Upper body headshot of Evolve host Brandon Stover


How to Innovate In a Disrupted World

Featuring EXPERT -

James Bidwell

Headshot of podcast host.
hosted by: Brandon Stover
November 14, 2022

Today's expert is James Bidwell, Co-founder of next generation strategy consultancy, Re_Set and owner and Chair of the world's leading source of global innovations, Springwise. Both his companies are members of 1% for the Planet and certified B Corp companies - committed to business as a force for good. His book, Disrupt: 100 Lessons in Business Innovation is an Amazon bestseller and explores how meaningful innovations are changing the way we live and work and how we can best look after our planet #innovationthatmatters. He is also Chair of the UK Steering committee for 1% for the Planet.

In today's lesson James reveals how to innovate and thrive in a disrupted world. 2020 has been a powerful wake up call for all of us. We have seen a seismic shift in that last 12 months and the pace of change has accelerated faster than ever before. It is vital that we adapt, find new ways to stay relevant and most importantly, innovate.  There is a huge opportunity now to be brave and bold.

Today's Lessons

  1. The importance of an MVP
  2. The importance of agility and flexibility
  3. The vital role of real time intelligence

Action Step to take today!

I have more than one!  Sign up to Springwise and join a global community of innovators, entrepreneurs, original thinkers and inventors. Join 1% for the Planet - an alliance of businesses committed to creating a healthy planet. And most importantly - Start now with you business or innovation.  Don't delay!

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This article is sourced from the Evolve Podcast, a top social entrepreneur startup podcast. Listen or subscribe below.

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Scroll below for important resource links & transcripts mentioned in this episode.

Want hear to hear a visionary who harnesses technology to address global challenges for social good? - Listen to Episode 035 with Dr. Emily Musil Church, former Executive Director at the groundbreaking XPRIZE. Connecting over 700 teams to radically transform access to education and learning worldwide, she led the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, funded by Elon Musk, to address the quarter-billion children that cannot read, write, or do basic math



James Bidwell Interview

Brandon Stover: [00:00:00] Welcome to evolve a podcast about social entrepreneurs, changing the world. I'm your host, Brandon Stover. And today I'm here with innovation and sustainability expert. James Bidwell. Who's going to share how to innovate and thrive in a disrupted world. I will let James introduce himself in just a moment, but James specializes In leading positive and transformational change in business and has held many board level and CEO roles over the years, it was listed in the financial times, creative business, top 50 and named as one of London's 1000 most influential by the London evening standard. He's an expert on navigating disruption, the rapid pace of change, the role of innovation in helping solve the climate crisis and how to achieve cultural shifts.

As you will hear, 2020 has been a powerful wake up call for all of us. We have seen a seismic shift in the last 12 months, and the pace of change has accelerated faster than ever before. It is vital that we adapt find new ways to stay relevant and most importantly, innovate. There is a huge opportunity now more than ever to be brave and bold.

So today James is going to share three key lessons for innovation,

which are going to help you do that. The first is the importance of an MVP. Number two, the importance of agility and flexibility, and number three, the vital role of real-time intelligence. So James, go ahead and introduce yourself and your expertise in innovation.

James Bidwell: [00:01:27] Hi. Well, it's great to be here today. My name's James Bidwell and I am I'm a number of things. Actually, I'm an author. I wrote a book called disrupt a hundred lessons in business innovation in which was published by hashtags and became an Amazon bestseller. So that gave me some authority in the topic of innovation.

And the other things I do is I run two companies. One is called reset and reset is a strategy consultancy for innovation and sustainability for a disrupted world. And then I have spring wise, which is an innovation platform a network of global innovators. And we publish the top innovations every day that we find across the globe.

And our idea is that we. Source and track down the latest, greatest startups academic innovations and business innovations, and we bring them to our global audience. So my role these days is to help people innovate, to show them how to innovate. And to give people confidence. I think in the fact that innovation is a fantastic thing to be doing.

Brandon Stover: [00:02:42] Absolutely. And I'm excited to have you on, I think 2020 has shown a real need for innovation. So how do you think innovation is going to apply immediately to our listeners lives? Why is it so important?

James Bidwell: [00:02:54] Well, what are, what everyone will have seen in 2020 is that the pace of change has accelerated hugely.

It's not necessarily what we would have wanted. But I'm fond of saying when I give talks that today is the slowest it's gonna ever be. You know, the pace of change is accelerating. And what we saw in 2020 was an acceleration of. Change in all sorts of different areas of our lives. So clearly there was the pandemic, but there was political change.

