First (exploratory) Meeting on Leeds Innovation Lab

This is just a brief reflection on this morning’s first meeting to explore the potential for a Leeds Innovation Lab, convened by the amazing Mike Chitty, and attended by a great cast of thinkers and doers. I know Mike is writing up proceedings, and there are others who actually took notes, unlike me, so this is just to throw some random things in at this stage.

I was part of a discussion group which was looking at how to change people’s mindsets so they become more innovation-focused. Amazingly, in late August (or perhaps not given how this “summer” has panned out) we were talking about the winter’s snow chaos, and how that was potentially a missed opportunity to try to do things differently. This reminded me of the blog post I wrote at the time of the snow, and, looking back at it now, I am encouraged that I still stand by what I wrote, and that I also think the ideas about how such crises might occasion different ways of working are still valid.

Another crisis that might add to this mix is the public spending cuts, which will be hitting our northern communities harder than most. This could be another opportunity, and, could be coupled with some elements of the Big Society policy. Public agencies have to date been suspicious of flexible working, often tied to a culture of needing to see people at their desks to believe they are doing anything productive. Flexible working would enable them not only to cut costs, but also, perhaps, provide more support to local community initiatives. If workers were encouraged to hot desk in their local library, UK Online Centre, or Community Centre, they would be a visible point of presence in the community, and available to give advice to local community initiatives or entrepreneurs.

Is this idea really too far-fetched?

Another topic we discussed was about institutions, and how they all-too-often become focused on defending and protecting their own interests and structures, rather than being innovative, risk-taking and outward-looking. Is this inevitable? or is it possible to create institutions which can foster creativity and innovation, or to change existing institutions to face in that direction?