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Nige Collin

How do I foster an innovation culture in my team?

By | Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

Building an innovation culture is a ‘Game of Inches’ and not a one-off event or a single “eureka”’ idea.

Success comes from incrementally moving forward and finding innovative ways to consistently improve your business. So how do you help your people be innovative every day?

As an innovation speaker, one of the challenges with this is that innovation is seen too often as large-scale radical disruption. There’s a stance out there for many businesses that to become more profitable and move to the next level they need to find the next big thing. As a result, most of your team see innovation as a scary and inaccessible proposition because it is too complex, too risky and too hard.

Let’s face it: most people in your organisation are simply trying to keep up with their own workload and their own processes on a day-to-day basis, so they don’t have the time or inclination to focus on innovative solutions for the entire business. But what if you shift that?

What if you change the view of innovation and its role?

What if rather than seeing it as disruptive you see it as an achievable everyday process and encourage your people to find ways of improving their part of the business, no matter how big or how small the improvement may be? Imagine the difference that would make throughout your organisation because great ideas and solutions are ones that are workable, profitable and make a difference to your business in a positive way.

To do that requires not just a shift in mindset from large-scale innovation to small-scale innovation.

Give your team permission to be innovative each and every day.

It also requires you to give your team permission to seek ideas that improve their world and more importantly act on those ideas. If they don’t feel they have your permission to do so then chances are they won’t .

You also need to be brave enough to give them permission to make mistakes. The good news is if you fail on a small-scale improvement it’s not going to break you. As Mark Evans, owner of Paronella Park in Queensland once told me: “You don’t learn anything if you don’t fail. ”

So always ask: “What did you learn and what can be done differently next time?”

Your team needs to measure the difference their innovative ideas are making.

Finally, great innovative ideas need to make a difference to your business in a positive way so you need to know how effective any improvements are. That doesn’t need to be complex because it could be as simple as measuring time saved, improved conversion rates or cost savings.

Here’s a case-study we did a while back on how a small change (16 footsteps in fact) added $30k difference to the bottom line of a restaurant.

It’s a shift from big to small – when researching innovation cultures I see it all the time

Remember business success is a game of inches. Ask your people to invent the next Google or come up with the next Uber and they will freeze with panic and fear. (The myth of big is one of the challenges to innovation in most organisations). But fostering a culture of achievable small-scale innovation and they will achieve greatness.

Related articles include ‘What Phrenology can teach us about creative thinking‘ and ‘How 16 Footsteps Added $30k To Bottom Line Profit’

Find out more about how Nigel can help your leaders and teams through his executive coaching, and other keynotes

Conference Facilitator and Conference MC

How to get the most from your conference facilitator and MC.

By | Useful Conference Tips | No Comments

I was recently driving with my son through Sydney when the car in front of us switched lanes without any warning right in front of another vehicle. Behind was another car who then needed to slap on their brakes to give everyone room. I calmly explained to my son ‘that’s why you need the 3 second rule’. You know, the one that says no matter the speed you’re doing make sure there is always a 3seconds between you and the car in front. Sadly there are a few drivers out there who don’t know about the 3 second rule. (Good thing I’m perfect!)

If we have buffer zones when driving then why don’t we have buffer zones in event run sheets? To get the most from your conference facilitator or MC you need to ensure there is enough room – timewise.

So often in event programs there is no room for error when it comes to time, if one keynote speaker goes overtime, or your delegates are late from a break, it creates a cascading effect catch-up and havoc. It throws the next few speakers out, shortens Q&A, annoys your sponsors when you cut 10 minutes from lunch and they have less selling time, and your conference facilitator becomes a glorified timekeeper. So I’m jumping on my soapbox and making a plea! Please add, at least, a 5-minute buffer between presentations. ‘Hang on Nige’ I hear you say, ‘if I have 8 speakers during the day that’s 40 minutes of downtime!’ Yes, that’s right, although I’d say it is 40 minutes of productive time. And there are three very good reasons for that.

Here are three reasons why your conference facilitator will love you:

You’ll get the most out of your conference facilitator.

You’re paying good money for your conference facilitator (at least I hope you are) so you want to give them the time needed to edify your speakers, create links, add relevant anecdotes, energise people, and get participants thinking and talking about what they just heard. A good facilitator is a theme weaver, and it’s their job to support and enhance your program, and they can only do that if you give them enough time to do so, otherwise you’ve paid someone who only has time to thank the previous speaker and introduce the next one.

You’ll get the most out of your keynote speakers.