There was business change, there was digital transformation, et cetera. And all of those things mean that in the face of such change, one of the key things, tools to survive and actually thrive is innovation and is the ability to be creative, to invent, to look at life differently. So to break out of the mold and I guess what your listeners are doing, because they're listening to you, Brandon, and to me is they're thinking about how they might do that and how they might, I guess, be the change that they want to be in their lives and take innovation as a tool and use that to thrive.

So for me, it's a fantastic lever for any area of life, actually, it's not just around business. I innovate quite a lot in my family life as well. Because I believe in disrupting and changing and particularly with kids, I have five kids, I'm trying to help them think about the world.

And innovation is something we talk about a lot.

Brandon Stover: [00:04:24] I think it's really important, especially in 2020 being able to disrupt yourself before the world disrupts you. So doing it in a proactive way rather than a reactive way. And I think that's why this is going to be really helpful for our listeners.

James Bidwell: [00:04:38] Yeah. I mean, I think, fortune favors, the brave is one of those great sayings and I think being brave and being bold. When you maybe think that, you know, it's not the right time or you want to be conservative and kind of do everything, do things as the, as you've done them before, but what I've learned and I'm I've been doing this for a while.

I've, I've had a full career in, in retail and tourism before I got into the innovation space. And I've found that if you can be bold and you can make the change and you can disrupt the status quo. Life's more interesting sometimes you don't get it right. But if you do, it's extremely fulfilling and can bring great success, not only commercially, but also kind of in other areas.

And that, and that fulfillment that I guess we're all looking for.

Brandon Stover: [00:05:28] Yes. Yes. Well, speaking of innovation, one of the important parts that you always point out is the importance of an MVP. So could you tell us why MVPs are so important when thinking of innovation and maybe an example of something that you've done in your past company?

James Bidwell: [00:05:45] That's a great,  a great point, Brandon, and the minimum viable product or the MVP, which essentially is, is the way of testing an idea or a, or a product or something, you know, you think might might fly. I found  it's a really powerful device. And, and indeed we, we spend a lot of time at reset our consultancy business.

Helping organizations think about MVPs and applying it to their businesses. And it's amazing what can come out of an MVP. But my personal story is when Sophie, my co-founder and I were thinking of setting up reset, and this is four years ago now. So innovation really wasn't the thing. It is now four years ago.

We forget and we thought we would, there was room for an innovation strategy consultancy alongside the, kind of the bigger McKinseys and bands and all the other big consultancies. We thought we could have a little upstart consultancy. So we managed to. Persuade a good friend of mine to give us a stage at the biggest global retail con Congress and conference, which was held in Dubai.

So he said he very kindly said, you know, James, and if he will give a presentation and we entitled it reset, and this was before reset was even thought about. And the fact that we, we stood up in front of three or 400 people. And we presented what we thought reset would be as if it existed. And that was our MVP.

So we said, you know, if you want to reinvent and apply innovation to your business, we're a consultancy that can help you. And we gave them some are only case studies and early thinking, which was of course would look very out of date now. And it was amazing at the end of that, some really senior people came up to us at the end and they said this one guy said to me, James, you know, it's really good.

I'm at this conference and everyone is telling me what they're doing, but no one's giving me solutions. And I've just heard a presentation from you and Sophie, which is giving me solutions. I think that's fantastic. You know, can we work together? So Sophie and I looked at each other and we said, Oh, that's, that's pretty good.

We had a few conversations like that. And so we incorporated reset immediately and started work and the rest is history. And that was, that was an MVP.

Brandon Stover: [00:07:56] Yeah, I think that's a very good example because it's starting out with something super simple. I mean, the business didn't even exist yet. You guys said let's do a presentation act as if it existed and were able to get your first clients. So

James Bidwell: [00:08:09] when you look back on it, you think, wow, that was a bit bold, but it was bold, but we, we believed in it and we had, you know, we called a favor to get that, to get that slot, but we didn't disappoint and Yeah, it's, it's one of those ones that when I tell that story with bigger organizations, we're consulting with a, you know, it gives them the confidence if you like to kind of go for it.

And equally, when I tell that story to other people who are starting smaller businesses and want to change career or go and do something else, or even do something as a side hustle on, you know, outside work, it's a really good way of checking in to see whether it's going to work and whether it can fly.

With some real life consumer feedback.

Brandon Stover: [00:08:50] So when you're working with some of these businesses and when you are looking at you know, all the different innovations that you see with spring wise an important element comes up of agility and flexibility. So explain to us why this is so important.

James Bidwell: [00:09:03] So agility and flexibility has of course increased massively in in importance over the past year. And. We see that those businesses, that haven't been agile. And, and usually this isn't just over the past year, but there's some great examples of retail businesses, old school, retail, brick, and mortar retail businesses on the high streets in Europe.

