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VIDEO: the secret to innovation


Alex Cole explains why the simplest ideas are often the best, and why it’s vital to ‘fail fast’, swiftly discarding ideas to get to a better end result.

20th Aug 2021
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I was asked by my boss at Capgemini to look at setting up an innovation service, to come up with a way of surfacing ideas from within quite a big team of about 40 or 50 people that were looking at new business.

We hadn’t done it before. I’m the guy that people stop in the corridor and ask, ‘Could you do this?’ I always say, ‘Sure, it’s not a problem.’ This was one of those moments.

The first problem I found was, everybody had a different view of what an idea was.

Some ideas were half-baked, some were concepts, some were a mishmash of failures that we’d had before, and some were really, really detailed concepts.So we tried to define what an idea was. That became a method and an approach that started to surface ideas and quickly discard them.

I coined the phrase ‘fail fast’ because In some instances, we had spent months just looking at one idea that actually had no merit in the end. So we decided to go through them very, very quickly.

The ones that ‘jumped out’ were always the simplest, where you understood the proposition and the call to action almost straight away. Those were the ones that went on to be grown and incubated, and we created a system called Incubate.

What we ended up with was learning that if we fail quickly, in terms of just how we churn through ideas, that we actually got to a much better result.

So the lesson is, if you’re looking for repeatable innovation that you can scale, you need to move through your concepts and your ideas quickly and fail fast.

Watch the video for the full story here...

Alex Cole is the Chief Innovation Officer at TIN Smart Social. He has previously worked for a wide variety of other organisations, including Capgemini, Business in the Community, Capita, Kent County Council and the BBC. 

This video is taken from the Clear Lessons video learning library. Clear Lessons is absolutely free for charities and anyone working or volunteering in the third sector. Corporate organisations can purchase a licence, which supports free access for charities. Find out more at

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