Innovation foundations

Creating Innovation is a lot like building a high rise tower. The deeper the foundations, the higher the building can go. An Innovation foundation involves three key stages.




Research beyond your industry. Looking beyond what you normally do provides you with some clues for inspiration that will be clearly a market leader in your industry vs. just an imitation of a competitors a. The wider you research the more likely the fresh idea will come.

Inspiration often comes from looking in new areas, but inspiration also comes from providing brain teasing challenges. Create innovative challenges for your team- they will provide more reward than you can imagine.

Ensure your Innovation Architect has the elements in the Innovation Plan they create for your organisation. A Professional Innovation Speaker should always have a good foundation to work from.



Nils Vesk

Innovation Architect

Innovation Speaker, Educator, Facilitator, & Consultant

Innovation Supressors

It's a sad fact that while so many of us possess innovative skills and talent (yes you already are innovative), the organisations that we work with seem to have systems, processes and even people that do their best to suppress innovation.

Unless we have the good fortune to work for a start up organisation, it's most likely that our organisation has a performance mindset and a risk averse approach to doing business. While it makes sense to improve performance and minimise risk, if we do it without allowing innovation our competitors are going to sail on past us to conquer the new territories and markets of the world.

Innovation is essential in any organisation and what we need to do is ensure that improving the performance of what we are already doing doesn't get in the way of new innovative activities that we could be doing to create new opportunities that exceed our existing performance and returns.

The top 20 key suppressors to innovation in an organisation are

  • Only looking for fine tuning improvements such as efficiencies.
  • Believing that the existing product or service currently delivered is the only focus of opportunity.
  • Not allowing time for new product or service ideas.
  • Refusing to be leading edge with a new market idea.
  • Not allowing rapid small prototyping of ideas.
  • Shooting ideas down before they can be explained in the idea generation (ideation) stage.
  • Looking for group consensus (democratic vote) without proper explanation of the ideas potential and background.
  • Over-complicated submission procedures to initiate new projects/ ideas such as having to go to numerous committees or approval groups to even start developing an idea concept.
  • Not having a time-sheet code for innovation (for organisations that insist on using time sheets).
  • Not providing innovation skills training.
  • Silo teams that have no cross collaboration.
  • Leaders/ Managers who do not want to or know how to recognise innovation.
  • An organisational culture that do not encourage everyday innovative rituals.
  • Allowing fault finding mindsets to dominate a group without  allowing opportunity mindsets in the room.
  • An organisation that limit access to clients/ customers and therefore prevent understanding user and customer needs, expectations etc.
  • Discarding the importance of inventions, products or service from unrelated industries.
  • Preventing people who were involved in the idea generation phase to be involved in the development and execution of an idea.
  • Creating isolated innovation teams that work in isolation and do not involve the rest of the organisation except in execution.
  • Having a non transparent idea approval process.
  • Not allowing teams to have fun in their work.

20 Simple strategies to tackle innovation suppression in an organisation

  • Looking for new service/ product offerings that add value to users/ customers.
  • Encouraging vigorous interrogation/ challenging of existing processes/ products and core services by asking, what would we need to do if we couldn't do this core service/ product any more? What would we need to do to survive?
  • Allowing time for new product or service idea generation
  • Choosing to be leading edge with a new market idea, but minimising risk by using small test markets and rapidly improving on each prototype innovation
  • Allowing rapid  prototyping of ideas on a small scale to test the potential without excess expenditure.
  • Allow only positive contributions to ideas generated during the idea generation (ideation) stage and having a separate selection and interrogation of ideas as a separate process held at a later date.
  • Only use group consensus approval (democratic vote) on ideas after there's been a thorough explanation of the user/ customer needs/ desires information and an outline of ideas potential and relevant challenges.
  • Having a one page submission procedure to initiate new projects/ ideas where a budget is needed to initiate the project and allow a time frame to develop a conceptual prototype of the idea for communication purposes.
  • Having a time-sheet code for innovation (for organisations that insist on using time sheets).
  • Provide innovation skills training.
  • Ensure cross team/ section collaboration.
  • Encourage Leaders/ Managers do have monthly 'most improved innovator' awards (to encourage continual innovation across the board)
  • Create everyday innovative rituals that form the innovation culture of the organisation. For example allowing some blue sky thinking at a weekly meeting or having a weekly idea exchange between different departments etc.
  • Encourage team members to look for at least 2 things they like about an idea and its potential before moving to faults.
  • Encourage and allow access to clients/ customers further improve the understanding of user and customer needs, expectations etc.
  • Structure conversations and research into inventions, products or service from unrelated industries top consider the learning and how to apply to your organisation
  • Allow people who were involved in the idea generation stage to be involved in the development and execution of an idea.
  • Create innovative teams across the organisation by providing innovation tools and skills training to equip all teams in commercial innovation
  • Have a transparent idea approval process.
  • Encourage teams to have fun- humour stimulates creativity and innovation not to mention it improves performance and culture.