No matter how well you plan someone is going to go over time and the last thing you want is other speakers stressing out. Many internal speakers are thrown (and sadly many professional ones too) if you ask them to trim their time. I’ve coached loads of executive presenters over the years and the one thing I wish I didn’t have to teach them is how to build their presentations so they can cut 5 or 10 minutes off if they need to, without affecting their message or delivery.

Your delegates will learn more, retain and apply more.

Building buffers also helps your conference participants get more from the sessions. Humans need time to digest things, especially when it’s new. Having buffers gives them that chance because it allows them to think about and talk about key points and how to apply them. And it allows them to empty their brains and reset for the next presentation. Neuro-science tells us that the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of your brain) drains itself of energy fast and needs to recharge every 20 -30 minutes. (This is one of the reasons for the trend of shorter presentations – but that’s another topic)

It takes the stress out of things for everyone.

I know I said three but this one kind of sums it all up. Nothing more to be said really.

Just as keeping 3-seconds distance between you and the car in front might seem excessive, having a 5-minute buffer between speakers may seem unnecessary, but it will make sure you arrive safely at your conference destination. It will also make sure your participants get the most from the journey and that you get the most from your conference facilitator,
your speakers, and your sponsors.

By the way, this article first appeared in micenet magazine in December 2017. Nigel Collin was the author.
Also read ‘
4 ways to create delegate engagement using downtime at your next meeting or event and 5 ways to destroy your meeting or business event.

Business Growth and Innovation

Ingenious Oz Project Reveals Secrets To Business Growth and Innovation

By | Innovation | No Comments

If you had the opportunity to interview 100’s of successful people and business leaders, what would you discover about business growth and innovation? Over the last five years, I’ve had the opportunity of doing just that and I’ve learned there are patterns in what successful people and their businesses do and how they do it.

Ingenious Oz Project – NT

Recently I headed off into the Northern Territory (supported by NT Tourism and Department of Trade Business and Innovation) with my good mate Brad Foster to discover and share stories of ingenious and innovative Australian businesses and people. As we rode (couldn’t help but do it on Indian Motorcycles) from Alice Springs to Darwin we filmed a series of unique interviews. Each one revealing insights into what it really takes to consistently grow a sustainable and dynamic business. These fresh new case studies will be folded into my future keynotes.

Unique Case-Studies and Pragmatic Insights

The Ingenious Oz Project began five years ago when I headed off into remote and regional Australia, just me, my motorbike and a video camera. I wanted to capture on film clever and ingenious Australian business success stories in the hope that these stories would inspire others to pursue their business ideas and dreams. This led to the development of the ‘Game of Inches’ business process, and of course the book. It forms the backbone of my keynotes and workshops on business growth and innovation. This latest trip through the Northern Territory confirmed the Game of Inches process.

The 4 most important learnings around business growth and innovation

1. It’s a Game of Inches

It’s the small things that drive big results and business success is a game of inches. It happens one step at a time. 99% of successes come from many small, practical steps rather than the single ‘Eureka’ idea. This recent trip confirmed the Game of Inches process.

The big idea makes a good story, but it’s hard for people to incorporate into their everyday working lives. Success is not a one-off disruptive moment but a matter of consistently finding ways to improve everything you do and consistently disrupting and innovating.

The game of Inches is what makes big happen.

2. Find the Gap

Successful people are geniuses at finding gaps. Gaps are problems or opportunities that, if addressed, result in massive payoffs. Just outside Alice Springs is an award-winning tourism operation called ‘Earth Sanctuary’ run by three brothers and their dad.  If you visit their ‘Star Show’ you literally sit under the stars in the desert (which is amazing in its own right) and they teach you about the night sky.

What’s interesting is how they developed the idea (they didn’t sit around one-day brainstorming new product offerings). The idea came after sleeping under the stars for 10 years. Realising no-one was exploiting one of the NT’s great assets (it’s incredibly clear night skies) they created their astro tourism business.

Finding gaps isn’t just about finding market gaps, it’s also about finding those little things that make a big difference. Humpty Doo Barramundi Farm just outside of Darwin is constantly looking for gaps in the way they do things. An amazingly sustainable operation where they constantly look at finding ways to improve everything they do. Incremental innovation at its best.

Be a gap hunter, not an idea hunter.

3. It’s Action that drives business growth and innovation

One of the main traits you see in successful people and businesses throughout the NT is their ability to simply ‘have a crack’. They don’t wait till everything is ready to go (because if they did nothing would ever happen). Damien Ryan, Mayor of Alice Springs told me “Remoteness instigates inventiveness”. Part of the reason for this is that it forces people to think differently, find inventive solutions and act.

