What does Innovation really mean?

Telling ex-Minister what we do on the Innovation Park

Being innovative isn’t about getting behind a buzzword but stepping forward into a space that can be fraught with risk, but if it ties to our overall business and personal endeavours it helps with visibility, contribution and creating paths and new opportunities for everyone.

I see the word ‘innovation’ used so much. The fact that I travel to a place called the Dorset Innovation Park adds to that, but I have recently been to business innovation expos where I with ‘innovation’ as a central theme but it is merely businesses offering their services.

Let me highlight how I see innovation and what it means to all of us that should not be a flippant catchphrase or feels reserved for particular industries and sectors. We can all be innovative.

Defining What We Cant Always See

Is innovation a goal or a process? Is it one of those things that only people can label from the outside but you can’t, such as being an entrepreneur?

I believe we have to be open and free-spirited before we can embark on the journey of innovation.

If innovation is about new ideas and new approaches that are not from your usual habitat, then you must be open enough and close enough to different sectors, different thinking and different cultures.

Where It Starts

I see the first steps as sharing and listening, being supportive and taking on feedback. This builds trust which has a huge capital value. That’s more important than any initial idea.

There will be others wanting to do the same thing or where there is a mutual connection, so a natural step would be to bring them closer together.

Moving to the Dorset Innovation Park was always going to be a risk for me and my business. It could have easily become a means to justify a great value office space, but with an added burden to the staff commute making them look for jobs back in Bournemouth and Poole.

Part of our vision was to be around others aligned to the security sector but if no new tenants arrived aside from bakers and candlestick makers, then that would have put us in a different place.

Photo by Bournemouth Echo

We were in the right place, at the right time. We didn’t envisage things taking off in the way they have done with the investment in BattleLabs, first with the Army and now the Navy.

That was a risk well played.

Trying Something New

I like getting stuck in, figuring out how initiatives come together and being around different groups. There are many projects I have started that begin well-intentioned but fizzled out, such as the Southbournegroove.com website or the Sobo Mile YouTube channel. There are other things that I have tried and bombed.

During the first lockdown, I wanted to deliver “SoBo TV”. I had seen our local bike café start streaming live DJs and recording interviews so I thought, with my community hat on, that I could do an online show and get contributions from residents.

This was the time when Zoom was taking off and streaming platforms were quickly maturing and coming to the fore. Being a bit techie I thought I could easily get to grips with the platform and start knocking out the shows.

I wanted to get a foodie section with recipes, a family section where children can show what they created in their week of homeschooling, music acts, and anyone else that wanted to contribute with how they were getting through the pandemic.

It was intended to be uplifting, heartfelt, straight from the heart of the community type of project.

I had contributions from Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, Tobias Elwood MP, The Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Darren Slade from the Bournemouth Echo, a local food writer that also appears on the Sunday Brunch TV programme, Simon with his ukulele, cocktail making and much more.

SoBo TV

I stumbled and things became difficult. The audio on the videos didn’t play and was fraught with tech issues. I lost my confidence and it stopped after two episodes.

The risk didn’t play out this time. I would have loved it to find momentum.

Finding The Ideas

I don’t believe I am in the business of innovation, although we would need a definition of innovation to qualify that against.

I happen to be reading “RE:Think Innovation” by Carla Johnson. Here is Carla’s definition and I find this quite fitting.

Innovation is about consistently coming up with new, great, and reliable ideas.

That’s certainly not me, but I reckon if I hang around those that do, learn from those that do, see it in action from those that do, then there is the possibility that I just might do something innovative and more importantly, meaningful. Not just for me, but for others who can take initiatives forward.

This is where the fun starts for me and the businesses, hence why I keep shouting about it all.

Innovation means we have to ignite ideas, inspire and reward creativity. The most important aspect, I have seen over the years is to push ourselves and do the work for people to see and recognise that what we started is not seen as much of a risk at all.

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Finding the crossover between a hosting business and ensuring people are in the right place and all is under control.

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Gordon Fong

Gordon Fong

Lives in Southbourne, business locations in Bournemouth and Winfrith. Web, hosting and consultancy.

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