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What I've learned being an innovation keynote speaker.

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

The last few years, a big part of my job was to speak at innovation and business events for companies, mostly big ones. But the word "innovation" is damn tricky, especially in the business world and while most companies want to innovate, they usually don't know what it implies, how they could do or what it would take.

So this is what I think of it:


I actually don't think it makes sense to hire a speaker to talk about disruptive innovation and how the future could be to speak in front of employee who occupy diverse positions in the company.

The reason for that is that most people are already thinking that they are not innovative, nor creative and whatever gets out of the speaker's mouth might be interesting, but "not for them".

So what is the aim to have a guy come and talk about all cars being electric by 2022 (I actually heard that in 2018 and I haven't see it yet), that a start-up created a way to remove micro plastics from the sea or that we'll have microchips in our brain tomorrow?

It is interesting but does the opposite of inspiring people in the room. Which is usually the aim of a speaker.

They already feel insecure about their creative capacities, their capacity to have an impact and feel limited by their managers and the culture of the company. It just adds more pressure on their shoulder to come up with a miracle while accomplishing their daily tasks (which is their manager's secret wish 😏).

disruptive innovation is more complicated than it appears for established companies

Like I explained in my article about the difference between incremental and disruptive innovation, disruptive innovation requires means that are usually beyond what big companies would expect. Most of them think they can use their already existing team and allocate a little bit of budget to create something brand new. But like the great book "The Other Side of Innovation" explains, it is a little bit more complicated.

Companies have a "performance engine", systems and ressources in place to produce whatever they need to produce, and when you mess up just a little bit with it, it creates problems, conflicts and they simply can't operate like they did before. So the solution is not simple, even though there are a lot of opportunities possible (through excubation, incubation, building dedicated teams etc.), but one thing for sure is that generating innovative projects requires lots of politics, a management that is ready to make massive change in the company if needed and a completely different approach. And it is not a keynote speaker saying "now it is YOUR turn, dare to be disruptive" to 16 HR, 24 sales, 15 engineers and 32 other various roles, that will disrupt anything...

Most companies need an innovative culture, not innovation

Isn't what I did and still do then as a keynote speaker? Well, not exactly. As I said in my other article about innovation, the official definition of innovation is:

“To implement something new”.

As simple as that.

The term innovation comes from latin innovare which means « come back to, renew” and the verb novare from novus, means « change », « new ». The prefix in-, indicates a movement from the inside. So innovation can mean to renew, to change from the inside and could also imply improvements.

Was it the definition YOU had in mind?

  • Yes

  • No

I bet it was related to game-changing technologies, products and processes… and that it actually has a broader meaning than you thought it had.

But can you imagine if only 50% of employees actually had an mindset a tiny bit more innovative, creating and contributing to a creative culture, making small changes here and there? Supporting each other, adapting and embracing change? That might just be ... disruptive for the company.

And it is accessible on a personal level. This is the approached I had and still have for years: to inspire people to make a step on the side and to liberate themselves from the pressure of the management's wild disruptive dreams.

It would just benefit everyone. Actually, if you are reading this, whatever you do, you can actually do it! Here is a blog article on how to start implementing it simply. Enjoy!

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