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Innovation is not enough

Innovation is not enough

Image source: supplied. Dr Amantha Imber, founder of Inventium.

After stepping down as lead for Inventium, Dr Amantha Imber is now what she describes as a “Chief Maker”, looking for new projects to re-engage with science and creativity. She joined us for an International Women’s Day series, and reflected on creating a socially driven business with science at its core.

Always having a fascination with why people do what they do, Amantha set out on a career to help people think more creatively. She was 29, working as a consumer psychologist in advertising, and needed work that was more “fulfilling”.

Whilst most would be put off by interview rejections or companies not being a right fit, Amantha embraced her “naivety and ambition” into growing what is now the innovation consultancy, Inventium, “Inventium was the Plan B, it was not the Plan A. So this all came out of necessity,” Amantha said.

“When I started Inventium there was a lot of fluff and opinion around Innovation. There still is. I will only write a book if I feel like I've got something new to bring to the world.”

According to Amantha, motivation comes from social conscience. Being a certified B Corporation and also a pledge 1% company (pledging 1% profit, people and product) is a crucial part of the success of Inventium.

“For us, B Corp is really about putting purpose over profit. So what that means in practice is we always want to make sure that our work is making the world better,” Amantha said. “It really gets you thinking about the business choices that you're making and why, and that is incredibly valuable.”

But innovation is not just about social practices, it’s about internal productivity. Amantha offered this advice:

  • Take a step back
    Deliberately activate the unconscious part of your mind by not thinking about a problem that you’re trying to solve. Go for a 5-10 minute walk and come back to the problem with a clear mind.
  • Assumption crushing
    When you've got a problem to solve, list out all of the assumptions in the back of your head that fence in your thinking. “In 2006 an assumption would be a mobile phone must have 12 buttons on it. Apple crushed that assumption and said ‘what if it just had one?’”
  • Sharing ideas before meetings
    For any problem solving meeting, share the problem a week before to let the unconscious mind generate ideas in your participants.

For the last decade Inventium has helped companies grow through Innovation. In what was a year of change, in 2019 Amantha stepped down as Inventium lead to pursue further speaking engagements and research projects, “it was something that I had thought about; it was just about getting the right succession plan in place.”

“Last year brought with it a lot of change and stress, in large part due to separating from her husband of 13 years, bad habits began to creep back into my life.” She thought “I’ve got to do a reset.”

This became Amantha’s ‘Year of Better’, a year-long project, looking at science-backed ways to make her life better, whether that be more creative, more productive, less stressed, more resilient, or happier. This public project would help Amantha reset her life, make her accountable, and “hopefully help other people make a fresh start to the new decade.”

“What we’ve found recently is that innovation is not enough – essentially we need to create what we call ‘Growers’: customer focussed, learning inspired people that grow the businesses they’re working within.”

The ‘How I Work’ podcast is an exploration of this productivity. It looks at high performing people, “They’ve got the same amount of hours in the day, and the podcast is my mission to unpack what they are doing differently from the rest of us,” Amantha said. “If I want to know this stuff, surely other people want to as well, because I'm not that unique.”

“It’s me in my lonely little podcast studio, headphones on with mostly remote interviews. It makes my day when I get listener feedback, just saying that it's had an impact on them.” Amantha may be a productivity expert, but will always find time for those types of emails.

 

Learn more about Amantha’s work on the Inventium website, or listen to her podcast.

Dr Amantha Imber, interviewed by arrangement with Saxton Speakers Bureau