I really hope you make the time to execute on some of the simple strategies to tackle innovation suppression in your organisation. If you do, it can only lead to helping you become a world class innovator.

Innovation expertise is limited to ones exposure

You, I and everyone else in this world live in a world of professional biases. Our professional biases have helped us thrive and survive in our day to day working world. Yet your career has also created some limiting innovation biases. 

Innovation experts like myself headlining conferences around the world with unique innovation methodologies all have biases. 

Whilst biases are what can give experts such a fresh unique perspective on innovation, for most of us trying to apply their unique innovation approach rarely works.

What’s been missing in Innovation models, methodologies and training is understanding the innovative strengths of innovative professional biases. By taking the best innovative strengths from professional innovators across a wide range of professional industries and understanding the keys phases of innovation, we can use these strengths to apply in our day to day innovation. 

A great starting point is to think of the four main levels of innovation and what role a professional innovator excels at in each of these levels. 

When it comes to commercial innovation there are four key phases of innovation.


I. Investigation

II. Ideation

III. Iteration

IV. Commercialisation

Here’s the fast facts on each of these phases:


This is the research phase of innovation, it can be both statistical and behavioural.

In many ways you are simply looking for data, insights, trends and behaviours that reveal opportunities to innovate around. 


Give me ideas, lots of ideas! Ideation is all about idea generation. There are linear and logical ideation skills and there are also radical brainstorming thinking styles that we can learn from professionals who really dominate this space 'day in day out'.


Build and test your ideas through prototypes, pilots and simulations. Iteration experts aren’t as well known as others, yet when you can tap into just a smidgen of their skill set, the results are incredible.


“Show me the money” and a “make the most of my money” mindset is what drives this critical phase of innovation. It’s about executing, decision making, sharing and selling your innovation to the world.


Different professionals will all have a particular phase that they think is most important, and interestingly you will find that they are rarely the same. What you will also find is that different professionals excel at different levels. 

For example a marketer excels in the commercialisation stage, an R&D engineer totally nails the Ideation stage, a scientist will excel in the iteration stage whilst an analyst can dominate the investigation stage.

If you are keen to improve you personal and organisational innovation then consider what biases you may have, the strengths you can work with and the weaknesses you need to to work on. 

Do you need to incorporate more research and investigation, brainstorming, piloting or simply better marketing?

Good luck finding your biases.



Innovation Blueprint


Storyboarding for innovation

Storyboards are a powerful innovation tool that anyone can use to increase their innovation output. Storyboards were originally a tool used in the film industry to give a pictorial representation of the story that was to be filmed. Storyboards have slowly but surely started to infiltrate into many other industries and areas in business.

In the film industry each proposed film shot was represented by a storyboard frame. Each frame contains a quick diagram illustrating the main concept and what the film shot will look like. A small description of the shot or scene was also written underneath the frame.

Having a storyboard means that a film production team can plan, co-ordinate and communicate their intended film shoot quickly and effectively whilst telling a visual story.

It wasn't too long until advertisers were quick to latch onto storyboards, as it works well in complimenting copy writing for advertisements (whether they are motion based or for print). Once again the value is in communicating the execution of what they are thinking.

Another key value for creating storyboards is that it forces people to consider what a viewer or customer will experience for a specific period of time. Storyboarding is a tool that can be used to design an 'experience'. 

In business our customers encounter numerous 'touch point' experiences with our product or people. Using storyboards to design what those experiences may be, enables you to create a superior experience that adds more value. This is innovative thinking in action.

