Three lessons from Innovation Social

The Innovation Stories conference in London recently saw a few hundred creative and tech types gathering to, as co-founder of Innovation Social Nayda Powell put it, “worship at the altar of innovation”. Intrigued? As proud sponsors, were there to find out more. Here’s three things we learnt about innovation:

The magic of VR is actual magic

Curtis Hickman, co-founder of The VOID shared his views on hyper-reality and revealed that the secret behind the success of his immersive virtual reality experiences is magic. Hickman was a magician in a former life and designed tricks for David Copperfield. Using his knowledge and experience, he realised that to design the illusion of reality, he needed to approach it in the same way as a magic trick – direct people towards the effect and away from the method.

Faced with the challenge of working out how to create a whole virtual world without requiring a huge physical space, he told colleagues, “let me see if I can solve this with magic.” And, as anyone who has completed The VOID’s Star Wars experiences knows, he did.

Genuine disruption can come from collaboration

Shilen Patel, co-founder of Independents United – an agency that brings together entrepreneurs and corporates, shared how he had seen disruption occur in the drinks industry. It was all thanks to Distill Ventures, the accelerator that they ran for drinks industry entrepreneurs with backing from spirits producer Diageo.

It was through this accelerator that Diageo invested in Seedlip, a non-alcoholic distilled spirit. Patel said that Diageo would never have reached this on their own because “it would have been killed earlier” and they would never have invested in an expensive non-alcoholic beverage. However, from the collaboration on the accelerator, they saw the benefit and made their first investment in a non-alcoholic drink.

Innovation needs the right culture

A panel discussion provided much exploration of the culture needed for innovation to take place in a business. Jassim Ahmad, former global head of innovation at Thomson Reuters, noted the importance of listening to people’s problems to be able to create the kind of innovation that they want and need.

“If people are coming to you with problems and ideas then you are in a good spot,” he said, advising to work from the bottom up to make real change. But, he warned: “Hell hath no fury like a middle manager not consulted.”

If you want to serve society, you have to mirror society.

Georgie Mack, managing partner at Made by Many and co-founder of Minds@work, noted how hard innovation can be but also recognised the “incredible camaraderie” and “insatiable curiosity” she’s seen that makes it easier.

Catalina Cernica, head of LEO Innovation Lab UK, noted the importance of having the right people to create innovation. She advised: “Hire people who are a little overqualified then run really fast because you have to keep them motivated and that’s how you grow.”

Ultimately though, the one thing that’s essential for innovation is diversity, as Ahmad recognised: “If you want to serve society, you have to mirror society.”


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