This week I’ve been prompted to think about the need to play to our strengths and to seek excellence. Whether this applies to people or organisations, is I think immaterial. In reflecting in this way I’d like to begin by offering the saying ‘stick to your knitting’ as a helpful phrase.
If you’ve ever set up a business from scratch, perhaps you’ll know that feeling of a near enough empty everything: desk, diary, order book, etc. I’m sure you can imagine, even if you’ve not been in that situation. Years and years ago when I set up Innovation People, all I had was an idea and a question. No. That’s not right. All I had was a question. I wanted to seek an answer to the question, ‘How might it be possible to increase and habituate levels of innovation in people and organisations?’ Whatever we’ve done since track back to that question.
In the early months I worked with someone who, for the purposes of this article, I’ll call John. John had spent decades working with businesses on the edge. One of his clients had gotten into a mess and found themselves with fingers in lots of different projects, amongst them doing some property development. This part of their business had begun to unravel, in consequence the business owner’s life was unravelling too. It was all very sad to see. It has to be said John was neither compassionate nor empathetic. In my view, he was not a nice man. I remember he had a very strange manner when he spoke, with a kind of spluttering, muttering, and mumbling. I remember him being very frustrated with the owner of the struggling business and him saying in that strange way of his, ‘They don’t do property’. The inference I took was that the business owner should have stuck to what he was good at and not dabbled, in this case in property.
To ‘stick to your knitting’ is to keep doing what you are good at, despite the distractions and attractions that come your way. Not only that, but to seek excellence in what you are good at. It seems to me this pursuit of excellence is fundamental. It’s at the heart of so many examples we can all think of in the brilliant, actor, musician, sportsperson, craftsperson, or whatever. Thinking of such people, brings to mind ideas of natural talent and potential, or hard work, persistence, resilience, mental toughness, etc., etc. These are all qualities, guaranteed to be admired by each and every reader of this article and the many billions who won’t read it. Resent it or praise it, we all secretly or otherwise admire the person of excellence, the person who plays to their strengths, the person who ‘sticks to their knitting’ and pursues excellence.
If Innovation People can claim excellence, it is in two aspects of our work, both of which have been brought home to me this week. One is our pursuit of answers from our questioning. The other is our love of the development of people and their pursuit of excellence.
Regarding the first, the pursuit of answers from questioning, I’m fascinated by my own heritage. I count amongst those in my family line, Joseph Priestley, famous for discovering elements such as Oxygen and Helium and for developing the process of carbonating water and much else. Joseph Priestley just couldn’t help himself in seeking answers to questions, the whole process was so deeply embedded in who he was. So also, the business I founded all those years ago, has its roots in seeking answers to questions. It’s what we do.
As to our love of developing people and of the pursuit of excellence, I know where this comes from. Or at least I know it’s main drivers or influences. It comes from people who believed in me, from people who saw potential. Here I’m going to name and pay tribute to two people. One was a man called Roy Brace who was Training Officer with the Yorkshire Electricity Board in Halifax, West Yorkshire. The other was Alan Jackson, Human Resources Manager in the same organisation. I credit them with seeing potential in an inquisitive and slightly quirky kid (me) in who they saw a bit of potential and took a few risks with. I am certain that without them taking risks and investing in what they saw, I would never have been able to ask and answer the questions Innovation People was set up to address. But this article is not about lauding Roy Brace or Alan Jackson. It’s certainly not about criticising the person who ran themselves and their business into the ground dabbling in property when they should have stuck to their knitting.
This article is about the way we consistently and systematically seek to develop talent, the pursuit of excellence not just because it is the right thing to do, as we look at see the potential in others but because it is the right business decision to do so. The pursuit of excellence in this way is good for business as it is good for the health and well-being of communities and the economy and society more generally for that matter. In fact, this week I’m in the debt of one prospective client because they have watched our own track record develop and our history supporting talent development in precisely this way.
It would not be right to mention them by name here, in this article. However, they are a business committed to the development of talent pipelines, to developing people from amongst their colleagues and right back into the communities from which they are drawn. They know that an aspect of the pursuit of excellence involves, increasing engagement and motivation not only through developing functional and job-related skills but also through belief in and commitment to the people who come to work each day.
They have approached us – Innovation People – because they know we have a track record integrating the development of people with talent development strategies that reduce costs to business, increase profitability through performance improvement, increasing engagement and motivation and by connecting the development of people to communities and their potential. This is the heart of our excellence as a business. This is the well from which we have drawn in developing the SPICE Ecosystem™ I write about so frequently. This is what we are excellent at: developing people in the context of the life of a business. We are proud to say, we do it because we have been believed in. We do it in pursuit of excellence.
We’d love to talk to you about what we can do for you.
Contact us at:
0113 733 2589
Written by System Administrator
September 20, 2023