Just start and take action. Without it, business growth and innovation will never happen.

4. Nurturing the Right Mindset is Paramount

In 1997 Justin and Karinda Gill arrived in Darwin with $1000.00 to their names. Along with their kids, they slept in a caravan. Today Justin and Karinda run Abode New Homes, an award-winning residential building company worth around $40million. When interviewing Justin, he talked about the importance of nurturing and maintaining the right mindset. Mindset is a trait you see in all successful people.

Mindset is everything

Check out how I can help your organisation and people think and be more innovative from the lessons learned of many ingenious people I’ve met. (and hear their stories and see snippets of their interviews with them).
As well as executive coaching.

You might also like to read ‘What Phrenology can teach us about creative thinking’ and ‘Hoe do I foster an innovation culture in my team?’


What If Disruption Is Holding You Back?

By | Innovation | No Comments

Disruption isn’t new.

Imagine you lived in ancient Rome at the height of the Roman Empire. One of the most exciting times in history. A time everything was changing at an enormous pace. Where such inventions as paved roads meant you could travel further and faster than ever before. The Romans also invented the aqueduct system allowing water to be transported 100’s of miles. A major disruption because it had massive ramifications for such things as urbanisation, agriculture and sanitation.

Rome, 2000 years ago, was a time when inventions and ideas were disrupting and driving the world. It was a time when you may have been asking yourself ‘what could they possibly think of next?’ And that’s not just rhetoric because one of Rome’s chief engineers, Sextus Julius Frontius, is known as saying… ‘Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further development.’

Imagine you live during the industrial age.

One of the greatest times of change in human history. A time when things were changing faster than ever before. A time when you’d wake in the morning and find another factory built down the road from where you lived. It was a time when great ideas disrupted the very fabric of society. Henry Ford’s idea of the mass production line influenced industry and commerce forever. It was also a time when a gentleman named Thomas Edison had one of the most brilliant ideas in history. The light bulb. Such a brilliant idea that its image has become symbolic of ideas themselves. What an exciting time to live.

But you and I live in today’s world, which is surely one of the most exciting times in history. We live in a time of great change and massive disruption, where things such as smartphones, social media and all forms of digital technology are disrupting and shaping our world. Yet when you think about it, that’s no different to any other time in history apart from the fact that we now label it as ‘disruption’. The world of business has become obsessed with the very idea of it.

Is your view of ‘disruption’ impeding you from achieving it?

Roads, aqueducts, production lines, light bulbs, smartphones and social media are all game changes. No doubt about it because each changed the world. Yet in those very examples lies a problem with disruption because if it is seen as big, paradigm-shifting, one-off, expensive, risky and hard to keep doing then it is viewed as unachievable for most. But it’s broader than that.

But what if disrupting an industry is a game of inches? What if it could happen in small steps, incrementally?

John McGrath didn’t build one of the world’s best (if not the best) real estate companies by reinventing the real estate industry, he did it by being obsessed with constantly improving and doing everything better than everyone else. Toyota didn’t invent the motorcar but they disrupted the industry through their philosophy of Kaizen (constant improvement) and by innovating on a small scale, again and again, and again.

To be groundbreaking doesn’t mean you need a massive earth mover to disturb tons of dirt because you can break ground one clod at a time. To disrupt you don’t need to invent the next iPhone. You just need to do something no one else has never done or do something in a way or do it better than anyone else has done before.

It’s something I noticed conference audiences hanker to learn when speaking on innovation.

Re-shift your thinking about disruption

So we need to expand our view of disruption from being one of ‘big’ and ‘out of reach’ to one of being ‘consistent steps’ and ‘achievable’.

What if you focus on doing the little things better than everyone else and work harder at finding innovative ways of improving things? What if you seek clever, new avenues of revenue, or focus hard on finding gaps within your market and your own processes. And if you keep doing that, maybe, just maybe one day you will notice you have disrupted your industry one step at a time.

Business Reinvention And The Town That Changed Itself

By | Change Management, Innovation | No Comments

I was invited to be part of the Northern Territory’s annual October Business Month, a couple of weeks back. to conduct a couple of ‘Game of Inches’ workshops. One of which was at a small town called Nhulunbuy (pronounced Nullanboy), which is situated on the Gove Peninsula in East Arnhem Land. A stand out of reinvention and a stunningly beautiful part of remote Australia.

As a town Nhulunbuy is built around a bauxite mine (which when refined a couple of times ultimately makes aluminum). A few years back it was decided that the alumina refinery was to be closed resulting in the population of the town dropping from 4000 to approximately 2200.