And, and also you've seen it in, in the U S as well, where they just haven't changed digital and going, Oh, I don't need to do that. You know, Amazon's doing that. And I can't compete. I'm going to carry on with my stores and I've done this for 25 years, and this is how I do it. And of course they have, you know, many of those now are not in business.

Right. And what we aim to teach is that the best CEOs and the best leaders and the best small business owners and innovators are really flexible and agile and they can move with. The times, and they can move with that change to stay ahead of the change. Now you don't need to be miles ahead of the change.

You need to be aware of the change and you need to be able to shift your organization, shift your leadership teams, shift your strategy when you you know, when the market or when there are kind of disruptive forces coming into play. And of course we live in a world where more and more disruptive forces will be coming at us.

Whether it's climate change, whether it's activism, political unrest, et cetera, and businesses and startups really need to have that embedded in their DNA. And one of the, one of the observations from the kind of the last 20 years of Silicon Valley is that the startups were really, really agile from the beginning.

It was embedded in their business model, and that's why they managed to. Take on and beat many of the old kind of school businesses who are just setting up their five-year strategy, signing it off with a complicated board and then going out to lunch or whatever they were doing. And these, we call them ankle biters.

They're kind of the new, the new, the new age of businesses and, and why not be one of those agile, flexible, new businesses and new organizations that is taking on the world and making it a better place.

Brandon Stover: [00:11:13] Yeah, I think that's one of the best places to look for opportunities. Look at the industry or the places that have been doing, the same thing the same way for years and years and in the industry and coming in and being that flexible agile person, who's adapting to whatever times in or throwing at them right now.

I think that's, that's where you're going to see a lot of innovation happen.

James Bidwell: [00:11:34] Absolutely. And, and there's always many different ways to look at. Markets to look at consumers, you know, things are fragmenting and it's a really good lesson to, not only have at the beginning of your journey, but also to maintain it.

I'm, you know, I'm in my fifties now and I'm as agile and flexible as I ever was. And I'm always looking for what's coming to disrupt me. And I'm looking for opportunity in that. And. Thankfully, I, I, you know, continue to find enough opportunity to offset the ones that I miss. But it's really important that I, again, I say, to my kids who are coming into the workplace now, you know, that agility, that flexibility, that ability to look out and see what's coming is really, gonna stand you in good stead.

Brandon Stover: [00:12:18] Yeah. When you have as many years of experience as you do, how do you not get Don magnetic about, you know, the business practices you have? How do you keep, like you're still fresh and innovating?

James Bidwell: [00:12:29] Well, it's a good question. I think I'm impatient and I'm, I enjoy the new, I enjoy setting things up.

So if you look at my career, although I've worked in a number of. Very big organizations and I've you know, had big jobs and been very successful in inverted commerce. I've actually, haven't stayed in jobs for that long. So I've normally done three or four years, maybe five maximum. And I'm usually, yeah, the business at an inflection point.

So I was in Selfridges, which is a big department store and we did a massive transformation of that business. I was the first managing director for anthropology, the fashion business in Europe. So that was a launch. And then I was the CEO of visit London, which is the tourism organization for London, but in the lead-up to the Olympics.

So there was something major to be done in the lead up to the 2012. So I think that's in my DNA and, and all of those experiences, of course now set me up well for this new Korea where I'm actually ironically staying longer, but doing many, many more different and interesting things.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:30] Okay. So the next strong point that you always reference is the vital role of real-time intelligence.

So go ahead and elaborate on us, how that's going to help us innovate.

James Bidwell: [00:13:41] So controversially, sometimes I believe that trends are no longer really fit for purpose. And the reason for that is that they are out of date by the time they are written up and turned into PowerPoints and papers and all of that kind of stuff.

And. That industry I think, is being disrupted by organizations like spring wise, where we bring real-time intelligence every single day to our audiences. And the reason that's important, the first thing is, the pace of change. So you you've just, haven't got time to kind of wait for, great big theses.

I mean, of course you need strategy, but you can be informing our strategy. On the fly as you go, and the best CEOs are taking in all the information that they can see and they're seeing what's new and then they're adapting and and kind of understanding where they're, where they're leading their their organization.

So it's that balance between having a clear purpose and path, and then using real-time intelligence to figure out the disruptions. And ideally you see disruptions that are going to be negative. You know, far enough in advance for you to be able to do something about it. Right.

And the second, side of it is I think disruption can be a fantastic opportunity, so you can see disruption that you need to embrace and, and go after.

And so really the currency that we have at spring wise is that real-time intelligence. And I found that it's the fact that spring wise has been going since 2002. So it'll be. It'll be 20 next year. And it's growing in its audience and more and more people are saying, you know, we want to be current.