There are two specific professions that are using storyboards more and more everyday. They are Designers and UX designers. Interior designers will often storyboard a journey through a building, whilst a UX designer will storyboard the user experience of a digital device or the user exerience of visiting a digital store. Both use the same storyboard tool to create the best user experience possible.

If you want to start creating better value for your customers or team then start to consider how to use storyboards to design the user experience you want them to encounter.

Here's 7 ways to storyboard anything in your business.

  1. Print out a landscape format sheet with three rows of five rectangular blocks on it (Most word processing files will have a storyboard template what will enable you to add pictures and words so that you can create a storyboard swiftly and simply.)
  2. Identify an interaction or experience that you want to improve
  3. Start to draw or sketch the experience in each frame - for example someone opening the home page of your website may be frame no.1
  4. Write some points beneath the frame to explain what is happening
  5. Continue the process with the next touch point experience for the next frame and all the other subsequent touch points
  6. Review your story board, could the experience be any better? If yes, redraw what might need to change or add more frames if required
  7. Do you need to add anymore detail to the elements or flow? If so add another frame to help explain

Storyboarding is not about creating a piece of artwork, it's about mapping out an experience and then looking at ways to design an even better one. If you don't feel you have enough drawing skills, that really shouldn't stop you from storyboarding as even stick figures can work. If all else fails you can add photo's or images to the storyboard as it progresses.

I use storyboards regularly for all kinds of experiences - from designing a customer experience at a workshop, to helping a client reinvent their customer experience at their business.

The bottom line is that if you're not designing a brilliant experience frame by frame, you're leaving a lot of that experience to chance, and that's a risky thing indeed. Start designing today, and good luck with your storyboards.

PS: the 1st edition of our FREE innovation magazine Innovation Blueprints has just been released. If you want see our latest innovation tips in a funky way then download or view the magazine here.

Here's to your big ideas.

Nils Vesk

Lead Innovation Architect

How insights initiate rainmaking states for innovation

Here's some tips on how insights can initiate rainmaking states for innovation for your organisation.

Investigating the data, behaviours and trends affecting customers and users reveals opportunities for innovation. Obviously, the more insights, the more innovation opportunities.

It would be wonderful if innovative ideas came out of nowhere and simply landed in our laps ready to be executed. The reality is, however, that most innovative ideas are a result of extensive investigation and sense making from the sea of information available about our customers, clients and consumers.

Insights also come from determining the key trends that are most likely to affect us in the near future and being able to truly understand the inner thoughts, feelings and desires of our customers, users and consumers. The more we research, the more insights, opportunities and new territories we find worth exploring. In short, investigation is the foundation of great innovation. 

Traditionally, most organisations see the investigation phase as the responsibility of R&D departments. It’s this type of thinking, however, that has led to stagnancy or even the demise of previously successful organisations. The truth is, any department can research and add value to an organisation. Relying on a product-based R&D department to initiate all of a firm’s innovation is a sure fire way to end up on the scrap heap.

The investigation phase includes not only looking for insights and information about customers, but also revealing or clarifying the reasons we ourselves want to innovate. My definition of an insight is a thought or train of thought that is the result of seeing behaviour, situation, event or trend from a fresh perspective that reveals an opportunity to utilise the behaviour, etc. in a new way. 

If we don't look for insights we could potentially be wasting lots of time. Imagine going fishing without any idea of where the fish will be. Sure you can throw a line into the water, but if there aren’t any fish around, no matter how good your bait is, you’re not going to catch anything. 


The fish in this analogy are similar to innovative ideas, which are what we want to catch. The location of the fish is similar to insights. A depth sounder helps fishermen by showing them where the fish are. It doesn’t catch the fish, but it makes the job of catching them a lot easier by indicating their location. The same concept holds true for our innovation archetypes. They may not create innovative ideas, but they can reveal insights that enable you and others to create lots of commercial ideas.

We can find insights from gathering and deciphering data, reviewing emerging trends and anticipating future scenarios, and finally we can generate insights by looking at the needs, desires and aversions of our customers.

Insights lead to brilliant innovations.

Good Luck fishing!



