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Unleash your innovators: uncovering the formula for innovation

Post-it notes are a fixture in every office around the world – but it might be surprising to know they weren’t meant to be there.

In the late 1960s Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M tasked with creating glue, accidentally developed a light sticky adhesive. With no purpose for it, the glue was stored until 1974 when Arthur Fry was looking for a way to hold his bookmark in his hymnal when singing in the church choir. Although 3M was sceptical about its use, the ‘Post-It’ note was born and soon introduced in over 100 countries.

The ingenious fix by Arthur Fry illustrated two big ingredients of creative thinking and innovation: a problem and a person who’s invested enough to find a solution. These ingredients have led people to create more than stationery: the infamous slinky toy, developed from a ship spring; children’s favourite Play-Doh, invented while trying to make wallpaper cleaner; and the classic breakfast cereal cornflakes, discovered by rolling leftover wheat. While these are household items, innovation doesn’t always need to be epic, or the next big tech advancement: people who are invested in their roles and their organisations can creatively find solutions and innovate for their organisations in small but meaningful ways.

Harnessing the formula for Innovation

To understand the formula for innovation, we surveyed 750 full-time working adults across the UK as part of our Innovation Study – uncovering the characteristics of innovative workplace and how organisations can generate it.

Often, it’s the most obvious answers that can pass us by and the results paint a clear picture of what inspires innovation: trust, transparency and communication, and enabling people to bring their whole selves to work through supportive people practices.

Through being transparent and communicating effectively, you can build trust in your organisation which gives people the confidence to bring their whole selves to work – the perfect conditions for innovative thinking and creativity.

And that right there is your formula.


Download our report Keeping Pace: Creating an Innovative Workforce to learn more about the formula for innovation and how organisations and leaders can build supportive environments.


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