Discovering Your Innovation Strengths

Declan and Harper were on cloud nine. They had just pitched their idea successfully to the client and not only was the client rapt about their ideas, their own CEO had given them a rare compliment.

Before they had time to gloat however, the CEO caught them. “You two, in my office now!”.

What’s all this about, thought Declan, I mean didn’t we just nail that presentation? He gave Harper a quizzical look. Harper returned his look with a face of fear, but before they could think of it any more they were sitting down in the CEO’s room.

“You two suck,” she began.

Declan interjected “Now hang on, Matina, we just…” only to be cut down by the CEO.

“Let me finish, O’Hennessey. Today was the first time you two brought the ‘A’ game to the boardroom and it was blindingly obvious why it worked. As individuals, you have excellent innovative strengths, but overall, on your own, you’re both missing some critical parts, which is why I wanted you to work together today.”

Declan, never afraid of speaking his mind started back up “What specifically do we ‘suck’ at Matina?”

“Well, for starters O’Hennessey, you’re a great presenter, no doubt about that. I reckon you could sell socialism to a capitalist, yet you couldn’t create an insight or an idea even if we gave you a head start.”

“Woah, don’t you think that’s a bit harsh, Matina?” asked Harper.

“As for you Harper, you suffer from presentation paralysis. You both know I don’t hold punches, so I’ve got something in store for you” finished Matina.

“Whilst it was great to see you work as a team today and get over your frosty relationship -  yes, I did notice it - what’s more important is that together, you complimented each other by each working within your strengths. Now, while that might sound great, the reality is we’re a small agency, which means we won’t always have the opportunity to pair you up. And as future leaders, I need you to be able to do what you both did today on your own. The good thing is I have just the right person to help you out. I had a hunch that you two would be able to show each other what you’re capable of, and I had the good fortune of securing an old colleague of mine from years ago. He’s the number one reason why I’m in this position today. He should be here in about 10 minutes and he’s going to be with you for the rest of day. I can’t tell you how lucky we are to have this guy, his fees are almost triple what we charge, but he’s doing me a ‘mates rate’ so we can afford it. So, don’t waste your time in there, pick his brains for all you are worth. Any questions?”

“Yeah, what’s his name?” asked Harper.

“Ricky Rogers, now get out of here and get ready for him” said Matina with a grin.

Oh my, Ricky Rogers, teaching us, what a score, thought Harper to herself. Both Declan and Harper were smiling as they walked out of the CEO’s office and as soon as they were out of ear shot, they started talking like giddy kids. Ricky Rogers, or Tricky Ricky as he is sometimes called, was perhaps one of the most innovative thinkers of the day. Known to have single-handedly created business turnarounds, solved environmental problems, crushed social issues and helped thousands of budding entrepreneurs hit the big time, Ricky Rogers was like a ‘god’ and they were going to have a session with him.

Rogers was prolific, not only in his consulting work, he was also a sought after keynote speaker and was rumoured to run programs for organisations in the million dollar price range. He was popular not only because was he a great presenter, his techniques worked and he had a way of teaching them that inspired people into action. Rumour was he had developed some sort of AI diagnostic tool that could assess how innovative you were and then create a prescription to help you become even more innovative.

Before they knew it, Rogers was walking in to ideas room with a big smile on his face.

“Hey guys, I’m Ricky”

“I know, you’re Ricky Rogers” said Harper, regretting the words as soon as they came out of her mouth.

“Correct. Matina told me you guys were smart, but now I’m not so sure, hehe.” 

Harper felt like she could die “I’m Declan, and Harper’s the smart one”.

After shaking hands and setting himself up with the whiteboard and markers, Rogers got stuck into it.

“Okay before we get started, guys, I want to let you know what my intention is today. My intention is to help each of you discover your innovative strengths and weaknesses and subsequently create a prescription for each of you so that you can both be world-class innovators in your own right. I want you to have a roadmap as to how you can become so sought-after that you can charge twice as much as you are now, and so indispensable that Matina has to increase your salaries to keep you here. Now, don’t tell Matina that part. Sound like a plan?”