Think about this for a second, because the town practically halved in size overnight. What happens to local business, to those who own property, what happens to the local school and hospital? If your business lost almost half its clients, it would put you and your team in a complete tailspin.

Problems lead to opportunities

As one of the town’s prominent business owners told me, people got together and looked for gaps and opportunities, and for ways they could save their town. From adversity comes opportunity if you are smart enough and brave enough to try and find it.

Although the refinery closed, the mine itself remains open and so as a first step Rio Tinto stopped ‘fly in fly out’ workers’ so now if you work at the mine you must live in the town.

Then they found an opportunity in extreme tourism. Arnhem Land is one of the most beautiful, untouched and remote parts of Australia (if not the world) that you can visit. Although only an hours flight from Darwin and only 800 odd kilometres by road from Katherine, the drive will take you a least two days and as suggested to me you should do it in someone else’s vehicle. On top of that Arnhem Land is completely owned by the traditional indigenous owners and so to drive through it to Nhulunbuy requires a permit. When you get there if you want to walk on the beach (and trust me you will) you also need a permit because it is also indigenous land.

But here’s the thing. There are those who hanker for those off the beaten track, adventurous experiences, to go where the masses don’t and get that unique experience to see a part of Australia that is largely untouched. There is a market which is largely untapped and it’s what the people of Nhulunbuy are focusing on. They are ramping up their marketing, they are working with the traditional owners to make obtaining permits easier and faster. On top of this reinvention, they are looking into the possibility of creating glamping sites along the road. They found a gap in the market and they are filling it.

Reinvention leads to growth

Now obviously it is working or I wouldn’t be telling about this. From a low of 2200 people they, in a space of a couple of years are back to 3300 and looking at exceeding the previous population of 4000 in the next 18 months or so. Which by the way will mean building more houses.

I love this story and I fell in love with this town.

Things go wrong in business and life all the time. No matter how much you plan or how much your guru tells you they don’t. Someone, somewhere changes something and it can have massive ramifications for you. But here’s the thing, you have a choice. You can give up, you can stick your head in the sand, or you can do something. Nhunlunbuy took the third option.

They didn’t change things overnight and they are still in the process of rebuilding, but step by step, inch by inch. One small change at a time they are reinventing themselves. Individuals and businesses all over this country should learn from it because it’s a great reminder that when things change, and you look for gaps like the people of Nhulunbuy did, new opportunities arise. If you’re smart enough and brave enough not to panic, look around, think and act. Here’s another example of how finding a small gap made a massive difference to a small restaurant in Port Macquarie

So here’s to Nhulunbuy.

A big thanks to all the people of the town I met – you inspired me. And to the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation and Darwin City & Waterfront Retailers for having me as part of NT October Business Month.

I now find myself constantly speaking about the innovation of this amazing community and how they used change to their advantage.


Other similar articles to read are ‘The power of incremental change’ and ‘Ingenious Oz Project Reveals Secrets To Business Growth and Innovation’


Keep The Barges Coming; On Consistent Action

By | Innovation | No Comments

Back in the good old days of the industrial revolution in England something extraordinary was happening with the canal system. It led to a philosophy of consistent steps, of drip feeding, leading to sustainable growth. And it has become a philosophy for me and also my team. In fact, I adopted it in my last three businesses. ‘Keep the Barges Coming’.

Let me set the scene. In England (as in many parts of Europe) since medieval times there has been a network of water canals, much like a road network. This allowed farmers, manufacturers and businesses to move goods from the coast to their villages and workshops, then back again.

The Problem (Gap)

Imagine if you were in charge of one of these facilities during the good times of the 1800’s. The problem you faced was how to get a consistent supply of raw materials to keep you and your workers productive. Although the canal system had been around for hundreds of years it was far from perfect. Especially when the industrial revolution kicked in.

It was slow because the small boats were pulled through the water by horses which walked along the land on either side of the canal. Adding to this the boats were rather small and limited in their capacity. But during the industrial revolution the Brits (being infrastructure geniuses) set about building larger canals, more of them and bigger self-driven boats called Barges. And this is where this starts to get interesting because it created another set of problems.

When a shipload of materials arrived on the coast the temptation was to send all of it at once up the canal to your factory. You were then inundated with supplies and your workers were inundated with pressure to process it all.  Result being ‘everything at once overwhelm’. But then another major issue reared its head. Once all the supplies had been used there was nothing until the next shipment. Which could be months away. Massive downtime.

