Disrupting corporate innovation education

As many of you are aware, I was an Australian ex-pat and start-up entrepreneur and resided in Israel for six years. Israel is globally acknowledged as The Start-Up Nation! I was fortunate to have the opportunity to live within its vibrant and creative energy, so much so, that I was compelled to create my own Israeli start-up, ImagineNation™. Which, as some of you know, started as a global generative and provocative innovation learning and coaching company, aiming at disrupting conventional corporate innovation education paradigms when inventing The Start-Up Game.

Companies want to be innovative and yet don’t know how to break through!

The Boston Consulting Group 50 Most Innovative Companies Report stated recently that Innovation remains a top-three priority for three-quarters of their respondents, with more than 60 percent spending more in 2014 than in 2013. It reported that the vast majority of executives, in fact, 70 percent, stated that their companies’ innovation capabilities are only ‘average’ and 13 percent see them as ‘weak’. When they talked with executives around the world, however, the aspiration to raise their innovation game was universal; yet “They ask how does my company breakthrough?”

The Start-Up Game™ teaches people and companies how to break through!

With this conundrum in mind, and knowing from experience that ‘adults learn by doing’ I invested the better part of my former business profits, knowledge, skills, and experience and a year of my life, to co-create The Start-Up Game™. I did this in collaboration with one of the country’s leading and award-winning game design studios. The intention was to create an innovative education program to enable global corporations how to be, think, and act differently. Creating an Israeli start-up, to develop their internal capability to break through as lean and agile innovative managers and leaders.

Amazingly, despite my very best efforts, I ultimately failed to engage an academic institution, consulting or training company, incubator, or accelerator, to collaborate and launch The Start-Up Game™ in Israel.

It is generally known that Tel Aviv holds second place, after Silicon Valley, on the list of global start-up centres and that Israel has a number of universities in the global top 100 list!

What was it that blinded them to the possibilities available in teaching people how to be, think and act differently via an innovative business simulation? Why was this so?

Dealing with rejection

Reflecting upon my many, many, many experiences of being completely rejected, was it because in the Israeli start-up scene, I was:

  • A female entrepreneur (only 13% of the local entrepreneurship population)?
  • Much older than the average entrepreneur (the average age here for start-up entrepreneurs is 35-45 years)?
  • Not a mompreneur (a married woman with 2 plus children creating her own start-up ‘on the side’)?
  • An Anglo (someone from an English-speaking country, not born in Israel, mostly excluded from the Israeli ‘networks for life’ initiated in high school and the Israel Defense Forces)?
  • Or was it simply because my start-up was not ‘sexy enough’ in terms of being a ‘high tech’ smartphone app that could be sold to Google or Apple for a billion dollars?

The disruptive event!

Paradoxically, whilst in the deep depths of despair and in the ‘troughs of start-up sorrow’ I was contacted by Sustain Leadership.  Why would an Emirate-based corporate consulting firm specializing in innovation, contact an Israeli start-up, via the internet, to work in Dubai?  They found me on the Presencing Institute website. For those of you who don’t know, it takes almost as long to get from Tel Aviv to Dubai as it does from Sydney to Dubai, (very risky too on an Israeli passport) and it is impossible to call Dubai from Israel by phone, or Israel from Dubai, it has to be an internet-based call – all a result of the severe and complex regional differences existing here in the volatile Middle East.

An amazingly successful launch!

After many interesting and lively online discussions between the three of us, over just a few short months, we planned and successfully collaborated and co-created the launch of The Start-Up Game™, at The Cribb, just a few weeks ago in downtown Dubai.

This is an incubator and accelerator for start-up entrepreneurs, where Amel and Hanane had gathered one of the most diverse and enthusiastic start-up audiences I have ever encountered, who were an absolute delight to be and work with.

What did I learn from this?

After hearing this, someone asked me “so what did you learn from this experience” and this is what came up for me, as an Israeli start-up:

  1. Even institutions, corporations, consulting firms, and training providers who profess to be innovative, tend to approach corporate innovation education with an essentially fixed and conventional mindset, rather than a growth and possibility mindset. Hence the responses I received, such as – “people will learn more from a lecture than from a game” or “where has this worked before, we don’t want to be the first one to do it!”
  2. The entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial start-up traits we teach in The Start-up Game™ really really matter – this is someone who sees possibilities existing in a world of constraints, is courageously individualistic in going against the norm, and is passionate about their innovation or game-changing cause. Someone who has strong self-efficacy is amazingly resilient, is achievement-oriented, and holds themselves accountable for the results they seek and cause. Ask any start-up entrepreneur (as I have done on many, many occasions as part of my research process) if these traits, which enable start-up entrepreneurs to master the peaks and troughs of the start-up cycle as well as the emotional paradox of innovation, can be, or are taught in university or in business school? The response has been unanimous – people have to learn how to cultivate them “on the job!” What better way than to playfully experiment with them in a safe learning environment, where taking risks and failing is part of the overall learning process, where people are not mistake-aphobic and engage fully in the fun, frustration, and challenge of the experiential learning process.
  3. A goodie and an oldie – “be the change you wish to see in the world” embrace an open mind (of non-judgment), an open heart (with empathy and compassion), and an open will (with detachment and allowing). To always be curious and courageous, to be consciously connected in ways that trust that everything is always in perfect order, even when it is in disorder!

I don’t think that they teach many of these qualities in universities or in business schools either. 

This is why be-ing innovative requires embodying and enacting the very essential motivators, states, mindsets, thinking strategies, behaviors, and skillsets. It is these that create the disruptive innovative breakthroughs that are disrupting corporate innovation education, which the corporate world needs to survive, grow, compete, and increase its value.

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coaching, education, and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Contact us now at janet@imaginenation.com.au to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.