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Thoughts from Kiev, Lusaka & Maputo

Wednesday, 10 April 2013 12:02

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Lenin-Meets-Innovation

Matchboxology has banked some impressive frequent flyer miles in the past few months working on a fascinating bouquet of challenges for GTZ, the UN and The Gates Foundation.   Each of the projects were inspired by a need to look at public health or economic development responses with new eyes.  What brought us to these new places was Matchboxology’s unique approach to innovation based on exploring the human truths that drive the behaviours of citizens as well as the development community experts and roleplayers. 

 

Injecting innovation thinking into the planning and actions of those charged with making the world a better place is inspiring work and I caught myself on these long plane flights wondering why I haven’t been doing this all my life.  But the truth is one probably isn’t capable of doing it very well until you have a significant body of life experience under your belt.

 The New York Times recently featured an interesting article on innovators and age. According to research by Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University, it’s the 55-65-year-old set that has much more innovation potential than those 25-year-olds. The author based his conclusions on data of the age of those who have won Nobel Prize winners and when have the great inventors been most prolific and impactful.

So like wine, innovators do seem to get better with age.  Here’s what I find us old guys bring to the party

We Cut the Crap Multi-year studies and focus groups tend to dance around real life’s real truths.  It’s obvious but just sitting quietly and watching what people do and how they react in real life is the research we find reveals the most productive insights and ideas.  Being the foreigner means you see something new in actions observed a thousand times before by locals.

We Think About Legacy Ambassadors, politicians, CEOs and community workers all want to leave the world a better place for their children.   Sadly, their needs, wants and hopes as human beings are often disguised behind composite personnas  painted by the media and so walls of distrust and misunderstanding exist.  Everybody leaves the world with an epitaph—a thought inspires great brainstorming sessions with diverse participants.

We Earned The Grey Hair Matchboxology is a deeply collaborative process that scares those who have been conditioned to believe they are not “the creative sort”.  We’ve found that we couldn’t work in all the cultures we’ve worked in if we didn’t have the hard earned experience that comes with age.  Nothing builds trust like grey hair and beards—it’s what gives the diversity of folks we’re working with enough confidence to actively and creatively participate in this new process.