Natalie Turner shares her thoughts on organisational innovation with Alan Hosking.

Why is innovation the #1 requirement for business success today?

As markets change and technologies continue to disrupt all we take for granted, what we see as breakthrough innovation today will pale into insignificance tomorrow. The most important human survival skill will be our ability to innovate or to consistently create value out of new ideas. To be an innovator is to be a pioneer of bringing the new into the world, but it is not just about being creative, and not just for research and development or new product creation. It requires a complex and diverse raft of skills and ways of thinking, applied across all touch points of how an organisation thinks and operates. Whether ready or not, this puts innovation squarely in the domain of the people and organisational professions, HR and Organisational Development.

What makes innovation so difficult?

Many organisations talk about the need to innovate, but don’t know where to start, or whether they even have the skills or capabilities to generate ideas and make them work. The big challenge is how to make innovation part of the organisational DNA and culture. This requires the development of innovative mindsets, behaviours and culture as part of everyday working life, both for what I call everyday innovation, as well as bigger strategic moves that will change the direction of how a company operates. Innovation has largely been seen in the domain of new product design, brand management, research and development, and more lately process and business model innovation, but actually, a new domain is emerging, what I call ‘Organisational Innovation’ or innovation in management – the way we hire, on board, manage and develop people and create conducive environments that stimulate innovative ways of working. This is tough to do, as it requires challenging the way we currently think about how we lead and manage people and structure our organisations.

What inspired you to write a book on innovation?

Prior to setting up my business in London in 2006, I was an Innovation Director in a Market Research firm, responsible for helping big brands create concepts for new products and services. Clients were never short of good ideas yet many ideas would get lost and not see the light of day, or the novelty of what made them innovative was diluted as it journeyed through the maze of organisational decision making. In questioning why this was happening, little did I know that I had stepped into the territory of organisational development. It seemed so obvious to me that these two worlds – what we create (the product, service, process, outcome) and how we create (the skills, mindsets, working environments) were natural allies, but not so in many organisations. The organisational design is just not set up to think this way. If I ask you who owns innovation in your organisation, who would you say? It’s like saying, “Who owns marketing and finance?” and not knowing the answer. In my unsatisfactory search for a Model to help my clients unpack the complexity around innovating, I invented, in partnership with industry and leading thinkers in the areas of behaviour and organisational development, The 6 ‘I’s® of Innovation which we have been using around the world in organisations such as Singapore Airlines, LEO Pharma Asia, Cisco Systems and the National University of Singapore. The purpose of the 6 ‘I’s® is to give individuals and organisations a consistent framework for developing and measuring innovation skills and capabilities, and an actionable process for creating an innovative and productive working culture. The book is a direct outcome of this work.

How much of the book is theory verses practical tips?

I wanted to write a practical book, grounded in theory, and standing on the shoulders of research that has gone before me, but full of tips, tools and methods to help people practically innovate – building skills and mindsets along the way. I have structured the book around the 6 ‘I’s®, which are:

1. IDENTIFY with the mindset of CURIOSITY to spot opportunities by understanding trends and customer needs;

2. IGNITE ideas with the mindset of CREATIVITY by creating novel solutions;

3. INVESTIGATE with the mindset of CRITICAL thinking, by developing propositions, prototyping and testing;

4. INVEST with the mindset of COURAGE by creating business models and plans for investment;

5. IMPLEMENT with the mindset of COMMITMENT by bringing an idea to life and creating value; and

6. IMPROVE with the mindset of being CLEVER by optimizing an idea into another area of opportunity.

Central to the Model is also PURPOSE. Why are we trying to innovate in the first place, and what is it that we want to accomplish?

I overview six core skills for each ‘I’ and give ideas for each of the mindsets to help people think through how they can develop different ways of thinking. The book also includes a free skills self-assessment profile for the reader to find out what they consider their innovation strengths. The key message is that everyone can innovate, everyone must innovate and everyone has a part to play, not just those that we deem creative at the IGNITE phase. It is about harnessing diversity and building a culture, and supporting processes that will stimulate each of the 6 ‘I’s® to work together towards a common PURPOSE.

* Discover your innovation strengths with the free 6 ‘I’s® profile that comes with the book. Visit:,


Natalie Turner is the inventor of the 6 ‘I’s® of Innovation, which offers an end-to-end people-centred approach to innovation, blending the principles of design thinking with organisational development, and a unique innovation strengths assessment for individuals and teams. She is also the Founder and CEO of The Entheo Network, a global innovation company based out of Singapore. She is a frequent Keynote speaker on topics such as “How to build an innovative culture” and “Can HR be the new enablers of innovation?” Natalie is the author of WH Smith’s business book of the month Yes, You Can Innovate. Discover your Innovation Strengths and Develop your Creative Potential.

This article appeared in the May 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.