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School of innovation – the role of mentoring in innovation

wazoku Blog

A blog based on the ‘School of innovation’ webinar co-hosted by ideasUK and Wazoku

When leadership says ‘Go, innovate!’ everyone panics thinking ‘Where do I even start?’. Here are a few tips from ideasUK and Wazoku, who both take a mentoring approach to innovation and recently shared a few best practices of working with their customers and members.

  1. Peer support

First of all, there are lots of other people out there who are panicking just like you. Some of them are just getting started, some of them have already walked quite a long way and some of them are somewhere in the middle. Reach out to these people and share your concerns, learn what they are doing well and what they have struggled with. We live in a digital era where you are expected to learn everything yourself, but in this instance there is no reason to go solo, when there is such a vast innovation network you can join. Let them coach you, learn from their experiences and apply their learnings in your practice. Both Wazoku and ideasUK encourage peer learning and support, allowing their customers and members to learn from different organisations about different approaches. Innovation is about ongoing learning. “There is no innovation expert; there is an ecosystem of people who are all experts in their field,” as Simon Hill, Wazoku CEO, says.

  1. Reality check

Don’t be afraid when your innovation coach holds the mirror. Understand the current state of your organisation and be honest with yourself. Innovation consultants and technology firms will not provide you with a ready-made journey. Rather, they will tailor it to you, based on your organisation’s innovation maturity and will teach you how to fish rather than give you fish, as the Chinese proverb goes.

  1. Fight resistance – start small

The status quo is easy and comfortable and, with some exceptions of course, people don’t really like change. It is therefore very likely that you would come across resistance. How do you fight resistance? Mentor people. Take them on the journey with you. Get them to understand what’s in it for them and see what the brighter future can look like if they took a few small steps. Make some small changes that are easy and quick to implement; quickly create a proof point and celebrate it; create trust and belief that change is indeed possible.

Sometimes, large organisations are ready to roll out an innovation strategy across the board and it is fantastic when this happens. However, sometimes you need to start small. Start with a pocket of people who are willing to change and are happy to partner with you to generate those proof points quickly.

  1. Management buy-in

Regardless of the scale of your innovation efforts, you need to get leadership onboard. The C-level executives often talk about innovation and its importance but don’t do anything about it. Second, middle management. If people at the bottom are up for change, people at the top are too, but those in the middle are resistant and acting as ‘gate keepers,’ then you won’t go very far. Get them motivated. Recognise theirs and their team’s efforts to change and reward them for the progress they are making. For more practical tips on getting leadership and management buy-in, please refer to the Wazoku’s EveryDay innovation Report.

  1. Enthusiasm, positivity and freedom

Innovation starts with you. Display the behaviours you want to encourage. Be enthusiastic, be positive, value people’s contribution, celebrate and reward them for their success. Likewise, be OK with your own failure. Innovation is done by humans and humans, even coaches, do make mistakes. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes yourself and create an environment in which failing is not seen as a mistake but rather as a learning point.


To explore the benefits of ideasUK free membership, please email Zena at
To find out more about Wazoku’s coaching approach to innovation, please email