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  • Writer's pictureLolly Atherton

You Cannot Pre-empt Innovation



Sometimes, the best innovators aren’t who you expect – or who they expect.


I was fourteen years old during the height of dystopia and post-apocalyptic media. Amidst the “world is going to end in 2012” fiasco, which dominated social media at the time, it was not uncommon to overhear conversations in secondary school corridors about apocalypse plans: particularly zombie apocalypses.

After all, this was the height of The Walking Dead.


But what does a theoretical zombie apocalypse almost ten years ago have to do with innovation?

Nostalgia perhaps? Hindsight?


After reading Sonja Blignaut’s essay, ‘If You Want To Innovate, Don’t Say So’, which was published in the collection, Best Agile Articles 2017 (edited by Michael de la Maza, CEC & Cherie Silas, CEC), I got to thinking about all of the times, I had been expected to come up with a great idea on the spot, and how many times I had failed, spouted something cliché and let the conversation die, all because I liked to read, liked to write and, eventually because I was studying creative writing. But why? If I studied it, surely I could come up with something fresh and new on the spot? Not necessarily, as Blignaut says in her essay “the pressure of having to come up with “that ONE big idea” often stifles, rather than enables innovation”.


It was different when we’d discuss this theoretical end-of-the-world scenario; my friends were vocal that I was a liability, blind as a bat, awful hand-eye-coordination and the stamina of slug on a hot day. The only reason I was given the privilege of being included in a “survivor group” in the first place was because “you’ll be the smart one that works out what happened to the world”. As if it would ever truly be plausible for a fourteen-year-old girl, who was struggling to understand GCSE science, to ever discover the cause of a figurative apocalypse. Unless you are the protagonist in a story, and if so, power to you!


But, what would have shocked most people at the school, was the flippant way that the most ingenious ideas for such a situation were being discussed, equally by students that were interested in the curriculum, and those who were disengaged with it. A mutual interest in a focus area; surviving the end of the world, allowed ideas to be nurtured on the off-chance, that by the end of the year, the world did end.


I have vivid memories of arguments between my friends about logistics. But, if there was one thing we could always agree on, it was how to best equip ourselves when travelling from outside of the school grounds when the world would end. That was, to put it simply, by mounting the school’s lawn mower.


Our school only had one lawn mower; it was hefty and old, like a tractor; with block-like fenders, long enough for us to try and sit on. Although, it only had one hard plastic-looking seat, its controls, resembled a car’s well. We had concluded that our inability to even take driving lessons at the time outweighed the benefits of having a vehicle, especially, if we armoured it. It was my friend Jack*, who pitched attempting to weld the javelins from the PE equipment shed, using the school bunsen burners to the mower, and strap a wheelchair from the front office, to the back. It would be worth the risk, would it not?


After all, it would have been an ‘innovate or die situation’. Literally.


Innovation and imagination come hand in hand, often striking at inopportune moments, without having the means to record an idea? How many apples may have struck Newton’s head before he realised there was a reason? Surviving an apocalypse is similar to the real world in that way; a conflict of interest between hard logic and rational thought, versus “thinking outside of the box”, taking the leap and chasing an idea when it hits you.


After all, wouldn’t you rather risk welding javelins to a lawn mower for an armoured vehicle during a zombie apocalypse, instead of having no protection?



*Jack’s name has been changed to protect their identity



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com


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