We want to be global. We want to learn from other geographies and other, other industries. So we looked at spring ways, you know, is encouraging and I guess underpins that, that point of real-time intelligence stay up to date with what's going on today.

Brandon Stover: [00:15:33] Do you have any advice for being able to kind of Wade through as much information that comes at us and all the data that we have access to?

James Bidwell: [00:15:42] It's it's really hard. And I think what I do is I pick my sources that I, so I, I research my sources a lot and then I, I land upon the ones I can cope with which, you know, and spring wise of course would be in one of those, but. It's also important to disrupt that thinking and not get into an echo chamber where you're just reading the same stuff all the time.

So it is really hard. And I was talking to someone today, who's a student at Cambridge university and she said that if she signed up to all the, in the newsletter, she wanted to sign up to, she gets 500 every morning and you know, can't cope. So you have to slightly choose your, your editor. But I think it is a mistake to choose Facebook and Twitter as your editor.

I think there are other sources that are, you know, we need to make sure that we're looking at new sources that are properly vetted and not spreading disinformation. I think part of the world's problems at the moment is from a lot of disinformation coming at people and they get into echo chambers where they believe a lot of stuff that's not necessarily true, so it's hard.

But, but if you think about it, That's that's a good stop.

Brandon Stover: [00:16:53] Yes. Well, what is the one action step after everything that we've heard today about innovation that our listeners should take action on?

James Bidwell: [00:17:01] Well, I have more than one if I may. So the first thing is, you know, please sign up to spring wise and join our global community of innovators and entrepreneurs and original thinkers.

And that's a spring wise.com. I didn't talk much about sustainability today, but I do believe that sustainability is a critical part of innovation and they're inextricably linked and actually the way that we will change the world for the better and the way we will solve climate change is through innovation.

And we both reset and spring wise up R B corporations. So we've become B corporations. So we sign up to business as a force for good. And we're also a member of 1% for the planet. So I would urge you to think about joining those businesses and you can join when you're really small and it's not too comfortable.

1% of the planet, anyone can join today and you can join as an individual. B Corp is a bit more of an accreditation.

But for your audience and for the people who are listening today, I think the one thing that I've learned over my many years is it's never too late. But do start now. So if you have got an idea and you do want to innovate, figure out how to do that and get going and, you know, ask yourself, you know, what's the worst that could happen.

And generally, if it's not that bad, then there's no excuse for not starting.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:20] Absolutely. And if they're struggling a little bit in order to get this process going, where can they reach out to you for more guidance?

James Bidwell: [00:18:28] Of course. So I am on Twitter and LinkedIn James Bidwell, 13 on Twitter, but, check-in with spring wise.com and this is reset.com is our reset business for the, for the, kind of the strategy.

And if you Google me James Bidwell, you'll find me and please do reach out. I love hearing from people. I love hearing from innovators. I love hearing from people who've been published on spring ways and they tell me their stories of how brilliant it's been or how it didn't go well, or whatever those learnings are because in the end, as a community, like you're finding with your great podcast, we're much stronger and were kind of together.

We will make the world a better place, which is. An important thing in these days.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:12] Yes. That's the goal. And I definitely second following spring wise, it's a newsletter that I subscribed to and I've found many innovative companies. They featured tens of thousands of companies and there's a few guests coming up soon.

That will be from spring wise. So it's a great source to follow one of the places that you can start sourcing some of that overwhelming data and information coming to us. So, James, thanks so much for coming on the show today.

James Bidwell: [00:19:36] Brandon. Thank you so much. And thank you everyone for listening and have a good week.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:41] That was James Bidwell, co-founder of next generation strategy, consultancy reset, and owner and chair of the world's leading source of global innovations. Spring wise.

You showed us how to innovate and thrive in inside of a disrupted world. There, his key lessons, which were the importance of an MVP. The importance of agility and flexibility and the vital role of real-time intelligence.

Now James recommended to take action today. We should sign up for the spring wise newsletter and joining a global community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and original thinkers.

Then we should consider joining 1% for the planet and Alliance of businesses, committed to creating a healthy planet. And then most importantly, we should start now with whatever business idea or innovation we think we have because there is no time to delay the world.

Absolutely needs it. Now if you would like a free download little guide with the actionable step-by-step advice and resources shared today, then head over to evolve the.world/learn/how to innovate these lessons are experts share or too valuable to not apply them to your life in business. That's why I captured all the lessons today in one easy to use guide, which is available at evolve.

the.world/learn/how to innovate. That's evolved the thought world slash learn slash how to innovate, or you can follow the link inside the show notes of your podcast app.