Environments for Innovation – Creating ecosystems that transform

How do factors like conscious leadership, culture, purpose, diversity, inclusion and built space create environments for innovation to flourish? What does it look like at ground level?

On Thursday, 13 May, our Conscious Brand Strategist Nikki joined a line-up of other incredible experts and practitioners across businesses, not-for-profits and the community for a panel discussion as part of the Hunter Innovation Festival. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, it’s a two-week festival in Newcastle that brings together local businesses and people through interactive events, workshops, installations and performances.

It couldn’t have been more fitting that co-working space Innx.hub, founded by our Directors Luke and Shane, was part of the festival. Collaboration and connecting people to foster innovation and new ideas is true to Innx.hub’s purpose. It’s a space in which innovators, creators, leaders and entrepreneurs can come together, be inspired, create and gain new knowledge.

Facilitating the ‘Environments for Innovation’ event, was Christina Gerakiteys, Co-CEO of SingularityU Australia, Founder of UtopiaX and a catalyst for change, disrupting current mindsets to Moonshot thinking and what is possible.


The vibrant Naomi Nash, Lead Facilitator and Coach of New River Leadership was the first speaker of the night, warming us up with four thought-provoking stories to challenge our preconceptions of the term innovation. Everyone loves stories, so we thought we’d share some below:

  1. Failing + working hard – The first story was about comedian Chris Rock and the one-year process he takes to curate material for his world tours – rocking up to small venues unannounced with no plan of attack and letting new ideas emerge from audience feedback and repetition of experiments.
  2. Collaboration + group genius – The second story featured a professor called Keith Sawyer who looked into the mind of jazz musicians while making music. He found that a great performance was based on the interactions between each musician and the nature of their relationship – how they listen to each other, build on each other’s ideas, how much trust and spirit of play there is and how much permission there is to take risks.
  3. Margin + redundancies – The third story revealed that innovation can surprisingly flourish through inefficient use of time and margins. W.L Gore, a company that produces Gore-Tex used in space equipment, allowed their employees to dedicate a certain amount of time to test and trial the different ways their Gore-Tex could be used across different industries. Years later, they now also make the most popular guitar strings in the world.
  4. Experimentation + learning – The last story Naomi shared was about two aid workers who transported medication for dehydration to villages via Coca-Cola bottles. We learnt that new ideas are brought to life by jumping in and starting, being flexible in pursuit of larger goals and making necessary pivots along the way to add upmost value.


Each panellist spoke about several topics including some ‘aha’ moments or factors that led to innovation for each them:

  • Nikki Wright, our Conscious Brand Strategist shared that she is most innovative when there’s a clear purpose and meaning behind what she does. Her ideas are more fluid when she applies her strengths and is in a positive mindset.
  • Musician, educator, composer and performer, Brien McVernon, told of how he was tasked with travelling to a foreign region to develop a creative arts hub. He witnessed dancers, actors, musicians and painters all practising in silos, so brought all the creatives together to collaborate on programs and shows and ultimately used the arts to be the economic stimulus for the city – what a big feat.
  • Cherie Johnson, Aboriginal Arts and Education Consultant shared her experiences in building her business Speaking in Colour and some of the reasons that allowed her business to keep adapting and moving forward. It meant being brave and courageous, trying new things, failing forward and lots of teamwork.


Key takeaways

  • Define measures for success to work out if an idea is worth pursuing and/or adding value in your particular context. The criteria could be simple like ‘do I have the energy to try’ or ‘do I have the time to give this to someone for feedback’.
  • Failure and risk are part of innovation. If you’re responsible for a team or others, do you have a process for failure in place or what are you doing to make it safe to take risks?
  • Get to know yourself on a deeper level – your values, purpose and strengths. When you know yourself wholeheartedly, that’s when you can create meaning, and meaning is what creates innovation.
  • Positive emotion brings about more possibilities and expands your thinking in creative, broader ways. Neutral or negative emotion brings about a narrower mindset and is better for goal-oriented, focused thinking.
  • Surround yourself with diversity – Peoples different lenses and perspectives allow ideas to be built upon and problems to be challenged and thought about in different ways.


Watch the full panel discussion below


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