Nils Vesk

Lead Innovation Architect

Process improvement leads to innovation

Innovation doesn't always have to be about creating a huge ground breaking revolutionary idea. Innovation can happen with just a small improvement. 

I have a number of clients that I work with on process improvement. Process improvement to me is a form of innovation. One of the key elements to any innovation around a process is to know what you do so that you can do it better. 

Part of knowing what you do is knowing what other people are doing as well. One of the tools I use with many clients who are working on complex projects is to help them create a RASCI table. 

While a tool such as a table may not sound that exciting or innovative, for me if a tool can make things simpler, faster and more effective then it's a valuable tool. As an owner of a graphic facilitation business I'm biased when it comes to the use of pictures to help communicate ideas. Graphic communication starts with the most basic of tools - elements such as bullet points and tables are graphic ways of organising content in a way so that we can understand it faster and more easily. And the RASCI table is a good example of how a table or a chart can help you in your world.

So lets unpack the RASCI model.

You have a complex project with a number of tasks that need to be done. That's where the RASCI comes in.

1. Identify what the key tasks will be.

2. Identify who the key people are going to be:

  • who's going to be responsible for getting the work done?
  • who's going to be the person to approve the work that is done?
  • who's going to support the key responsibility in completing the work?
  • who will you need to consult with and get advice from?
  • who will you need to inform about the work that is done during the tasks?

Why not create a RASCI table today to see how it can help you on your complex projects.

Innovation is just a habit

Most of us operate habitually day to day. In our organisations we follow processes, have little rituals and habits about what we think, and what we do. Not all our habits are great, many are good (they help us get where we are) and others are not so good (they stop us from growing and improving).

Our negative habits get in the way, when they prevent us from doing something more extraordinary, something more valuable or more innovative. The key part of the brain that controls our habits is the Basal Ganglia, this little piece of brain machinery is responsible allowing us to do and make so many of thousands of decisions we make everyday. In fact if it wasn’t for the Basal Ganglia, the processing power that our brains would require to process a decision from start to finish every time would be so huge that our heads would be too big to allow us to be born. The Basal Ganglia allows the brain to utilise previous experiences as a way to shortening our processing required in making decisions. In essence habits make our life easier for our brain and for ourselves.

Innovation is just a series of particular habits, brought together to create some commercial magic at the end of it all. If we can create some awesome innovative habits and maintain them we can make innovating much easier.
Our challenge is:

  1.  What are the innovation habits that we want to create?
  2.  Are there any habits I need to eliminate or change that are hampering or preventing my innovation as it stands?
  3.  How do I continue my habits for a long time to come?
  4.  What is it that creates a habit in the first place?

In his awesome book the Power of Habits author Charles Duhigg, takes readers on a journey into the world of habits. After an intense investigation of Habit scientists, Duhigg reveals some of the secrets behind habits.

One key take away is that a habit is made up of:
a trigger

  • a routine
  • a reward
  • a craving

Say you start your day at the office by checking your emails as soon as you sit down.The trigger may be seeing the computer. the routine might be to log in and check emails, the reward may be the number of emails that you look at and the craving that you are trying to satisfy may actually be trying to get a sense of control in your day to day life.

Negative habits are often continued because of the craving that it satisfies not necessarily the reward. As Duhigg shares, one of his habits was to head to the cafeteria and buy a cookie. By applying a habit awareness process, Duhigg started to capture his thoughts and feelings when this habit came on – what was he feeling? andwhat was he thinking etcetera.

Part of chaining habits (if you feel they are not serving you) is in realising that we can change the reward to satisfy the craving and therefore change the habit.  Duhigg tried substituting the biscuit with some fruit. Was he craving the sweet sugar hit? The fruit didn’t satisfy him, perhaps it was something else? What Duhigg realised was that he was really craving the social interaction of the cafeteria. So rather than head to the cafeteria where he was likely to buy the cookie, he instead went for a wander up the corridor to see if a colleague’s door was open and have a quick chat. Craving satisfied and a new habit created.

The point to this story about habits is twofold:First go and buy the book it’s a great read and second, we need to be vigilant about bad habits that prevent us from innovating & replace them with new habits.
Here’s five quick routines or processes to start to get an innovation habit happening. Try doing one habit once a day, that way you can do 5 of them a week.


