Belfast Telegraph

How TED talks can spur companies to find innovative ways to improve performance

By Nigel Walsh

TedxStormont, with its theme of Imagine, was a melting pot of ideas that were thought-provoking, challenging and surprising.

The wealth of experience that our speakers had, combined with their obvious passion, made it a unique event and one that Ulster Bank was proud to support.

The theme, with its suggestions of innovative thinking and creativity, is particularly interesting when applied to business.

Frequently, those terms are overused and in some cases are seen as unwelcome - some of the most successful businesses I know thrive by making their processes faster and more replicable, managing out any room for error.

Yet the challenge as I see it is in keeping your people alive to the need for well-timed innovation, and ensuring that they are able to grasp opportunities when they arise.

As part of our partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark, for example, we run an Entrepreneurial Development Academy to provide our people with a sense of some of the skills and mindsets required to be an entrepreneur.

This kind of immersion helps them to walk in the shoes of our would-be customers and makes them better equipped to understand their needs. It encourages 'intraprenuership' too - looking at the processes we use in the bank and questioning if things can be done better.

Creativity is sometimes associated with a single bolt from the blue - a one-off moment that cannot be sustained.

But to my mind, business in Northern Ireland would be better served by thinking of creativity as curiosity - what would happen if we tried something different? Is the way that we've done things always the right way to do them?

We've recently started hosting a series of 'Techy Teas', hosted in our branches by some of our fraud and digital experts to promote digital inclusion for our older customers.

Their embrace of digital technologies has prompted us to look at how we support them in doing so.

The initial innovations in digital banking are changing what our customers demand from us, and invite further new innovations again.

The economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the term 'creative destruction' in the 1950s to describe the changes that market forces could bring to industries.

Something about that language still persists, where people see creativity as synonymous with rejecting the things that have come before. In fact, I've always seen creativity as much more iterative, building on the things that have been done already.

The Belfast International Homecoming, which is taking place in October, has gone from strength-to-strength over the time that we have been involved, and that is in part down to the willingness of those involved to be flexible in the topics, themes and locations that we use to showcase Belfast to the world.

It's this kind of change and creativity that should inspire local businesses to imagine what might make the difference for them.

The next TEDxStormont event takes place on October 27 at Parliament Buildings

Belfast Telegraph