Any business that chooses to locate themselves in one of Melbourne’s most vibrant areas gets immediate ticks in my book. The top end of Flinders Lane is a buzz of restaurants, bars and retail, and I had no idea (but it makes perfect sense) that a world-leading consulting business would also choose to make this precinct of style their base.
Inventium’s office is 300sqm of high-ceilinged, open plan office space that has been purposefully designed to create the best environment possible for staff to be creative and innovative in the work they do. From the colour scheme of red, yellow and orange, to the incorporation of plant life and natural environment, the placing of ‘deviant’ or rule breaking images like graffiti around the space (also know to stimulate creative thought), and the exposing of staff to a diverse range of experiences and knowledge, research-based ideas have led to the creation of a place that staff love to work and thrive within. Inventium’s work is science based, and the things they have implemented are known to improve creativity, productivity, and to provide a calming influence.
Inventium’s business is in helping some of the world’s largest firms to become more innovative. My guest this week is Dr Amantha Imber (@amantha), who nine years ago founded this business after losing her passion working as a consumer psychologist. For Amantha innovation is any change that adds value, and her ethos is that anybody or organisation can learn (and must learn) to be innovative. So successful is this business in helping corporates become more innovative that they have a 2-4 month waiting list of clients and no marketing department. And so focused are they on employing people that are a great fit, that within four months of them joining they offer new staff one month’s salary to leave if they are no longer completely committed (see a similar approach from Zappos).
Drawing on fields like organisational and neuropsychology, cognitive and management science, and employing economists, MBAs, engineers and organisation psychologists, Inventium works with organisations on their improving their process of innovation, building their innovation capability, forming their innovation strategy, and creating a culture of innovation.
In Amantha’s latest book The Innovation Formula, she lists 14 keys for creating an innovative culture within an organisation. When I asked her for the number one place to start, whether it be for large corporates or solopreneurs, she talked about the importance of getting the level of challenge right in our work. Too much challenge and the work will be frustrating and stressful, with innovative outcomes unlikely. Too little challenge and the work will be boring and predictable, also inhibiting innovation.
I asked Amantha about tips for improving our own life. She suggests that in those moments when we come up against problems that are complex and cannot be quickly solved, simply acknowledging that this is a problem that needs solving is a great way to engage our unconscious mind. Our unconscious mind is very good at problem solving and will be working on a solution in the background as we go about our other tasks (and quite possibly laying the solution on us in the shower or by waking us up at 3am). Exercise is another great way to improve our ability to think creatively, with a post-workout increase in heart-rate improving out creative ability for up to 2 hours.
Amantha dreams about one day, probably sooner rather than later, disrupting the field of education. She has spent so much time teaching people that had their creativity and ability to think innovatively drained from them at school, that she was inspired to go to the source and offer prevention rather than cure. And her way of subtle improving her own life is to use technology for time optimisation, using tools like Pocket to ensure we are reading quality articles over envy inducing posts in those moments of tedium, boredom or procrastination.
Amantha may well be one of the world’s experts on innovation, and her Melbourne-based firm is having an impact on a global scale. I hope you learn as much as I did from our conversation.