The Solution – consistent action

The solution was staggering the supply of materials over a period of time.  Warehouses started popping up at the docks. With a bit of planning it then became a matter of keeping a consistent flow of barges. Small consistent shipments. Meaning when they arrive they were more easily handled on site by workers and as current supplies started to dwindle the next barge would arrive. Reduced downtime, reduced stress, better productivity and because of all that, arguably better quality. These consistent steps meant sustainable growth

It was a much better decision to keep drip feeding and keep the barges coming. The change is a constant and it’s the small things and consistent actions that make the big differences.

What this means to your business

For us it is a metaphor for nurturing clients. Rather than overwhelm them from the first call, let’s just give them what they need now and then something else later. It’s a about drip feeding your clients with an email newsletter every so often, or a blog post, or sending an information pack or thank you gift, rather than bombarding them with everything at once. For us ‘Keep the barges coming’ is a reminder to keep in touch, bit by bit, inch by inch. It supports the ‘Game of Inches’ process.

I first learned of this years back when reading about advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi who a slightly different slant because they view the barge as being the customer themselves and you need to keep the barge moving up the canal. They are attributed to inventing the modern sales and marketing funnel based on just this. In their book ‘Chutzpah & Chutzpah’ by Simon Goode, Richard Myers and Nick Darke, they note that Saatchi & Saatchi referred to it as ‘The Canal System…once a client (or barge) with money (coal) is put into the system (the canal) at one end, sooner of later they have to arrive at the port (Saatchi & Saatchi)’.  The premise being that you need to nurture and prod and help them move along the sales and marketing funnel, bit by bit. Not just give them one massive shove at the start and hope all ends well.

Consistent Steps Leads To Sustainable Growth

Here’s the thing. ‘Keep the barges coming’ means you don’t have to spend zillions on marketing or create the next super bowl ad or immerse your industry on a one-off mega campaign. You just need to take small consistent steps. And as a side benefit, it takes the pressure off your people, your finances your time and ultimately leads to stronger relationships.

It’s one of the main message clients want me to speak about and conduct workshops on when helping their teams consistently improve,

Talk soon.


Other articles on innovation include ‘How do I foster an innovation culture in my team?’ or ‘What if disruption is holding you back?’ and ‘3 Big innovation barriers’

How 16 Footsteps Added $30k To Bottom Line Profit

By | Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

A very clever restaurant in Port Macquarie is boosting its bottom line profit by focusing on the little things – the inches.

Overlooking the harbour and village green of Port Macquarie is a restaurant called Chop and Chill, (one of my favourite haunts). Not only do they make great coffee, really good food and have an awesome view, they leverage inches really well.

Let me give you an example.

A while back a new head chef was brought in who, along with one of the restaurant managers, noticed something interesting. It took 16 extra footsteps to plate certain meals. A bit like a game of football where the backs cook the food (in the rear of the kitchen), the midfield move it through the centre and the forwards (front of the kitchen) serve the food onto the plates.

Solution and results.

Rather than re-configuring the kitchen they just reconfigured the process of plating the food. Meaning one less person needed in the kitchen saving them between $30k-$35k per annum. Directly boosting bottom-line profit

A Second Gap

Being an ingenious business they noticed another profitable gap. Having an outdoor seating area, tables and chairs needed to be moved in and out each morning and evening. This took up to two hours each day. That’s about $50 in wages per day, $350 each week, or $18,000 per annum. Add to this the wear and tear of constantly moving the furniture, as well as the odd bad back.

Install security shutters which can be drawn down at night and lifted in the morning. The shutters will cost about $20,000 and after 12 months they will be literally adding $18,000 to their bottom line each and every year. That’s a lot of meals and a lot of profit.

Every business, although doing most things well are letting these small steps, (inches), fall through the cracks. After all what difference can 16 steps make? It’s only a couple of hours and moving furniture and shutters are expensive right?

You see… everyone is searching for the next big idea. But here’s what I’ve seen having interviewed hundreds of businesses and their leaders, it’s actually the multiple of small ideas which are often overlooked. And are faster and easier to address and more profitable in the short term. Innovation is constant and these guys have found the secret to incremental innovation. The trick is for leadership to set the right culture and process to allow their people to find and act on them.

Similar innovation blogs posts you might enjoy are ‘Business reinvention and the town that changed itself and ‘Keep the barges coming’ and ‘Ingenious Oz Project reveals the secrets to business growth and innovation’ 


See how you can help your team find small gaps through the Game of Inches process, and innovation presentations and workshops