Innovation, Execution, Growth – Fail Fast – Never Give In? I am Confused.. #37 #cong17

By Seán Fay.

  • Jack added CO – to Tea from the T. E. Stockwell company at his Hackney market stall.
  • Steve sold a cheat to get free long-distance calls from his dorm.
  • Phil sold Japanese trainers from the boot of his car.
  • Mark had a college project to connect people with other colleges.

These companies today employ worldwide staff equivalent to 35% of the entire Irish workforce.  As we near full employment, are there any lessons from markets stalls and college projects? 

The answer is Yes; 

and innovation is only part of the mix. The companies mentioned; Tesco, Apple, Nike and Facebook neither had the innovation that made them successful at their start or in at least the case of Nike and Tesco, even created the innovation most critical to their success. 

TESCO’s founder Jack Cohen opened the first "self-service" Tesco in St Albans, Hertfordshire in 1948. Cohen adopted the model after a research visit to the US. In 1964 at its Nottingham based first out of town supermarket, Gem International Supercentres Incorporated, brought US car based weekly shopping to the UK. TESCO saw this and ran harder with an idea that had come to them. A critical part of the growth of NIKE was the explosion of the NIKE AIR basketball boots in 1987, this being impossible if the founder of NIKE had not taken a chance on the technology that became NIKE AIR ten years earlier. Frank Rudy the inventor went to the much larger ADDIDAS first. They refused the idea, Phil lashed on a pair and gave them a go and kept at it for a long time before it took off. 

To demonstrate the value of using other people’s innovation, my thinking, insight and use of anything not already available specifically in the other #Cong17 submissions ends here. 

Chris Armstrong in “Innovation & why piloting innovation services in Ireland is not a good idea #cong17” asks us to consider that; “to measure real innovation then one must measure the number of Irish patents issue.”  He does however note how well Ryanair has grown. Tony Ryan pioneered aircraft leasing. Without GPA, there is no Ryanair. Without taking a single thing away from the achievements of GPA, with the benefit of hindsight the idea that idle planes could go elsewhere and make some money requires no patent. It does mean that 42 years later, more than half the planes in the sky are Irish. 

Leon Tunney Ware points at this in “Can knowledge cause a road block for innovation or is knowledge the building blocks of innovation? #cong17” He reminds us that “Albert Einstein said: Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand” 

Dr. Sue Redmond in “Innovation is a State of Mind #cong17” ask us to consider that “We are far more emotional than logical in our decision-making despite sometimes feeling otherwise. Therefore, knowing how to tap into those emotions and harness them for creativity and innovation is useful” This raises a question of how suitable a place is Ireland to foster that necessary state of mind for imagination to see an idle asset and create a global business?

Maryrose Lyons makes great sense in asking if it is “Time to Innovate Our Constitution #cong17” she asks us to consider “How in Iceland the bad bankers actually went to jail, how in Sweden they are planning for a future where more people will not work due to Artificial Intelligence and its impact on humans in employment” and “the way the Danes have assumed public ownership over their own environmental assets such as wind energy and air”

Beyond the good sense that the impending 8th referenda at a cost of €114 million does not seem a good use of resources, I wonder what our first female leader of a major bank at BOI in Francesca McDonagh makes of the provision in the constitution that:

41.2.1° In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. 41.2.2° The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.

My instincts tell me that there is maybe more inspiration for the future of Ireland and how to innovate our democracy from our past than might be considered and not as obvious as those cool Scandinavian countries. The 1916 Proclamation was clear in its gender equality, it was however a year after Denmark granted women's suffrage in 1915. However, mindful of being easily corrected by those that know more, I take comfort and pride in Brehon law. There was no status of illegitimacy and more gender equality than 41,2. As someone who has ‘returned’ to Ireland as an immigrant of emigrants, that part of Brehon law on legitimacy has great appeal to me. An accent can end your citizenship of the Republic in the first few syllables of what you say, regardless of what you are saying. 

My concern about changing the constitution is that too often problems come from the ground up in Ireland and solutions come from the top down. I fear a replacement constitution would become similar to Barry Murphy’s invite in “Official Ireland Can’t Spell Innevation #cong17” Barry asks us to consider “Some simple examples of Ireland’s monumental incompetence to make you cry.” Would much time spent on a review of the constitution be an invite to “Insert your own favourite here”

Mark Usher suggests in “The Haka, Peak Innovation and the World’s Most Innovative People cong17” that we should ritualise the practises of success, as a former sportsman this makes great sense to me. I am however interested in the key example given, in the New Zealand team. It is worth considering the difference between common accepted truth and evidence. Between 1988 and 2010, New Zealand Rugby was the worst performing team in world sport ever? For 22 years consistently, they entered five world cups as the number one side and failed in 91, 95, 99, 2003 & 2007. I appreciate not an international competition, but Kilkenny were all Ireland champions nine times in this period. My point being too often the outside influence is the voice listened to. A business example being our percentage of Corporation tax total from FDI firms as part of the overall total is at 86%. This is a time bomb that will go off. 