Rogers got both Declan and Harper to write down their intention for the session and after a little bit sharing he also got them to share some of their fears of the session and of their career.

Whilst heading to the flip chart and grabbing a marker pen Rogers asked “Why is innovation important?” 

“Because it’s the key to differentiating yourself from the competition” suggested Harper.

Rogers started writing down differentiation “Good, what else?”.

“It enables you to compete on the merit of a product, process or service and you don’t have to compete on price” said Declan.

“Ooh, who’s your daddy? Keep it coming guys, what else?”  

“You can anticipate what a customer wants before they even ask for it” shouted Harper.

“You guys are on fire! Give me more”.

“You can create a product so good that it creates a tribe of followers who will pay almost anything to have it” replied Declan.

“You can test an idea before going to market” threw in Harper.

investigation phase

“Okay, brainiacs. Let’s hit the pause button for the moment. What have I been doing?”

“You’ve been getting us to share the ‘why’” ventured Declan.

“Exactly, Declan. I can see why Matina tells me you’re a great presenter, the ‘why’ factor is crucial in any presentation and in any idea generation session, you’ve got to know the ‘why’. What it also shows me is that you have a good understanding of a number of phases innovation.” Rogers started drawing three horizontal lines on the white board. 

“The first phase is the investigation phase, this is all about generating insights. But what really is an insight? Declan?”.

Declan was wishing that Harper got this question “It’s about identifying a need, desire or frustration”.

 “Close, yet I want a little bit more before you get the cigar. Harper?”

“Declan is close, yet I would say that an insight is a valuable need, frustration, desire or future trend that has yet to be capitalised on.”

“Bravo, sounds like you’ve read my most recent book ‘Insightful Innovation’, my mother tells me it’s a bestseller in Chernobyl.” Both Declan and Harper laughed at Rogers self deprecating humour. 

“There are lots of people who can come up with insights and yet what I’ve found after years of research and application is that there are 3 types of professionals who rock at insights better than anyone else, and the cool thing is we can learn from all of them so that we can become world class innovators.” 

“First though, let’s look at our biases. We’ve all been biased from the day we went to kindy, it’s a bit like the kid who grows up in a trailer park and thinks that Coke is as healthy as water or it’s a bit like the North Koreans who’ve been led to believe that their fearless leader Kim Jong Un can speak to Dolphins. We’ve had all some type of social conditioning and beliefs imprinted on us that make up archetypes of how we think and behave. Innovation is no different.” Rogers passed before commencing again.

“Okay, Harper would you say that Jeff Bezos is an innovative guy?”

“No doubt about it, I mean he’s the CEO and founder of Amazon” replied Harper.

“So, in what ways is he innovative?”

Harper relished this one “He’s a big number cruncher from way back. I read somewhere he was a data analyst and that a lot of his success has been in creating data analytics that are constantly assessing the behaviours that people are doing when online at their store.”

“Great Harper, so you mentioned two types of Archetypes in there, the Data Analyst and Behaviouralist. The Data Analyst is all about facts and figures to help you predict what behaviours a customer might do, whilst the Behaviouralist looks at what drives or motivates someone to take action or not take action. Now Declan, are you into sci-fi at all?”

“I love it” responded Declan.

“What about the Minority Report with Tom Cruise, did you ever see that one?”

“Sure, a while back, but it was very cutting edge yet realistic at the same time”.

“The reason why it was so cutting edge and realistic is that the movie team consulted a number of futurists to get ideas as to what technology and the world would look in the future. Futurists are the third archetype. What futurists do is look for emerging trends so that they can…” Rogers left the question hanging while he wiggled his fingers baiting the duo on.

“Capitalise on a new trend before the competition” completed Declan. 

ideation phase

“Exactly, so what we’re going to do is find out how well we ‘tick the boxes’ on these archetypes.” Rogers completed his sentence as he drew two dashed vertical lines across the three horizontal lines he had drawn before. Rogers handed out a sheet of paper with four sets of questions.

“Without thinking about it too much, I want a quick yes or no answer from each of you on these questions in the ‘Catch’ section. Get stuck into it, you’ve got 2 minutes max.” Rogers pulled out his phone and got a song playing on his phone as Harper and Declan answered the questions as quick as possible. They both finished in about 90 seconds and Rogers stopped the music.

Rogers spoke quickly “Alright, if the first phase was all about insights, what comes next?”

“Ideas” cracked back Harper. “Correct again. Let’s call this the ideation phase, which is a fancy pants way of saying idea generation. Now, you know Martina likes her brand clothes, what’s her handbag?” 

“It’s Prada, I think?” guessed Declan.

“How do you know what a Prada handbag looks like?” asked Harper incredulous.

“I used to have a high-maintenance girlfriend” Declan sheepishly replied.

Harper’s mind was already trying to picture the type of girlfriend Declan’s ex was and how good looking she would have been knowing how attractive Declan was. Harper’s day dreaming was interrupted by Rogers.

“Harper, who’s the CEO of Prada?” Harper was dumbfounded, she didn’t know.

Rogers started up again. “It’s Miuccia Prada. She was their handbag designer, and her design thinking is what turned the family business around into becoming the second most successful retail store in the world. Bested only by Apple. The designer is one of the ideation archetypes. Prada knows how to create insatiable desire, you only need to look at how their store displays make the handbags look like they should belong in an art gallery.”

“We also have the more left brained engineer like James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson Vacuum cleaner. Incredibly efficient, effective and indestructible. Now the third archetype on this phase is the advertising creative who knows how to create amazing campaigns to capture mind share. I want you to answer the ‘Hatch’ questions quickly”. Rogers once again got some tunes playing as the Declan and Harper answered away.

Harper looked at one of the questions “Do you actively look at what you can add or combine to an existing product, process or service to improve them?” That was a definite ‘yes’ for that one. The next one was looking like it was going to be a ‘no’. “Do you take time to consider the aesthetics of your product communications & service offerings and how desirable they are?”

“Time’s up. What’s the next phase following on from Ideation?” Asked Rogers.

“Execution?” Declan answered unsure of himself.

“What about marketing, is that a phase?” ventured Harper.

iteration phase

‘Not quite. The next phase was one that many people forget, yet it is such a crucial phase of innovation – ‘iteration’. This really means testing and prototyping our ideas. After all, if we take an idea to market without testing it, if it fails, it’s going to cost us a lot. Who, do you think make for great prototypers?” finished Rogers.

Declan was up for this one “User Experience designers are masters at testing to make sure that a digital product is working seamlessly.”

“Right on, Declan, this is our middle archetype for prototyping. What about you Harper, any thoughts?”

“Hmm, I’m not sure if I would call them prototypers but scientists are the best at experimenting” mused Harper.

“Woah, nice answer. Scientists, to generalise are the left brained prototypers, and believe me, prototyping is just another way of saying experimentation. That leaves us with the right brained ‘chef’ as the third archetype. Think of Heston Blumenthal that famous English chef who’s always experimenting. He’s such a good experimenter that he received an honorary doctorate from a university for his experimentation techniques.” 

“While the ideation phase was all about creating lots of ideas, the iteration phase is all about testing ideas to minimise risk, reduce customer frustration and create a great experience. Let’s get you guys to answer the questions for the ‘Scratch’ section questions.”

Declan was feeling both excited but disappointed at the same time, he was getting lots of ‘nos’ in this section. The next question he read said “When testing a new product, process or service idea do you make a list of all the predictions that your project will achieve?” Another ‘no’ for him on this one.

“Alright, guys, time for the last phase. Declan already mentioned this one before ‘Execution” which I like to call the Commercialisation phase. This is when we get some rubber on the road, create a project plan and build the sucker and sell it to the world. What might be the archetypes that dominate this space?” 

Harper’s mind was on overdrive, she knew marketing had to be in there because he mentioned the word ‘selling’. “A marketer must be in there somewhere!”.

“The pretty woman nails it again. Yes, the marketer is a critical archetype, typically right brained and focused on crafting a message and reasons for a tribe to follow” responded Rogers.


Declan was not to be out done “I don’t think that they’re necessarily innovative, but project managers are great at getting things completed on time and on budget”.

Nodding his head Rogers agreed, “Indeed they are part of the innovative phase Declan, and a crucial part of being innovative. If we can’t build our idea then we ain’t going to have an innovation.”

“The third archetype, which I would put in the middle, is the entrepreneur. Someone like Elon Musk. Entrepreneurs constantly have metrics racing around in their head about how they can profit from their ideas and maximise their returns. Okay people we are almost there, let’s complete the final questions in the ‘dispatch’ section.”

As the two ‘would be’ innovators completed the final questions, Rogers looked at the questions and paused on one of his favourite ones: “Do you take the time to revisit and question what is remarkable about your products & services or make suggestions on how they can become remarkable?”

It was time to wrap this up and Rogers loved this part of the diagnostic process - delivering the prescription. “Okay, now I want you both to add up the number of yes’ for each section and yell them out to me.”

As Harper and Declan shared their scores Rogers wrote them in each respective phase. Harpers score read: Investigation 3, Ideation 4, Iteration 2, Commercialisation 2. Declan’s score was Investigation 1, Ideation 2, Iteration 0, Commercialisation 4.

“Now, for a little bit of soothsaying. Harper, just looking at those scores I get the feeling that you are pretty good at creating insights, in fact better than most, yet you could be even better at it if you were future minded and on the look out for key trends and if you knew how to use data to back up your assumptions. When it comes to ideas, you find it easy to generate them and there’s almost nothing you can’t solve with a good idea. Yet you struggle to test your ideas validity and therefore you find it hard to commercialise all the ideas you have.” Rogers completed the sentence with a slightly sympathetic face.

Harper felt herself blushing, she didn’t know why but, this total stranger had her pegged like no one before and she felt vulnerable, exposed and embarrassed all at the same time. She realised Rogers was expecting a response.

“Ergh, I hate to admit it, but I think you’ve nailed it. What about Declan?”

Declan looked a bit pale as Rogers began his rant.

“Declan, you obviously have a great mind on how to get things out the door and to sell them but…you feel clueless as to insights and I think you struggle with what an insight actually is, which means it’s hard to create any. Consequently, with no insights you find it even more hard to create ideas. Even if you did have an idea, I’m not sure you would know how to prototype or test them either.”

Harper couldn’t help herself she extended her forefinger and thumb to make an ‘L’ sign for loser and waved it at Declan.

“Alright, I’ve been found out I’m not a great innovator, but I sure can pitch,” Declan said with a hint of menace.

“I know this seems a bit tough, yet what we’re doing is comparing ourselves to the world’s best innovation principles here. The good news is there’s a prescription for you. I want you to take your pen and for every question that you got a ‘no’ for I want you to cross out the ‘Do you’ from the question and that’s your prescription. For example, Harper, seeing you got zero for the Iteration phase, for question 13 your prescription is ‘to make a list of all the predictions that your project will achieve.’ Makes sense?”

Declan and Harper needed no further instructions and dutifully started to cross out the ‘do you’ words. As Harper started crossing out the do you, she marvelled at how simple and clever it was to craft a question that could be a prescription, nor wonder they paid Rogers the big bucks.

Harper and Declan had their prescriptions, and for the next two hours, Rogers took them on a rollercoaster ride of techniques and got them using each and every one of them so that they could work on becoming more innovative.

To find out what your innovative prescription is, head to our Innovation Strengths Finder to get your free innovation prescription to help you become indispensable.

On another note, we often get asked about whether we do mentoring. The answer is yes. If you’d like to find out more about our mentoring packages, please shoot us an email at and we’ll send you our mentoring pack that explains what we offer.


Nils Vesk - Innovation Keynote speaker | Futurist Keynote speaker | Innovation consultant

Founder Ideas with Legs



nils vesk