  1. Ask yourself if you could reinvent the way you work differently by starting from scratch.What would you do to make your work easier? – this could be making something faster, slower, simpler and so on?
  2. Scan a part of the world for something that catches your eye or your imagination – the further afield it is, the better it will be. If you’re in the world of finance explore the world romance, if you work in digital, explore the world of handcrafts. If you see am idea imagine you have to incorporate the key attributes of the idea into your world. What would that look like and how would it work?
  3. Map a part of a process that you do in your day to day work. Identify the steps that make up the process. You could think of it as a series of check lists, or a mind map of how all the elements relate to it.
  4. Look at a map of the processes you have mapped before and force yourself to improve some of the steps. Start small and stay specific, how could you improve it?
  5. What’s something that your client or team dislike about what you do in your work? What could you do to make working with your service, process or product the best experience imaginable? Now, how can you make it happen?

So what’s the craving that you’re looking for? Relieving boredom? A sense of excitement of doing something no one has done before? A challenge, a a puzzle? A sense of pride? Recognition?

Some our habits such as playing in the footy tipping competition while might be fun may not be that innovative, but it satisfies the craving of fun, and a sense of competition in a simple game with simple rules. We can do the same by creating a gaming environment around the innovation we create, with clear rules, objectives and a way of measuring ones progress with constant feedback.

Is it the number of ideas created per week? Number of new ideas or initiatives implemented in a quarter? Number of projects completed? The rules are up to you as are the opportunities.

Start your new innovation habit today.


Nils Vesk

Innovation Architect

Innovation Speaker

The Value of Organisational Innovation

There is a direct relationship between the quality of an organisation's ideas and their business success. The journey an organisation takes can vary from being painful to exhilarating. Unlike a roller coaster ride, going down in business is something that we want to avoid. There are generally 4 stages along an innovation success journey. The stages we get stuck on or progress to, are largely determined by the quality and quantity of ideas. There are also 3 basic types of businesses in regards to innovation. They are:

1. The Copycat Business

 The copycat business is the organisation that doesn't believe in the power of innovation. They think it's easier and cheaper to copy what the competition is doing. And yes, while copying what your competitor is doing can lead to a small amount of success, imitation is not innovation and the market place are quick to pick up that. When we stick in the copycat mindset we will forever be trying to compete on price.  Most compete on price by using a less superior product or service to achieve this. The business is far from sustainable and the future is clouded with uncertainty. This is the first stage on an innovation journey that for many will never improve.


 2. The Pedestrian Business

The pedestrian business at the beginning think for themselves. This 1st step of creating their own ideas rapidly brings them more success than the copycat businesses (stage 2). The pedestrian business usually starts strong with a few good ideas, but not long after (because of a lack of continuing idea generation), the number of good ideas they can choose from declines and they're left with mediocre ideas. The resultant products, process or services become run of the mill ie. they meet a need yet don't create raving fans. Without intervention they are often headed back into a black hole where the emphasis of the business becomes one about performance improvement (without considering continuing innovation). The performance mindset can't help but look for tweaks in the production or service line. A cost saving here and cost saving there, and you're back to competing on price and being a copycat business.


3. The Exciting Business

 The exciting business has pushed past the early glory phase of 'runs on the board', they understand that a successful business depends on a continuing number of fresh ideas being generated (stage 3). They realise that quantity leads to quality in their ideas. With such a large number of ideas being generated, it becomes easy to spot the brilliant ideas that the business needs (stage 4). By creating ideas, products, process and service that are so good it creates a contagious effect on the end users. Sales increase, satisfaction increases, team motivation and recognition increases and so to does the business success. The exciting business continues to innovate and therefore maintain and continually increase its margin of success.

I look forward to hearing about your contagious ideas!


Nils Vesk

Innovation architect

Innovation Blueprint - founded by Nils Vesk

Nils Vesk is an innovation architect who applies the process of design thinking to the business of generating and realising ideas. Click here to find out more about his book Ideas with Legs.

10 ways to become more innovative

Here's 10 sure fire ways to become more innovative no matter what your career might be:

1. Change your environment - the best ideas don't come from sitting in the same place you always work from. Find a space that you can lay out some paper, have a flip chart, use coloured post it notes, do some juggling, have a bean bag chair, do it a cafe. Anywhere but in front of your computer.