The question then being how do we scale indigenous innovation? Claude Warren states in “The Innovative Environment: or Why Mad Scientists Have It All #cong17” that “In cultures that value different views and perspectives should have higher rates of innovation if other factors are held constant.” My four years of experience with the Irish state and its role in innovation has gone through lots of change. I ask all those ready to throw stones to consider a comparison with our nearest neighbour in the UK. The government in charge there currently is of the same ilk as my first ever engagement with politics when a Minister for Education took away my free milk at school. A.K.A Maggie Thatcher, the milk snatcher. Innovating in the UK, you are on your own in comparison to the Irish state being the third most active seed investor in the world. This does lead to a lot of top down planning. 

Simon Cocking in “The challenge of encouraging innovation and finding the right people to work with #cong17” Encourages us that “We are in a great time now when you can just try things out. Make things, rough versions, experiment, but work from a place of having actually done something first.”

Dr Claire O’Connell in “A Cunning Plan for Communicating Science to a General Audience #cong17” concurs with Simon that “Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin because by lucky chance a fungal spore contaminated the bacteria growing in his lab” but this “fortuitous event” happened because he was in the lab “doing” This would be greatly aided by some nearer to home learning from outside. As a director of a Derry based company, the UK government gives you a tax break for making a job, in Ireland you have an extra tax burden. Key Employee Engagement Programme is an attempt to spread the love that SARP tax cut focuses on FDI firms. As we focus on “people who get up early in the morning,” what about the ones who get there first and open the doors and turn the lights on?

Sinead Hewson in “Survival of the fittest: Is coopetition the saviour of innovation? #cong17” ask us to value seeking out “co-optition partnerships with business, institutions and government bodies. It challenges the way we operate and stretches us beyond our normal scope of work” This leads to bottom up solutions. At Digital Week in Skibbereen in 2016, I sought out Ben Verwaayen, the former CEO of BT after his talk. In typical Dutch directness, he put it on the nose - “Seek out your competitors and cooperate”

Bernard Chanliau in “How to Accelerate and Sustain Business Innovation? #cong17” reminds us that “Only 3% of start-ups go on to scale-up” So top down requires choosing ideas that can be hard to work through as it is hard to know which ones will actually work. 

David Gluckman In “Ideas from the Inside. #cong17” shows us that the innovation nearest to us can be the hardest to spot and get others to value. “There’s a great quote by a man called Richard Farson in his book ‘Whoever makes the most mistakes wins’:  “The best ideas aren’t hidden in shadowy recesses.  They’re right in front of us, hidden in plain sight.  Innovation seldom depends on discovering obscure or subtle elements but in seeing the obvious with fresh eyes.” This is summarised in the feedback on over 2 billion bottles sold of Baileys Irish Cream. This was invented in London in 1973 and  started with “That shit will never sell” 

Have I brought any innovation through the flagrant plagiarisms of my fellow Congites? I defend the attempt with the submission of Dr. Karl Thomas in  “Creativity at the Heart of Innovation #cong17” Picasso is alleged to have said, ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal.’ 

So, all in all, is Innovation important? I think yes but Martin Murray in “Commercialising Innovation - Learnings from the Irish Start-Up Scene #cong17” values the ability of “entrepreneurs bring to bear their ability to learn quickly, adapt and be resilient. They innovate and, against the odds, achieve success”

Bringing this all home to Cong, Arthur Guinness did not invent dark beer, its name amongst more mature circles today, is often still called Porter, named after the workers of the City of London nearly half a century before 1759. His success can be seen in his grandson’s additions to Ashford Castle. Benjamin Guinness greatly expanded both the existing Ashford castle and the Guinness business. Not sure there was awful lot of innovation involved, lots of success all the same.

Going further back than Cong’s Ashford Castle, its predecessor was built on the edge of a Monastic site in 1228, so we can attribute the idea of implementing others innovation to wisdom from the bible: 

Sean Fay #37

Just the challenge of implementing others’ innovation is to assess what is true. The above is a popular quote on social media, it just is not true. James 1:19 says 

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be

quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”

So the secret of success is knowing what and to whom you should listen? Who knew the bible offers business the best advice for innovation only being a part of success. 

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie