Coaching as an enabler to innovation

Andy FollowsBlog

What is coaching, if not an enabler to innovation?

Tim Urban writes for the very quirky and informative Wait But Why. In a January 2015 post on Artificial Intelligence he references “what futurist Ray Kurzweil calls human history’s Law of Accelerating Returns”. I encourage you to read the post but in the meantime I’ll share with you, without spoiling too much, his observation that Back to the Future’s Marty McFly would have experienced significantly more of a contrast in our way of life had he travelled back from 2015 to 1985 rather than from 1985 to 1955. There has been much more change in the last thirty years than in the previous thirty and because the tools that help humanity to progress are improving all the time, this trend of accelerating returns is set to continue accelerating indefinitely.

But you knew that. You are no doubt extremely aware of the pace of change. Maybe some elements, those that enhance your lifestyle, excite you whilst others, perhaps those that threaten your lifestyle, are a cause for concern. I am fascinated by the revolution that we are all experiencing and, having worked for both a mature market leader and an up and coming disruptor in the same industry, I have had a unique opportunity to witness first hand the strengths and opportunities, the weaknesses and threats of each. As a result, I am particularly interested in how mature organisations can learn to behave more innovatively to stay ahead of the curve and ultimately remain in business.

My interest in helping established businesses to stay relevant and successful brought me into contact with Simon Hill and the team at Wazoku. The more I learned about their approach, the more I wanted to work with it and so we have agreed to embark on a partnership. I believe that most employees are capable of contributing more and most deserve to be more fulfilled. I also believe that those two outcomes are complementary. Aquilae works with leaders to make this happen. We use individual and team coaching methods as well as leadership and innovation programmes to create environments in which culture, strategy and leadership behaviours are aligned with achieving those outcomes.

To explain the synergy between Aquilae’s coaching and Wazoku’s EveryDay innovation platform, it will help to apply this definition of innovation:

Innovation is a positive outcome when we behave in a certain way.

By definition, innovation is a new outcome that we have not experienced before. It’s highly likely that it’s the result of one of two things. Either we have adopted new behaviours in an existing situation or we’ve applied proven successful behaviours to a new situation. The situation or the behaviour must have changed to enable an alternative outcome. Where that outcome is positive, we call it innovation, where it’s negative, we call it all manner of names some of which are more helpful than others…

That description of how innovation happens sounds to me uncannily like what we are looking for in a coaching relationship. We are supporting our client to target a new positive outcome (or innovation) that they will realise by altering either their behaviour or their situation or perhaps a combination of both. Viewed like that, coaching seems to me to be all about “enabling innovation” for the individual or team with whom we are working.

Mature organisations are collections of individuals and teams. For them to achieve innovation or new positive outcomes, they must address their behaviours and their situations. Wazoku’s technology assists the whole organisation to focus on the situations they wish to address and enables them to gather potential new approaches that they could apply to improving these situations. Underlying that methodology is a requirement for the individuals and teams within the organisation to alter their own behaviours and situations to derive the desired results.

Aquilae’s development programmes help leaders to create environments in which individuals and teams are able to behave innovatively. Wazoku’s technology platforms facilitate the collection and management of ideas towards solving defined problems, whilst driving up employee engagement. On their own, these approaches represent valuable solutions for change, combined they offer the best possible chance for leaders to achieve new positive outcomes.


Andy Follows, Aquilae, is a former Tesla and BMW executive, currently running his international automotive finance consultancy with special focus on innovation and coaching.

Aquilae enables personal and business growth by corporate learning and development programmes, individual and team coaching, innovation programmes and workshop facilitation.


If you’re interested in the role of coaching in innovation, watch our on-demand webinar “School of innovation – the role of mentoring in innovation“.

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