The other day I was speaking with a friend about the upcoming Summit for Human Potential Realization that we are organising around the theme of innovation. I was explaining to her how unlocking true breakthrough innovation, the kind that significantly improves our lives or contributes to the betterment of society, is like a black box. Somehow we all aspire for it but the current toolbox simply doesn’t deliver these kinds of results. Most companies are process driven – they seek a certain outcome (eg: innovation) and put in place a methodology to get them there. For example, Design thinking is a popular innovation technique involving 7 stages: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn. Why is it then that even when we meticulously follow each one of these steps we often only end up with variations of what we already have today?

I went on to explain to my friend that there is another way, one where the creativity for innovation is not sourced externally from so called experts or through extensive consumer research but instead it comes from a place of deep knowing within ourselves (our HUMAN POTENTIAL). It doesn’t emerge from a well defined process, instead it shows itself in our dreams at night or during walks in nature. When we pay close attention, ask the right questions (ie: the ones that we truly don’t yet know the answers to) and open ourselves up to inspiration, all of a sudden signs appear and dots get connected. We enter into a state of flow and before we know it a breakthrough idea has emerged – like a gift from the Gods.

My friend was following me at an intuitive level but practically she could not yet see how this would apply to her life or how she could introduce this to the organization that she is working for. She challenged me to make it more concrete by illustrating these beautiful thoughts with a real life example. She wanted a story that she could easily relate to and share with others.

At first I was blocked. “How do I do this?” was the question that came to me. Although I knew all of this to be true I couldn’t think of any stories to illustrate it. After spending some time trying to figure it out (even Googling things like: Innovation stories from the inside out) I realised that in fact I was facing an innovation dilemma myself. I was being challenged to make an abstract idea practical and easily relatable to others, and I wanted a step by step process to get there. So this was a perfect opportunity for me to practice what I was preaching. Indeed I needed to open up, tap into my own resourcefulness and let the stories come to me.

Sure enough a few days later I was in a coaching call with a client. She is a teacher in a secondary school and has been given quite some freedom to redesign the way she teaches. She knew that the traditional approach of education, where the teacher holds the information and students simply need to absorb what is transmitted to them, is no longer working. She could envision a different way, one in which the teacher showed up more like a coach or facilitator, encouraging students to experiment and play with certain topics, do their own research and come to their own conclusions. This alternative model spoke deeply to her heart and re-awakened the passion she had for education when she started as a teacher many years ago. The school director was open to these ideas but asked her to pull together a curriculum before signing off.

It was the design of this curriculum that was keeping my client up at night. Every time she sat down to put something down on paper it felt heavy. She was blocked and couldn’t find a way to structure her ideas. In our conversation we came to the realisation that the reason why it was so challenging is because she was trying to create something new (ie: innovate) by using a rational, left-brain, problem solving type of approach. Trying to figure out what this breakthrough new curriculum looks like by using her intellect was simply not working. We cannot imagine what COULD BE based on the information and assumptions of how things are today. Somehow we need to access a different level of knowing (sometimes referred to as intuition or intelligence of the heart).

So in that moment I invited her to close her eyes and project herself into the future, a time when the new curriculum had been fully implemented and the students were thriving in this new environment. I asked her to fully embody this new reality and notice the energy of the classroom, what it felt like to be there, how the children were interacting and what role she was playing. As we deepened into this visualization I asked her to also pay attention to the design of the room, the posters on the wall, seating arrangement etc…

After a couple of minutes being in this energy it was time to ask the HOW questions. How did she get there and what were the main building blocks of the curriculum? Instantly she jumped up with a big AHA. “I got it” she said. Now that she was IN the experience rather than looking at it from the outside, everything started to flow again. The task of writing up a curriculum no longer felt heavy and cumbersome. From this new place of heightened awareness the structure for the curriculum started to show itself.

We both had an innovation breakthrough in that moment. She got the inspiration she needed for the curriculum and I got the concrete “inside out” innovation story that I was looking for! So not only does this approach deliver breakthrough innovation it also does it in very efficient ways!

Does this story speak to your Heart? Do you feel ready to look at your innovation challenges by shifting mindsets and opening up to new perspectives? Then why not join us for the Summit for Human Potential Realization….





Posted on: 27th March 2017, by : Mark Vandeneijnde