2. Give yourself permission to innovate and have fun. Having an idea generation session isn't an exam. There is no test. This is a laboratory for your ideas and a playground for your creativity. There are no such things as bad ideas, all ideas help to prompt better ideas. The brain is a weak editor. We can't edit what isn'twritten down. 

3. Bend time to bend the mind. Use a time limit to help you bypass any limiting beliefs or procrastination. When the clock's ticking things start happening. Use something like a countdown clock on an Ipad - I use PClock and I give myself small timeframes such as 5 minutes to generate as many ideas as I can in the time allowed.

4. Be counter intuitive by doing the opposite to what everyone see does. If your competitor charges by the hour, what if you charged a fixed fee? If all your competitors are serious, why not have a funtone to what you do?

5. Identify the hates, dislikes and aversions of your customers. Nothing beats creating an idea that relates to what a customers pain points might be. List every dislike - ie. the things your customer dislikes or hates doing. Then list all the things that theory would like to avoid as well. Once this list is created force yourself to try and solve them. How would you have to change your business or service to deal with those dislikes. What would need to add or rearrange or eliminate to make it more possible?

6. What could you maximise or turn up in your business, service or product? This could be exaggerating something, emphasising something, increasing the size or impact etcetera. 

7. What could you minimise and make smaller? Could you make the paper work less complex by minimising the fine print, could you make the time it takes to onboard a new client less cumbersome by reducing the background info required?

8. What could you add or combine to what you are already doing to improve the value, efficiency or effectiveness of what you offer? Could you add something to improve the visibility, advisability, usability, efficiency, automation, reliability, automation etcetera?

9. Adapt an idea. What's a super cool idea you've come across from a completely different world to your own? What made it so compelling? The components of what make this gadget, invention, service or experience so compelling is what we call attributes. Identify these attributes and then challenge yourself to apply them to your business.

10. Make mistakes. Become a User experience designer to minimise the complexity and mistakes that are made. User Experience Designers list the intentions that are made by the creator of a new idea/ product or service. They then create a list of the assumptions that a customer/ user may have in how the product or service should be used. They then identify the potential mistakes that are likely to happen and work to eliminate them from happening by designing and recommending improvements.

Here's to your big ideas.



Nils Vesk

Lead Innovation Architect
Innovation Blueprint

"From blueprint to bottom line"

1300 139 272

great conception leads to world class innovation

Today I wanted to talk about conception. Not the conception in love making but the conception of an idea and innovation. Like everything, everything starts somewhere and innovation is no different. Conception is an innovation skill that enables you to create the meaning and motivation behind an idea. If you don't have a good reason to motivate, it's unlikely that you will innovate.

The conception point of an innovation is a combination of a variety of factors it includes:

  • Your Motivation - the way you are doing it
  • The Function - the essence of how it will work
  • The Brief - the explanation of it all to give the big picture behind your upcoming innovation

 In design thinking there is a classic saying that form follows function. Simply put your reason for creating a design is the motivation that determines the final form. While there can be some exceptions to this rule or credo, most of the time it stands true.

A powerful example of this is the not-for-profit behaviour change company called 'We Are What We Do'. In 2004 their mission was to look at effecting change tobetter the planet and the life of it's occupants. Not an easy thing to do with a limited budget, and being a non for profit to boot. The solution, createa burning mantra concept and the innovative idea will come. And yes the idea did come, in the form of a book called "Change The World For Ten Bucks" . The book had the most simple of premises. Save the planet, and doing it cheaply.

Did the book sell? You bet, it had sold 50,000 of them before even going to print. All because of its clear. simple, unmistakable concept. A concept so powerful and inviting that they even managed to get the Australian prime minster of the time to endorse and launch the book. The organisation is still around today staying true to their cause.

The question is what's the clear concept you have behind your innovation? What's been coming first? Has it been trying to focus on the 'form' of the innovation or the reason and motivation for innovating?

A great conception leads to world class innovation.
Nils Vesk
Innovation Architect (p)1300 139 272

Nils Vesk is an innovation architect who applies the process of design thinking to the business of generating and realising ideas. Click here to find out more about his book Ideas with Legs