Innovation Strategy: Leader's Perspective

In last week's blog we asked you How Important is Innovation to your Business Strategy? We also asked what innovation looks like within your organisation and who is involved. Having read what Professor Keith Goffin, masterclass speaker on our leading innovation and competitive advantage program, shared, here we bring you a leader's perspective on innovation and business. 

This article is based on an interview with Tim Watkins, Managing Partner of Gloucestershire-based accountants, Randall & Payne.

Marginal gains

If you’d have asked me a year or so ago to describe an innovative company, I’d have thought of Apple, or other high-tech manufacturers, creating big, radical changes. But then Keith Goffin showed a short film in his masterclass that completely changed my mind.”

Tim Watkins is referring to a film made by Stena Line, one of the world’s largest ferry operators, encouraging its 5,000 staff to each contribute at least one new idea per year as part of its innovation programme.

“The Stena film powerfully tells the story of how all of its people doing little things made a huge difference to the customer experience. Innovation can be achieved in many different ways, not just through big bang inventions.

“So, in our next staff meeting at Randall & Payne I showed everyone the film. I said to them, this is innovation, everyone contributes; it applies to us too.

“Of course, watching a film doesn’t change behaviour. We have a long history and it’s inevitable that ways of working get entrenched. It’s always easier to fall back into the mode of how things have always been done. But it comes back to employee engagement and one of the challenges of leadership, to create the direction of travel.

“Often it takes specific circumstances to trigger action. We had a spell of several people being off work poorly, and that focused our attention on achieving accreditation under the Workplace Well-being Charter, ensuring we are on top of best practice when it comes to looking after our staff.

“In the external marketplace there’s plenty of change taking place such as the growth of cloud accounting and ‘Making Tax Digital’.

“One of the challenges we face, among others in our profession, is differentiation. One set of accounts looks very much like another. It’s the level of service that we provide to clients that makes the difference. Just like Stena, it comes back to the customer experience.

“We’re giving our teams the freedom to develop new products. We say, put yourselves in the place of your client, what would you want? It’s a process of continuous improvement.

“It’s important for staff to see the progress and impacts of this approach. We have several very specialist teams and if each one of them is making little improvements you find that even small marginal gains can make a significant difference overall.”

For a firm with more than 130 years of history and 60 people for whom accuracy, precision and no-margin-for-error is engrained into their daily practice, how easy is it to introduce an innovative mindset?

“This isn’t something that you can just say once and then hope that everyone will simply get on with it. It’s a continuous process.

“Sometimes you try something that doesn’t necessarily have the intended outcome. So then you have to make a decision, maybe change something, but no one is going to be punished for making that decision. After all, if you don’t try, you don’t know what’s possible.”

How can I find out more?

Search ‘Stena Line Innovations’ to watch the video on YouTube referred to by Tim, or click here.

This article first appeared in Issue 3 of the QuoLux™ Leading magazine, November 2017, and is from an interview with Tim Watkins, Managing Partner of Gloucestershire-based Randall & Payne. Tim participated on our effective leadership program, LEAD™, and then joined our strategic business planning program, GOLD™, before completing our innovation and competitive advantage program, GAIN™.


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