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Tapping into Brum’s talent and innovation

Last Friday I had a pig in muck moment.

Hosted by that hotbed of forward thinking grooviness, the ImpactHub, a small number of fellow travellers sat down for a couple of hours to make my brain hurt on the subject of an ‘open innovation system’.

Pretentious? Hopefully not.

Under discussion was actually something very straight-forward; how we might further encourage and accelerate a progressive, welcoming and applied approach to convening interested parties from civil and civic society to tackle the city’s wicked – and not-so-wicked – issues.

Those of you who have been following my ramblings for the last couple of years will know that I am (very) interested in working out, among a number of things, how the council can itself become more innovative, whilst also being more enabling of others across the city to do the same.

Within the city and the city council there is such incredible talent to tap into and part of my role is to understand how this might be better released and nurtured to the benefit of Birmingham and beyond. Between us, it seems to me, we can invent and reinvent pretty much anything.

So, whether it’s government policies, local issues, technology or – best of all – pure, joyful curiosity that stimulates us and concentrates the mind, there is no better time than now to be thinking about how to forge an even stronger and more powerful coalition of those who would seek to innovate and experiment to make the lives of the people of the city better – and, in doing so, be fulfilled themselves (albeit without losing that essential sense of restlessness that drives creativity).

So, we discussed “multi-actor models” (ie where everyone has a role), a “system balance sheet” (ie where you look at all the benefits and resources, not just one institution’s), ‘brownfield innovation’ (nope, no idea on that one!), ‘innovation thinkers and innovation doers’ (self-explanatory) and loads more besides.

And by the end of the session I had come away with three (more) questions:

  1. How does an organisation create its own appetite and momentum for innovation (as opposed to the chief executive simply mandating “go forth and innovate”)?
  2. How does innovating become part of the day job and not something you need time out of your already busy schedule to go and do?
  3. How do we innovate by default with others?

These, and no doubt other questions, will be returned to in the coming weeks and months and we will find the answers and act on them.

For now, let’s just do some thinking together in public. And to get you started, follow the links below.

Right here, right now –

31 May to 2 June –

11 June –

Best wishes,