sentence as that’s what wakes me up every day. If I wasn’t curious, what would be the point?

Anyway, it’s a nice slide with some good tips, so I’ll take this one away into my slide deck for future reference.


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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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